Are you ready for ‘charging rage’? That’s what experts predict will happen when too many electric car drivers compete for too few public charging points.
Prepare for squabbles at the wave of bespoke electric charging stations springing up across the country as dawdlers are accused of taking too long or selfishly trying to squeeze in just a few more miles of energy.
It used to be that ‘range anxiety’ — the distance you could travel on one charge — was the main deterrent to motorists taking up electric cars.
While plug-in cars in the UK grew by 280.3% from 2019 to 2021, standard charge-points increased by just 69.8%
But as battery technology has improved and electric ranges have increased dramatically to hundreds of miles, that’s been taken over by ‘charging anxiety’.
More public chargers are being installed — but simply not fast enough.
Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show the switch to new electric cars is outpacing the provision of public charging points.
And it’s not as if we have a choice. The Government has outlawed the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
Hybrids with a ‘significant’ range — which is yet to be determined — can be sold until 2035.
The number of electric cars on the road during this transition period will accelerate rapidly as manufacturers are forced to switch from fossil to electric power. But we’re enduring a major cost-of-living crunch.
Electricity prices are soaring through the roof. Raw material prices are rocketing. There’s a shortage of key parts for cars.
Add to that the withdrawal of key grants to buy and run electric cars, public scepticism about their affordability, a potentially over-ambitious Government timetable, and it all has the makings of a perfect storm.
Let’s not forget that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and other members of Government driving this agenda will be long gone before the consequences of their policies are fully realised.
Mountains to climb
Affordability is a key issue. Electric car prices will fall as production ramps up. However, smaller electric cars are proportionately more expensive to produce than larger luxury cars, and the profit margin on them is much slimmer — if it exists at all.
So how will people of more modest income afford one when that’s all there is? The Government has two options: carrot and stick.
Carrots have been cut back as ministers have steadily reduced or withdrawn grants for electric cars and domestic charging points. For cars, the grant stands at £1,500, up to a threshold list price of £32,000.
Quick charge: The number of pure electric cars on the road rose by 586.8% from 2019 to 2021, but rapid and ultra-rapid charger stock grew by only 82%
Stick-wise, if motorists stubbornly keep using petrol and diesel cars, the Government has the lever of annual Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and VAT on fuel to make it financially prohibitive to own and run a fossil-fuel car. But there are more concerns.
The Government has published its Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, setting out what it expects of car-makers.
While the aims are laudable, the methods have a hint of Soviet-era central planning — prescribing how many electric cars will be sold and what proportion they should be.
Ministers want new electric sales to hit 22 per cent of the total by 2024 and 80 per cent by 2030. In 2020, they accounted for 11.6 per cent of sales. Add plug-in hybrids and that increases to 305,280, or 18.6 per cent of sales.
Motor industry critics say it ignores a central issue: consumer-led demand.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes acknowledged that the Government’s Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate proposals were ‘the most ambitious of any major market in the world’.
But he added: ‘The danger is that consumers will lack the incentive to purchase new electric vehicles in the quantities needed.
‘They will remain more expensive than petrol and diesel cars for years, so motorists will keep older, more polluting vehicles for longer, thereby undermining the carbon savings this regulation seeks to deliver.’
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The charging gap
The SMMT accepts there are more public chargers.
Tesla announced this week it would expand its charging network to non-Tesla EV owners in the UK as part of a pilot scheme. But infrastructure is still failing to keep pace with demand.
The SMMT said that while plug-in cars in the UK grew by 280.3 per cent from 2019 to 2021, standard charge-points increased by just 69.8 per cent.
The number of pure electric cars on the road rose by 586.8 per cent, but rapid and ultra-rapid charger stock grew by only 82.3 per cent.
There’s also a worsening divide in charge-point availability, with the North losing out. In 2021 there was one public charger for every 52 electric cars in the North, but one for every 30 in the South.
The SMMT said: ‘Public chargers remain critical to consumer confidence and are still relied upon by many commercial fleets, as well as the third of British households that do not have designated off-street parking.’
It cited polls showing 75 per cent of motorists say there are not enough public charge-points to meet their needs.
Ministers who set binding targets for electric car production should themselves face binding targets to deliver a public charging infrastructure to match, say car-makers. With a third of drivers having no off-street parking — therefore relying on more expensive public chargers — the UK risks becoming a ‘two-tier’ electric car nation, warned the electric car consumer website Electrifying.com.
Motorists without a driveway face paying up to £1,000 more each year — or £80 per month — to charge an electric car compared with those with off-street parking which allows for home charging. It also called for VAT on public charge points to be reduced from 20 per cent to 5 per cent to bring it in line with the cost of charging at home.
In the second-hand market, SMMT figures show a doubling in sales of used electric cars — a cause for celebration. But 96 per cent of trades are still for petrol and diesel.
A Future of Motoring report by the insurer Tempcover showed that while more than six in ten respondents feel positively about electric vehicles, 72 per cent are put off buying one due to the cost.
Another 58 per cent believe charging points are not accessible enough to justify switching. But 48 per cent would consider switching if costs and other barriers were put aside.
Many of these issues will be thrashed out at the SMMT’s electric car summit in London on June 28.
Hopefully, ministers will be taking note.
Dressing-down for wrong addresses
British motorists with UK driving licences face fines of up to £1,000 for failing to keep the DVLA up to date with their address, insurers warned this week.
But they also highlight an anomaly in which EU citizens resident in Britain face no such fine if they fail to alert the DVLA of their movements.
And this can hold up claims if you are involved in an incident with them.
Anomaly: Two rules on licence address. UK driving licence holders face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to keep the DVLA up to date with their address
The extent of the anomaly has been highlighted by a Freedom of Information request to the DVLA by former detective turned insurer Philip Swift, which reveals that the number of ‘ghost’ or non-GB records on the DVLA log has risen from 19,524 in 2018 to 27,413 in 2021.
This is because when a UK resident with a non-GB licence is convicted of a motoring offence, the DVLA will create a ‘ghost record’ against which to register the penalty.
But they may have no actual record of the driver at all. So, whereas a GB licence holder must immediately notify the DVLA of any change of address, EU driving licence-holders can drive in the UK for as long as their licence remains valid.
As a result, their registered address can easily be years out of date, explained Mr Swift.
He said: ‘It can’t be right that GB licence holders can be fined up to £1,000 for failing to inform the DVLA of a change of address, while resident non-GB licence holders face no such sanction — even if they’ve been living in the UK for years and their registered address is patently not current but an overseas residence.’
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