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How electricity grids and Ofgem are boosting electric vehicle charge points

·3-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Power regulator Ofgem today said Britain’s electricity distributers had assembled a £300 million fund to speed up the rollout of power charging points for electric vehicles.

The move will be funded by power distribution networks and a 65p increase to customer bills for the next two years, falling to 15p in 2023.

It will fund the cabling to support 1800 new ultra-rapid charging points at motorway service areas.

Currently, supply of charging points is patchy around the UK, leading to “range anxiety” - a fear of running out of power which is preventing people from buying electric cars.

There are only 918 ultra-rapid charge points in the UK. These generally give up to 200 miles’ range in around 30 minutes.

The total number of locations with a charging point of any type is currently just over 15,200, with 41,000 connectors, the majority of which are designated “fast”, which is 7-22kW, two classes below “ultra-rapid” at 100kW+.

Under the Ofgem plan today, a further 1750 charge points will be supported in towns and cities as part of what Ofgem said was the “massive upgrade” needed to the UK’s cables, substations and other infrastructure to support an electric vehicles revolution.

The government has said it will ban new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 but the infrastructure is nowhere near ready.

While today’s Ofgem announcement will be seen as a step in the right direction, far bigger moves are needed to prepare the country for the switch.

Ofgem research shows 36% of households who refuse to get an electric car cite the lack of charging points near their home as the reason.

The £300 million pot is also being shared with projects to increase the number of people heating their homes with electricity, further diluting its potential impact on electric vehicle infrastructure.

Power distributors have monopoly positions in their local grids and so have their prices controlled by Ofgem.

The latest settlement came into force in April and gave network operators the ability to invest more in the green transition from 2023.

Today’s announcement is not included in the settlement. Scottish & Southern Energy Networks is setting aside £41 million to go into 12 different projects.

There are 14 distribution local network operators across the UK owned by Electricity North West Limited, Northern Powergrid, Scottish & Southern Energy Networks, SP Energy Networks, UK Power Networks and Western Power Distribution.

There are charging points and charging points...

When you nose your Tesla or Leaf into the petrol forecourt or train station carpark to top up its battery for the next leg of your journey, you will find not all chargers are created equal.

The Ofgem plan today is to boost the network of “ultra fast” charging points - generally taken as 100- 150kw.

As the name suggests, these are the fastest type, but also the least common. Most chargers fill up the battery far slower.

Data from ZapMap shows the numbers of ultra rapid points is growing, but nowhere near fast enough for long range drivers.

Ultra rapid rollout is also failing to keep up with the expansion of “slow” devices, which are increasing as councils install them at kerbsides for drivers to load up overnight or during the day if they don’t have their own off-street parking.

Here is how much juice they can get from their top-up in one hour, depending on the type of point they’re charging at:

Slow (3.7kw): up to 15 miles

Fast (7kw): up to 30 miles

Fast (22kw): up to 90 miles

Rapid: (45-50kw): up to 90 miles in 30 minutes

Ultra-rapid: (150kw): up to 200 miles in 30 minutes

(source: PodPoint)

Here’s how many charging points there are in the UK by speed:

Ultra rapid: 944

Rapid: 3524

Fast: 13,674

Slow: 5731

source: ZapMap

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