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Improving the UK’s electric vehicle charging network

May 1, 2021
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: As part of its strategy to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the UK government has pledged to invest in electric vehicle connectivity, presenting new clean energy-related opportunities for U.S. suppliers.

The UK government’s sixth Carbon Budget—the world’s most ambitious, legally binding climate change targets—was adopted as a law in June 2021. The targeted outcome is to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, and to net zero by 2050. Along with this plan, the government published its energy white paper, “Powering our Net Zero Future,” with a 10-point plan to transform the UK’s energy system, promote high-skilled jobs and deliver strong economic growth, while achieving the 2050 net zero emissions target.

The UK is a leading a manufacturer of electric vehicles (EV). To achieve the 2050 emissions targets, the government is taking decisive action to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars and vans by 2030 and ramp up charging point installations, moves which will result in the creation of a world-leading EV supply chain. Up to £1 billion ($1.36 billion USD) has been earmarked to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains, including developing “gigafactories” for the large-scale production of the batteries needed to support this transition.

At the end of 2019, there were 270,000 plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles (BEV) on UK roads. In 2020, an additional 105,000 BEVs were sold—an increase of 40% and representing 10% of new vehicle registrations. While the majority of charging currently takes place at home, 62% of households in the UK don’t have access to a driveway where a charger could be installed. Therefore, public and workplace access to a wide network of charging points is critical for uptake. At the end of 2020, there were just 36,500 public charging points in the country, and the rollout of local street chargers has been slow.

To support the 5.2 million to 6.7 million electric vehicles and a 50-70% electric share of new passenger cars by 2030, an increasingly comprehensive charging network will be needed. Industry analysts suggest that by 2030, between £8 billion ($10.9 billion USD) and £18 billion ($24.4 billion USD) of investment in the electric vehicle charge point infrastructure will be required to facilitate longer journeys, and charging points will be needed in homes, in workplaces, on streets and on the highway network.  Additionally, the UK government is proposing to introduce new building regulations requiring EV charging points in all new homes and non-residential buildings.

The government’s independent statutory advisor, the Committee on Climate Change, has estimated that around 280,000 charge points will be required by 2030, meaning that an average of more than 30,000 charge points would need to be installed annually. A recent report by UK energy company Centrica revealed, though, that UK councils are only planning to install an average of 35 chargers each by 2025.

A wide range of UK and overseas companies are entering the market, often through acquisition, including financial investors, utilities, major oil and gas companies, industrial conglomerates, automotive manufacturers and independent companies.




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