Coalition Announce National Charging Network
Recharging the Mitsubishi i MiEV
Electric cars to get a good deal under the new UK Government
The new coalition introduce a national charging network. On the first day of the formation of the new coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, the first announcements are about electric cars have been made. In the coalition agreement document, a national network of charging points for electric and plug-in hybrid cars has been announced. The announcement is great news for the future of electric cars in the United Kingdom.
In a questionnaire I ran at the end of last year, the lack of a charge point network was given as the biggest barrier against electric car ownership. Over 90% of respondents stated they would not consider owning an electric car until they were confident that there were enough charging points in place to allow them to charge it up.
The response contrasted with the experience of existing electric car owners. Most existing owners do not use the charging infrastructure that already exists, but the lack of a full charging network remains a big hurdle that the industry must overcome in order to get widespread acceptance.
Over the past year, there has been an increase in charging points in different parts of the country. In the West Midlands, for example, 36 charge points are being installed now, whilst in neighbouring Warwickshire, charge points are now being installed in city centre car parks. Various other councils have also announced charging points in their regions.
What has been missing up until now is a cohesive plan for tying this altogether. As well as standard charge points, fast charge points are also needed in order to give electric car owners the flexibility to travel anywhere by electric car. High speed charging points at motorway service stations and on major roads will allow electric car owners to recharge their cars within minutes. This will enable people who occasionally need to drive longer distances to cover them with ease. But without financial assistance to enable these charging points to happen, you end up with the classic chicken and egg scenario: people won't buy electric cars because the infrastructure does not exist, and the infrastructure won't exist because people won't buy electric cars.
The investment figures required for a fast charge network aren't as shocking as might be expected. To cover the United Kingdom with enough fast charging points requires between 50-60 charging points in the entire country. At an estimated cost of £20,000-£30,000 per charge point, this means the entire country could be covered at a cost of between £1.5m-£2m.
The numbers look surprisingly low, but the reasons are simple: electric car owners will typically charge their cars up at home. For longer journeys, they may also arrange to charge their cars up at their destination, or use a standard on-street charging point. In other words, most electric car owners will only very occasionally need a fast charging point.
For very long journeys where drivers need to recharge their cars during their journeys, they are going to be using major trunk roads. There are much fewer of these around than people might expect. For instance, if you are driving out from the centre of London on a fifty mile journey, you will be on one of only eleven roads. If you are driving out from the centre of Birmingham on a fifty mile journey, you'll be on one of only seven roads. Put charging points at the fifty mile markers from Birmingham and London and you not only will you have automatically linked the two cities together, you will also have provided a fast charging point network for Milton Keynes, Bedford, Oxford, Reading, Coventry and Leicester: that is a significant section of the country covered with only eighteen charging points.
So congratulations to the new government on making decisive action so rapidly. Now all we need is some timescales...
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The 2011 Electric Car Guide
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