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Electric Vehicle Infrastructure - charging ahead to meet demand

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate

27-10-2022

UK’s EV landscape

The UK is on course to be the fastest G7 nation to decarbonise road transport with the ending of sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, coupled with the government’s expectation to install a minimum of 300,000 public chargers by the same target year.   In 2021, 190,000 electric vehicles were sold in the UK (more than the previous 5 years combined) and in December 2021, over a quarter of all new cars sold in the UK were battery electric vehicles, compared with the equivalent figure for 2019 of less than 2%.

The UK already has one of Europe’s largest rapid charging networks for every 100 miles of key strategic roadways. There are approximately 29,600 public chargepoints in the UK currently, of which over 5,400 are ‘rapid’ which are able to charge an electrical vehicle in around 30 minutes, with 100 new rapid chargers being added to the domestic network every month during 2021.  But a recent survey found that three out of four EV owners are unhappy with the UK’s system of public charging, so the growth in sales of electric vehicles combined with the 2030 target will need:

  • a fair and scalable charging network with nationwide coverage;
  • the creation of a conducive, barrier-free and competitive business and regulatory environment for chargepoint operators;
  • growth in the installation of high powered chargers on strategic road networks and local on-street chargepoints for private users and fleet drivers; and
  • easy recharge payments with pricing transparency, reliable and open data on chargepoint availability.

Financial outlay and benefits

The government has committed £950 million[1] for a dedicated rapid charging fund to support the rollout of 6,000 high powered chargepoints across England’s motorway and major A-roads by 2035. Local authorities are to be allocated over £500 million to implement innovative solutions and develop resources and expertise to increase local chargepoint coverage on an inclusive basis and provide fairly priced public charging in urban and rural areas.

This public sector funding commitment is also intended to incentive the private sector to partner with the central and local government to provide convenient, reliable and affordable charging for motorists, and to ensure integration with the government’s smart energy system, to secure charging flexibility linked benefits for the electric grid and lower tariffs for users.

Roadmap for the future

Whilst the UK charging market has witnessed significant increase in the breadth, depth and speed of chargepoint deployment, the pace and cost of rollout could be further accelerated by: a streamlining of the planning arrangements and the existing regime of permissions, consents and licences that are required for public chargepoints, and aligning the interaction between local parking and charging policies. Regional disparities, characterised by areas of low utilisation, high connection costs or locations where there is insufficient capacity in the existing electricity distribution network, pose significant challenges to effective nationwide deployment.

From a policy perspective, the government’s plan is:  

  1. that every motorway service area has at least six rapid chargers by the end of 2023 (including mandating that service area operators and large fuel retailers meet minimum chargepoint requirements and gradual increasing levels to cater for actual and perceived demand), with electricity network capacity at motorway service areas ready to meet demand to 2035 and beyond. Strategic roads will be serviced by over 6,000 high powered chargers by 2035;
  2. that subject to consultation, local authorities would be required to develop and implement dedicated support programmes and local charging strategies to plan for a transition to zero emission vehicle fleet and identify how affordable and convenient charging would be provided to residents and business fleets;
  3. to reduce the costs to businesses by eliminating barriers to investment and delivery of public chargepoints and to consult on measures to simplify the Traffic Regulation Orders which form part of the process to install on-street chargepoints. The government would also be looking to end direct subsidy support for home and workplace charging, whilst not intervening in the destination charging sector;
  4. to implement regulations to govern open data regarding availability, price transparency, payment methods and reliability, and to establish standards to improve accessibility to the public charging network;
  5. to cooperate with Ofgem to ensure that chargepoints can seamlessly integrate with the energy system by ensuring that the bulk of the charging is ‘smart’ and off-peak (to the extent practicable), and that connection costs do not slow down the pace of chargepoint deployment; and
  6. to support innovation in business models and technology (such as setting up local community charging companies, longer-term on-street concessions, remote charging, cable guttering, lamppost chargers or peer-to-peer charging services), encouraging chargepoint operators to sell services to the grid, enabling the grids to benefit via increased flexibility, and benefiting users through cheaper tariffs/encouraging the sharing of control over charging and their vehicles battery capacity. 

The view from Eversheds Sutherland

Ultimately, encouraging rapid EV uptake at both individual and company fleet level is intrinsically linked to a robust, future-proofed smart infrastructure which develops at pace. We are working with a variety of parties to ensure that this is so – operators who are looking for opportunities to take space as the market moves quickly, and seeking ways of enhancing estate management as well as introducing new incomes streams from this emerging area.  For all organisations, ESG is now high on the agenda in the Corporate Boardroom and is here to stay; EV use will play a significant role in ensuring that our clients build their ESG credentials.

Institutional investors and pension funds are putting up hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment to build EV infrastructure and a global energy company has pledged to install an additional 50,000 EV charging points to help boost the UK’s drive forward to net zero carbon motoring.

How can we help? 

Our Electric Vehicles Team has considerable and wide-ranging experience and our Commercial, Corporate Finance, Planning and Real Estate Teams are advising clients on a wide ranges of issues in this area.  Contact details for the Team are set out below, all of whom would be happy to discuss electric vehicle charging issues further.


[1] For more details, refer to the “Taking charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy” published by the UK government on 25 March 2022 and available here: UK electric vehicle infrastructure strategy - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)