The electric vehicle charge point market

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Gateley Legal & Gateley Hamer

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Electric car sales have been increasing rapidly. In the 12 months up to November 2020, the sale of all-electric (non-hybrid) vehicles increased by 162.2%, with overall market share rising to 5.8%.

But specifically, how will the electric vehicle charge point market grow and how will it support the Government’s plans to phase out combustion engines?

Government plans

On 18 November, the Government announced proposals to cease the sale of combustion engine cars by 2030. Bringing this end-date forward was deemed a necessary step to take bigger strides towards commitments made by the UK in the 2016 Paris Agreement. 

A key post-Paris Agreement recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change was to become “net zero” on all greenhouse gases by 2050. When it comes to greenhouse gases, transport is a big problem. In June 2017, based on data published by the European Environment Agency, transport contributed 27% of the EU’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Electric vehicles will therefore play a significant role.

What obstacles remain?

The key obstacles in terms of consumer demand for electric cars have been cost and infrastructure. 

It is suggested that, during the course of 2020, we may have reached the point where the average lifetime running costs of an electric car fell below that of a similar model petrol car. With battery costs and efficiency expected to improve, the economic obstacle could be overcome soon notwithstanding the Government’s intervention on timing. Perhaps some further financial or tax incentive is required to encourage businesses to replace their fleets with electric vehicles.

The second obstacle has been the concern about the range of an all-electric vehicle and the availability of charge points. It is not just the availability of the charge points, but also the ability to integrate charging into our daily lives with minimal disruption.

The charge point market has grown, from 1325 charge points in 2011 to 35,798, as at 6 December 2020, initially with slow (3-5kW) and fast (7-22kW) charge points and more recently with rapid (25-99kW) and ultra-rapid (100kW+) charge points. 39.8% of all charge points are located in Greater London or the South East and there are 9032 rapid charge points; both these factors continue to be obstacles for consumers who require greater range for their journeys and/or travel outside of the South East. That is not to say the current infrastructure is prohibitive, but we live in a world of convenience, which means being able to make a journey without the worry of planning charging stops. 

The number of charge points will need to increase alongside increasing electric car sales, but a distinction must be drawn here between private and public installations, because a significant percentage of charging will be undertaken on private property, either at home or a workplace, so a large percentage of public charging will be “top-up”. 

Will landowners and businesses introduce charge points?

Landowners and businesses need to assess their current and future charge point needs as we now face a decade of transformation, including the changing needs of employees and customers. However, understandably, landowners are nervous about incurring capital expenditure on equipment with uncertain returns and managing risks in terms of equipment becoming faulty or obsolete.

It is no surprise that private enterprise is ready to fill that gap with a variety of funding, installation and maintenance business models arriving in the market, reflective of the fact that landowners/businesses will have varying appetites for capital expenditure and varying opinions on likely demand/usage. 

Undoubtedly, it will be a fast-moving market. 

The question is, do you make the move early or sit on the fence to see what happens?

Further support

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