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As the UK government continues to emphasise its Net Zero policy, analysis by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that the ratio of vehicle chargepoints to plug-in cars fell by 31% during 2020, while sales of alternative fuel vehicles rose. It warns that a patchy public charging structure risks damaging drivers’ confidence in making the switch away from fossil fuels, slowing progress to a low carbon economy.

While most people currently purchasing an electric vehicle are likely to be able to plug in at home, on a driveway or designated parking bay, achieving net-zero requires all drivers to make the switch, including those who depend on on-street parking.

The research shows that at the end of 2019, 11 plug-in vehicles potentially shared a standard public chargepoint capable of charging both battery electric (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). In contrast, at the end of 2020, the ratio had fallen to one charger for every 16 plug-ins.

Plug-in vehicles continue to grow in popularity, accounting for around one in every six new cars registered in 2021.

However, Britain’s ratio of plug-in vehicles on the road to standard public chargers has deteriorated to become one of the worst among the top 10 global electric vehicle markets at 16:1 in 2020. South Korea (3:1), the Netherlands (5:1), China (9:1), France (10:1), Belgium and Japan (both 13:1) all offer their EV drivers better coverage, although the UK does marginally outperform Germany (17:1).

SMMT says with 4,109 new standard public charge points installed between January and September 2021, compared with 212,181 new plug-in car registrations, just one new standard charger is being installed for every 52 new electric cars, a rate insufficient to improve the user experience.

There are also significant regional disparities in the current provision of standard public charging points. London has the best ratio of cars to chargers at 10:1, although this in itself fell from 5:1 in 2019. Meanwhile, the East of England has the lowest availability, with just one standard public charger for every 49 plug-in vehicles.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Appetite for electric vehicles has never been higher, but making Britain a net zero nation means convincing everyone, wherever they live, that an electric car can meet their needs. Those who can’t have their own home charge point need the confidence that they can still charge as conveniently as they can refuel.

“Recent government funding for infrastructure was welcome but more private sector investment in public charge points is needed across the country. The UK therefore needs a framework of regulation that makes it easier to fund, build and operate electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Consequently we need commensurate and binding targets for charge point rollout and reliability so that all those without a driveway or designated parking can be confident of finding a convenient charger, and one that works.

“Decarbonising road transport is essential if we are to address climate change but it needs a framework that compels all sectors to match the investment already being made by automotive to help consumers decarbonise their lives.”

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