Inside the industry: Charging panic undermines electric car transition

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UK’s charger network is the result of leaving it to the free market

EV charging problems are well publicised, but moaning won’t fix them. It’s time for a proper plan

That there are problems with the UK electric car public charging infrastructure today isn’t in doubt.

You can’t deny the photos of queues of cars waiting to charge, or the statistics on broken chargers, or the cost of charging versus fossil fuel and more.

None of those things is acceptable, and they are all underpinned by the fact that the original mandate to switch off combustion-engined new car sales was issued without a hint of a plan of how to achieve it.

But there are aspects to the browbeaten narrative that are troubling: it takes no account of the huge investment going into improving the situation, or the numerous examples of new charging points opening, or the thousands of positive customer experiences each day.

It won’t make headlines or suit the negative agendas, but the truth is that for the vast majority who’ve made the switch, it’s going well; for a tiny minority, it is not.

Difficult and impossible are not the same thing and the question the key players now need to be clear on is whether they want it to happen or not. Rather than focusing on the problems, perhaps they’d be better served by enacting solutions.

The government? It seems far too preoccupied with the short term to plan ahead. Besides, it has the get-out-of-jail-free option to push 2030 to 2035 in the blink of a definition of what constitutes a hybrid. Whoever is in charge next, though, needs to get serious in forming a plan, not just on managing the transition but also the accompanying societal impacts as the cost of mobility almost certainly skyrockets.

Charging point operators? They’re taking the flak, but the truth is that by leaving investment to free market forces, the growth in electric car use was always going to have to come before the investment in charging infrastructure. Prove there’s profit and the charging points will come. But – and it’s a big one – someone also needs to recognise that not every charging point will be profitable quickly enough and that remote areas need coverage too.

The motor industry? Via its trade body, the SMMT, it has relentlessly highlighted the shortcomings of the charging infrastructure for 18 months or more. You might kindly say it is trying to pressure legislators into positive action, the short-term damage this is doing now aimed at protecting the longer-term prospects, but it must also acknowledge that its narrative threatens to undermine the entire process.

Nobody should bury their head in the sand, or underestimate the significant difference between encouraging early adopters and forcing wholesale adoption, but negativity can soon turn into a death spiral if it continues unchecked. Vacillating on change rarely results in success. It’s time unity prevailed and a collegiate strategy was brought to the fore.

Source: Autocar

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