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THE UK Government’s ambitious vision to take petrol and diesel engines off the road within the next couple of decades is driving increasing interest in electric – or zero emission-capable – vehicles.

The original deadline of 2040 has already been brought forward to 2035 while there are rumours that Ministers are now looking at 2030.

That’s not far away in terms of fleet renewal cycles which generally run to three years. As companies electrify their fleets and car manufacturers eye potential increased EV demand, they are increasingly looking for business charging solutions to meet their, and their customers’ charging needs.

According to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), battery electric and plug-in hybrid car uptake grew substantially in September to account for more than one in 10 registrations as new models continue to increase consumer choice.[1]

Demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) increased by 184.3% compared with September last year, with the month accounting for a third of all 2020’s BEV registrations.

Registrations for pure-EVs in the first eight months of 2020 are up 112% compared to 2019[2]. More than 44,700 pure-EVs have been sold in 2020 to the end of August. Looking at all plug-in vehicles, that total rises to over 74,500 units.

However, they still make up just 4.9% of registrations a year in the UK, up from 1.1% in the same period last year – clearly illustrating the scale of the challenge ahead to reach the government target for EVs to comprise 70% of new car sales by 2030.

Efforts to ramp up sales are hampered by a number of issues:

  • Worries over change – people are used to petrol and diesel and are unfamiliar with EV charging
  • Cost – EVs remain more expensive than conventional models
  • Range anxiety – Will you get to your destination?
  • Charging times – hours rather than minutes
  • Charging infrastructure – Still not enough points and are they working?
  • Joined up infrastructure – There are various players with different methods of charging and payment – will this ever be joined up?

Regarding infrastructure, the question lies with the lack of access to charge points in the UK, which are run by more than 40 networks. This, along with lack of joint up infrastructure, risks delaying the shift to EVs. However, this is looking to change in the coming years.

The UK automotive industry is calling for binding targets on charging infrastructure development and long-term commitments to incentivise the purchase of zero emission capable vehicles to accelerate demand.

In the past five years, the range of zero emission capable car models available in the UK has trebled to more than 80, with some 200 more in the pipeline over the coming years.

For customer demand to keep pace, the SMMT estimates at least 1.7 million new on-street charging points will need to be built by 2030, along with a long-term commitment from the government to provide incentives for EV purchases. [3]

A survey by the SMMT confirms keen interest from consumers in EV technology, with drivers most attracted to the lower running cost and chance to improve the environment. However, such vehicles only make up one in 13 purchases despite one in six models offering fuel alternatives.

The SMMT survey found the biggest factors holding buyers back are higher purchase prices (52%), lack of local charging points (44%) and fear of running out of charge on longer journeys (38%).

Beyond just the initial purchase, the full transition to EVs is also dependent on ensuring customers can feel confident in finding dependable maintenance providers to keep their EV in top shape. The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has said repeatedly that the government also needs to focus attention on ensuring the right skills are in place across the automotive aftermarket sector so that electric vehicles can be handled safely by automotive workers, in turn giving motorists confidence in this new technology.

The technology that technicians will be coming into contact with on a daily basis is changing – resulting in high voltage electrics becoming commonplace.

Technicians will need to be trained in dealing with high voltage components on a new generation of battery powered vehicles and to comply with the Electricity at Work regulations[4]. The IMI says that those who aren’t properly trained or equipped to work on electrified vehicles would be risking serious injury or potentially fatal shock.

Notwithstanding the various issues, it’s been a very positive year so far for the electric car market. August’s figures saw a 78% increase in pure-electric registrations compared to the previous year, and PHEVs grew 222%. That’s compared to hybrids (+38%), petrol (-15%), and diesel (-40%).[5]