• Rapid charging cars and rapid charging infrastructure ‘game changers’
  • bp pulse looks at EV driver usage to deliver the energy EV motorists need
  • EV drivers offered more choice of charging facility types
  • UK will need a scale-up in public charging across the board and for all types

An unhelpful focus solely on the number of charging points in the UK when determining the country’s network quality for EVs is overly simplistic and unreflective of the country’s progress. That’s the view of both Cox Automotive and bp pulse, outlined in the latest issue of AutoFocus magazine.
According to Philip Nothard, Insight and Strategy Director at Cox Automotive, such a crude analysis by some commentators doesn’t account for what matters when it comes to making EV ownership as easy and seamless as possible for all UK motorists. He commented: “A single rapid or ultra-fast charger could easily be doing more work and delivering more energy than 50 or so on-street slow charging points.” 

More charging points than petrol stations

Nothard speaks of too much focus around charging infrastructure, which almost always comes down to concerns about having ‘enough’ charging points. According to data from Zap-Map, the UK’s public charging network currently offers around 50,000 charging points at more than 18,000 different locations, meaning there are more than twice as many places to charge an electric car than there are petrol stations to fuel a petrol or diesel one.
Tom Callow, Head of Insight and External Affairs at bp pulse (formerly Chargemaster – following its acquisition by bp in 2018), has a framed picture of a General Electric advert for a home charging point displayed in his home office, from a 1912 issue of the no-longer-published Automobile Trade Journal. Callow said: “The advert is a reminder for me, why electric cars took so long to gain traction in the market. Very early EVs really were limited in their utility by their long charging times more than by their range on a single charge.
“While the range figures for the earliest electric cars don’t seem too far off that of the earliest version of the world’s first mass-produced electric car in 2010, the Nissan LEAF – that car offered something that none of those vintage electric cars could: rapid charging. This was a game changer - the ability to charge quickly added around 100 miles of range in 30-45 minutes. The other game changers were the providers of public rapid charging infrastructure, such as bp pulse. Before rapid charging arrived, the fastest you could have gained 100 miles of range would have been around 10 hours. Today, it can be as little as 10 minutes.”    

Charging infrastructure to offer drivers ‘the right speed for the right need’

According to Callow, public charging infrastructure will always remain a mixed landscape, offering drivers ‘the right speed for the right need’. He added: “There are 50,000 public charging points in 18,000 locations, that’s before you start counting the UK’s 250,000 or so home and workplace charging points.
“However, too much anxiety about charging infrastructure often seems to focus on whether there are ‘enough’ charging points, instead of considering if we have enough infrastructure by capacity. We have data as a starting point to help look at the charging infrastructure that can most effectively deliver the energy motorists will need.”
Callow refers to using the data collected about how many EVs are currently on the road when they get used, where and how far they travel. Through knowing how many vehicles are on the road, and knowing when, where and how far they drive – analysts can work out how much energy they will need to move EVs. Using that as the starting point, energy suppliers such as bp pulse can look at the charging infrastructure that can most effectively deliver the energy EV motorists will need.

bp pulse charging points

EV drivers offered more choice of charging facility types

There is a clear need to ensure that EV drivers and those looking to transition can have confidence in a ubiquitous network of ultra-fast chargers in every city, town and many villages, too. But already, EV drivers are well catered for in many areas in terms of choice of access to charging facilities.
Callow added: “Ultra-fast charging won’t be needed everywhere you find a charging point. For a top-up while at the cinema, an ultra-fast charger might finish before the adverts do, so a slower charge would make more sense. But for charging quickly on a long journey, you probably won’t want anything less.
“For those who have access to off-street parking at home, a home charger will undoubtedly be the most convenient option for most, if not all, of their charging needs. Most electric cars on the market are more than capable of the UK’s average weekly mileage, meaning that most drivers will have a choice about where they charge, and a weekly top-up on an ultra-fast charger may be all that many drivers need. For example, off-street charging on forecourts, at charging hubs and in car parks may also present fewer challenges than on-street infrastructure when it comes to the practicalities of charging, as well as accessibility, and not just for those using them.”
This is particularly useful for EV motorists who don’t have access to off-street parking. Callow refers to the problems that exist where many on-street chargers are not installed in dedicated bays, meaning that they are frequently blocked by petrol and diesel cars and cannot be accessed for an EV driver in need – which may continue until the majority of vehicles are electric. The practicalities of on-street charging are also set to continue as EVs increase in numbers on UK roads. Callow added: “While on-street charging may appear convenient to those who want to charge outside their home, it may be less attractive to other users of footways, including those with impaired vision and users of wheelchairs or walking aids.”
Philip Nothard, Insight and Strategy Director at Cox Automotive, concluded: “bp pulse has more than a decade of EV experience, enabling them to have a much better idea of what drivers need from public EV infrastructure. When the first public charging units were installed, nobody knew how and when the EV market or charging technology would evolve. Now we know in order to meet the demand of 2030 and beyond, it is clear that the UK will need a scale-up in public charging across the board and for all types.
“bp pulse is focused on ensuring that fast comes first, as the scale-up of a ubiquitous ultra-fast charging network delivers the energy that electric vehicles need and is vital for giving people the confidence to switch to electric vehicles.”
We reveal the answers to these questions and much more in the new issue of AutoFocus.
Read more here.