Earlier this summer, the Government launched their Transport Decarbonisation plan, with a commitment to end the sale of new diesel and petrol heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) by 2040 to follow the ban on new diesel and petrol cars by 2030. Their plan promises that the UK’s charging infrastructure will be ready to meet the demands of rising Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) adoption. However, the data scientists at Pilot Group have highlighted that there is currently a disparity in access to EV charging across England that may restrict the success of the current decarbonisation plan.
Using data to understand the diffusion of EV charge points across the UK
Pilot Group has analysed data on public electric vehicle charge points and ULEV ownership across England to identify areas that have relatively few charge points catering to higher volumes of locally licensed electric vehicles, i.e. ‘underserved’ areas. Within this research, we assessed the availability of public charge points, the number of locally licensed ULEVs, and local affluence (or estimated gross household income).
Underserved areas for public charge points
We looked at the number of locally licensed ULEVs for every local public charge point to calculate an EV-to-charge point ratio. The higher the ratio, the fewer charge points there are for every licensed vehicle. This is indicative of low supply of charge points and therefore a need for further investment.
By assessing this data, we concluded that, on average, 50% of local authorities have one public charger for no more than eighteen locally licensed vehicles. However, we did identify 10% of local authorities to be underserving their local need for EV charging, with only one public charger for a minimum of forty-five licensed EVs. Twenty-eight local authorities were actually identified to have one public charge per 116 ULEVs.
In those areas with lower corporate usage of EVs, we can identify a clear underserving of public charge points which will need to be addressed in order to support the decarbonisation of transport.
EV company fleets taking the pressure of public charging infrastructure
Across England, approximately half of all ULEVs are business owned. However, there are some areas where this increases to over 90% of licensed ULEVs registered with a business address. Because of this, we can expect lower levels of demand for public charging in these areas, as businesses are likely to have private EV chargers at their premises.
EV’s are still more appealing to the wealthy
The data scientists at Pilot Group have established a correlation between wealthier areas of the country and a higher popularity for ULEVs. From the data, we can see that areas in which people have higher levels of disposable income also have a higher number of licensed vehicles per 100,000 people. However, some of these areas with above-average adoption of ULEVs have been identified to have relatively low coverage of public charging.
On the other hand, there are areas that have relatively high coverage for EV charging vs the level of affluence such as Milton Keynes, Leeds, Cornwall and Northumberland. Less affluent areas of the country still have a lower adoption of EV on average despite more affordable models coming to market, suggesting other factors are influencing the decision to make the switch, most notably range anxiety, the worry that you won’t have enough charge in your EV to make it to your destination. It may therefore be proposed that we should focus on those areas with the most EVs to improve charging infrastructure, however this option could isolate areas of the country already struggling with EV adoption.
Bridging the regional gaps in equity of EV charging
As we move towards a decarbonised future of transport, it is crucial that we recognise and address the current disparities in the provision of EV charging across England.
Wealthier areas of the country have higher EV purchase rates. Despite this, some of these regions are currently being underserved, as their public charging provision fails to correlate with EV adoption to meet local charging needs. This poses the risk of reversing the adoption of EV and encouraging a return to combustion engine vehicles in the short term.
However, it must also be highlighted that if we focus too much on these areas, we risk other locations falling far short of the level of adoption needed to meet the government’s targets. It is vital, therefore, that there is a balance of availability across the country and additional support must be provided where necessary in order to encourage greater adoption in less affluent areas.
It has been deduced that corporate adoption of EV is helping to relieve the strain on local authority charging networks in some areas through companies investing privately in their EV chargers. This, however, does not negate the need for better EV charging infrastructure.
Without sufficient and equitable public charging infrastructure across England, the transport decarbonisation plan may fail to reach its goals.