The funding will be used to prepare five to 10 service stations for more 100kW-plus chargers
Government pledges to boost motorway charging but several service stations still have no ultra-rapid chargers
The government has announced a £70 million scheme to stimulate the installation of ultra-rapid electric vehicle chargers at motorway service stations but it is still set to miss its target of having six such devices at each site in England by the end of the year.
As part of the Department for Transport’s vision for the rapid charging network in England (published in May 2020), the government planned for there to be at least six high-power-capable, open-access (150-350kW) charge points at each service station in England by 2023.
Research published by the RAC in May 2023 found that the government was unlikely to reach this target by the year’s end. Data from charger mapping service Zap-Map then showed that six locations did not have these devices: Barton Park on the A1(M), Carlisle Northbound on the M6, Leicester Forest on both sides of the M1, Strensham Southbound on the M5 and Tebay South on the M6.
Each of these sites, however, does have at least a 50kW provision.
The funding announced today at the COP28 climate conference will be used to prepare the electrical network at five to 10 service stations for the installation of additional 100kW-plus charge points.
The government has not specified exactly how the £70m, which comes from the £950m Rapid Charging Fund, will be allocated.
However, it recently highlighted the availability of grid connections as a key barrier to the ramp-up of charger installations. In the 30-point plan for drivers, published in October, the government said it will “review grid connections process for EV charge points, with [the] aim to accelerate it”.
The public charging industry has also repeatedly said the limited availability of grid connections is a major obstacle to improving charge point provision. Toddington Harper, CEO of Gridserve, told Autocar in April: “Almost every issue of speed of implementation is down to the speed of grid connections. I’m not kicking the grid here: it was designed for a completely different purpose and adapting it to what we need, while keeping the lights on, is a huge task.
“But we can often be delayed by months or more waiting for a connection. The process you have to go through is hard at best and infuriating at worst.”
The government’s ambition is to ‘future-proof’ each service station’s electrical capacity against the expected increase in demand for motorway chargers through to 2035. That year, sales of new petrol- and diesel-powered cars, including hybrids, will be banned.
It also acknowledged in a statement that the current state of the nation’s charging infrastructure is a barrier to electric car adoption. It said the fund will give “consumers more confidence to choose EVs”.
Transport secretary Mark Harper added: “This £70m pilot scheme is the starting point and sends a message to consumers and industry that we are investing wisely and rapidly to grow the future of transport in the UK.”
The improvement process at these five to 10 initial sites – the precise number is dependent on the applications received by National Highways – will be used to gather evidence for an eventual, larger fund.
Alongside the pilot fund, the government has launched a 10-week consultation to establish where chargers are most needed, and how to design the full Rapid Charging Fund.