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The road to EV adoption: UK infrastructure priorities

The UK is on the cusp of a transport revolution but we must act now to ensure that the infrastructure is in place so that we can embrace the change and become a world leader in clean transport. Alice Goudie, Emu Analytics, looks at what’s required.

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The interest in electric vehicles, and the supporting infrastructure required to ensure their widespread adoption, is at an unprecedented level. With a large number of initiatives across the globe, from both the private and public sectors, aimed at pushing for zero emission vehicles within cities, the drive for change is significant.

Within the UK, this topic has never been more timely, with the European Union announcing this month that it will be taking the British Government to court for illegal and dangerous air pollution levels.

While electric vehicles are a key component to reducing air pollution, one of the most significant challenges in the UK blocking this is the underlying charging infrastructure required to enable electric vehicle drivers to experience usage in a manner that is comparable to that of a petrol or diesel-powered vehicle.


The following research which we carried out at Emu Analytics looks at the situation today in the UK, and identifies the areas and populations for whom demand for on-street charging is going to be most immediate.

 

Policies


There are currently over 2 million electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide, and over half of these are in China. Norway is leading the way in terms of relative uptake and more than 30% of new vehicle sales are electric.

In the UK, 40,000 new EVs were registered in 2017, representing 1.5% of all sales. There are over 140,000 registered EVs in total, representing a market share of 0.3%.

 

Several policies have come in which should help accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, such as a UK-wide ban on the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2050. Oxford is also the first city in the world to ban all emitting vehicles from city centre streets starting in 2020. Much of this policy change is being driven by air pollution.

Dot Density Map showing distribution of EVs in the UK
Dot Density Map showing distribution of EVs in the UK

Range anxiety

 

Range anxiety is one of the main worries that is preventing people from making the switch to electric vehicles. This is not helped by the limited charging infrastructure. Six local authorities in the UK have no public charging infrastructure at all, and several others are pushed to the limit with well over 100 EVs to each public charging station.


Our analysis can be used to identify the best locations for charger installations and understand more about where initial future uptake is likely to occur. Geo-demographic datasets looking at things like income, employment and car ownership can be used to highlight specific areas within local authorities which are most likely to see high concentrations of early adopters. The typical profile of an ‘early adopter’ is:

  • Above average income
  • Above average employment
  • Above average car ownership
EV uptake relative to charging infrastructure
EV uptake relative to charging infrastructure

Identifying areas

 

In Greater Manchester, key areas have been identified as initial priorities (See map: Early adopters in Greater Manchester).

Some people may have environmental and conscientious beliefs that mean that they are more likely to buy an electric vehicle even if they don’t fit the normal profile. People should not be hindered from getting an EV due to economic factors and so, our analysis has identified relatively deprived areas of each local authority, with low levels of crime, which can be targeted as areas for ‘technology-led regeneration’.

 

EVs bring secondary benefits to an area such as reduced air pollution, better accessibility and local employment for installation and maintenance of chargers.

Early adopters in Greater Manchester
Early adopters in Greater Manchester
Areas in Greater Manchester with a high workday population and high percentage of car commutes
Areas in Greater Manchester with a high workday population and high percentage of car commutes

Off-street parking

 

A lack of off-street parking currently makes it very difficult to own an electric vehicle due to the limited public charging infrastructure. Until this improves, large proportions of the population will not be able to switch from petrol and diesel. Our analysis can be used to identify houses with no off-street parking and the locations most in need of public chargers. Retrofitting streetlights is one method of rapidly deploying on-street charging infrastructure.

 

Destination chargers are also key to reducing range anxiety by enabling people to charge their cars as needed when out and about. Shopping centres, workplaces, leisure centres, car parks and town centres are ideal locations.

 

The installation of workplace charging is important to not only reduce range anxiety and accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles but also to level out the demand more evenly across the day, reducing pressure on the power grid. The areas that are most likely to benefit from workplace charging are workplaces or public car parks in areas that have a high percentage of people commuting to work by car.

 

Taxis

 

Taxis are ideal candidates for making the switch to electric as the majority of journeys are short and city based. In London, no new licenses will be issued to petrol and diesel taxis. However, rapid chargers are essential (80% charge in 30 minutes) as cabbies aren’t going to want to disrupt their business by having to spend a long time waiting for their vehicle to charge. Rapid chargers should be installed at all taxi rest areas and inductive chargers should be considered for taxi ranks.

 

More innovative datasets such as mobile phone data can be used to greater understand where people are going to and from and how long they are waiting in destinations to identify the most appropriate place for installing new infrastructure.

These datasets will also help select the right speed of charger as charging times vary from 30 minutes for an 80% charge using a rapid charger, to 8 hours for a full charge using a slow charger.


The UK is on the cusp of a transport revolution however businesses, Local Authorities and individuals must act now to ensure that the infrastructure is in place so that we can embrace the change and become a world leader in clean transport.

 

Download Emu Analytics’ whitepaper on electric vehicles and related datapacks.

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