Electric cars v charging points

18 Nov 2016

You may be driving your last internal combustion engined car

Sales of EVs (electric vehicles) are growing exponentially as manufacturing costs drop, battery ranges improve and drivers realise the tax and financial advantages. There’s also a government grant available which almost covers the cost of installing a fast charger at home.

You can see why

Although range anxiety, the concern over whether journeys can be completed without running out of juice, is still holding sales back, the locations of public charging points, such as at motorway services, are available on the web and it’s often the case that you can even see if the points are in use or not. Additionally, the cars themselves tend to have satnav systems that know the locations of these charging points and will plan the journey accordingly, allowing for a half hour stop on the way - you have a brew while you car charges and all for far less than the cost of a traditional oil-based fill up. So far so good then. Even the average range of 100 miles isn’t too bad if you can stop for a quick recharge.

But there are teething problems

Because the reality isn’t quite working as described yet for the following reasons

  1. In many places there simply aren’t enough public charging points. I read recently that in Brighton there are only 6 in total. And this is the only city in the UK with a Green Party MP! This is the chicken and egg conundrum. Service stations, councils, supermarkets have budgets to manage and don’t want to install points that will be rarely used but this in turn discourages take up of EVs.
  2. The chargers that are there may be already in use when you get there.
  3. Drivers of non-plug in cars park in spaces designated for charging EVs because they assume no one uses them or are oblivious to the signs.

What can or should be done?

The natural balance of supply and demand will no doubt sort out the problems over time, but is there anything that EV drivers can do to help? Yes, as proved by this recent success. We supplied a Kia Soul EV to West Riding Recruitment in Wakefield. One of the directors often meets clients at the local Starbucks, an ideal location for a charging point except that it didn’t have one. Of course, Starbucks, being a business, wouldn’t install a charger (the grant isn’t applicable to business premises) for a single customer. What Phil did was to engage with other EV users in the local area via an online forum, found a number that frequented this particular Starbucks and presented a case for installation to the management. Starbucks, being a business, has agreed to put the charger in. Everyone wins. As long as all the EVers don’t turn up at once, of course!

The ideal solution would be for organisations with the potential for charging facilities - councils, service stations, employers, supermarkets, shopping centres, coffee shops - to get ahead of the curve and put plenty in. The knowledge that there is certain to be an available point would encourage an EV driver to take their custom to one of these establishments over a competitor’s and therefore there’s a business case now for having more points than are actually needed because it’s beliefs (ie belief that a charging point will be there to use) over reality that drives human behaviour.

No doubt some enterprises will “get it” sooner than others and will prosper accordingly. Others will catch up by necessity. Demand will mean we get there in the end. But we could get there quicker if these businesses invest proactively rather than reactively.