EV owners driven crazy by UK's vehicle charging infrastructure

In this guest post, Aidan McClean, CEO and co-founder of online electric vehicle hire firm UFODRIVE, highlights the shortcomings in the UK’s car charging infrastructure

The UK’s 2030 ban on the production of new internal combustion engines is rapidly approaching. Yet data shows we seem to be going backwards – with growing discontent among electric vehicle (EV) drivers due to a disjointed, disconnected, and ill-thought through charging infrastructure.

The UK is running out of time to fix this before consumers panic and market progress stalls. In turn, this would impact investment, supply chains, and technological innovation; reversing the progress we’ve made in decarbonising the UK’s largest source of carbon emissions.

Data from Which? highlights a growing discontent among drivers of electric vehicles. Almost three-quarters (74%) are not happy with the UK’s charging network, and furthermore:

  • 40% reported that they’ve found chargers that are not working
  • 61% suffering difficulties making payments
  • 84% want to pay by card, rather than by an app
  • 45% estimated that they are at least a 20-minute walk from their nearest charger

These statistics show something that is less often discussed, but still critical to an electric and green future: having an accessible, holistic and joined-up network. Only then can current and potential drivers be confident that they will get where they’re going, which is vital for the success of Britain’s 2030 ban on the sale of new internal combustion cars.

The need for a joined-up and reliable network

It has always been essential not just to have more chargers, particularly the super-fast variety, but also to have a more holistic, joined-up and reliable network. This is less often discussed, and the solution doesn’t just need further investment – but also oversight, good governance, and sound policy.

Right now, the UK’s EV charging system and infrastructure is disjointed and dysfunctional. There are hundreds of different Charge Point Operators (CPOs), and new ones pop up almost weekly. There are different connector types, various payment methods, and multiple different charging apps. Some don’t show all networks, and only some show real-time charger status.

This is disastrous for the end user and comes at a critical time. Unless major improvements are made rapidly, market progress, and the rate of investment and innovation, will slow.

Ultimately, all the charging infrastructure in the world won’t matter if you can’t plan, pay, or access it reliably. This is why, despite the hype, EV range is largely irrelevant; what’s known as ‘range anxiety’ should be renamed ‘user experience anxiety’.

Arriving at a charger that’s behind a locked gate or is out of order or was marked “fast” but has been downgraded to slow for some unknown reason or is being used by a plug-in hybrid, are all legitimate reasons to have concerns about the electric revolution. Whereas concerns solely about range, when range is often above 300km, are not valid for the vast majority of use cases.

Luckily, ‘user experience anxiety’ is easily fixed. With sound planning and effective policymaking, led by the government and followed by private investment, we can have a network that easily caters to all but the longest of intercontinental journeys and easily works with all models, apps, and cards.

Why this matters

With so many issues facing the UK, it is easy to forget why going electric matters. It is an essential part of Britain’s 2050 net zero pledge, and therefore an essential part of the global effort for survival. In the UK, transport produced 27% of the total emissions in 2019, with 91% of this from road transport vehicles – making cars one the largest single contributors to carbon emissions and therefore the climate crisis.

To encourage people to make the leap to electric, charging should be as simple as filling your car with gas. Today this just isn’t the case.

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