Sparking debate over electric vehicle charging points

The popularity of electric vehicles is on the increase. But so too is the demand for public charging points for EVs. The UK government has pledged 300,000 of them by 2030, but where should they be and how will they work?

Connected Places Catapult (CPC) looked at the issue through the lens of railway station car parks, but its conclusions and predictions – published in as report titled ‘Electric Vehicles: Future-proofing Railway Station Car Parks’ can be applied much more broadly.

CP Catapult – Electric Vehicles- Future-proofing Railway Station Car Parks
File Type: pdfFile size: 2.6MB

The UK government has pledged to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. By then, it estimated that about 22% of vehicles in the UK will be battery electric and 12% plug in hybrid. By 2050 these figures become 87% and 10%. While it’s believed that most charging will happen at home, high-quality public charging is essential

There are plenty of questions to consider, such as: what will the balance be between the use of home, on-street and ‘destination’ charging points, such as those in car parks? How could people be encouraged to use destination charging? As technology changes, including battery life, will EVs be charged less often and faster? How should users pay? How much should they pay? Will hydrogen cell technology affect demand?

Infrastructure projects this large and this crucial need to be modelled with care. Working alongside the Energy Systems Catapult and Dr Keith Bevis of the University of Hertfordshire, CPC looked at the situation in great depth.

The report concludes that public charging points are important to people with no private parking and people unable to install charging, but ‘destination’ points, such as in railway station car parks, need to be priced attractively, otherwise they will only be used when necessary, not through choice.

How fees are collected – e.g. including electricity in parking tariffs – also needs to be carefully considered, as should support for smart charging, which allows cost-cutting and efficiency options such as a choosing a maximum battery level to reach or charging when there’s a lot of renewable energy on the grid.

Commercial benefits should also be considered: might retail outlets near car parks benefit from people spending while their vehicles charged? Car clubs could also be given dedicated spaces for electric vehicles, giving access to more people.

Fast charging is also important. Many EVs, notably taxis and delivery vehicles, need to be able to charge as quickly as possible. This means being able to update charging points to keep up technological advances.

CPC’s report also suggests that, to assist with modelling, car parks with existing charging points could be studied to see, for example, who uses them, when they use them and how far they’re travelling to the car park.

While the report doesn’t provide answers to all the questions surrounding this topic – that would require a crystal ball – it aims to discuss everything that planners and providers need to consider. This makes it essential reading for anyone interested or active in the provision of parking or EV charging points, planning or the electric vehicle industry.

CP Catapult – Electric Vehicles- Future-proofing Railway Station Car Parks
File Type: pdfFile size: 2.6MB