Drivers only use public network for 13% of charging, research reveals


Which? is calling for a major upgrade to the UK’s Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure as their recent research finds that only 13 per cent of EV and Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) charging happens via the public charging network.

Which’s annual car survey highlights low usage of the public network, with only 15 per cent of EV charging and 5 per cent of PHEV charging currently happening at public charge points.

Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy, commented: “Our research shows that few electric vehicle owners currently rely on the public charging network, but this will have to change if millions of people are going to switch from petrol and diesel vehicles in the next decade.

“Improving the UK’s flawed charging infrastructure will support more motorists to make the switch to a zero-emission vehicle. The current confusing and complex system needs to be quickly overhauled if the network is going to be ready for the ban on new fossil fuel cars in 2030.

“Charging must be easy, accessible and affordable if people are going to make the move to an electric car.”

A new Which? survey found that while two in five people (44%) are comfortable switching to electric vehicles, almost half (49%) are not. The consumer champion found seven in 10 (71%) 18-24-year-olds are comfortable switching to electric vehicles and around half (56%) of those aged between 18 and 39 said they intended to buy one in the future.

However, only a quarter of those aged 65 and above are comfortable switching (26%) or intend to buy an electric vehicle (23%). More than half (52%) of respondents aged 65 and above do not intend to buy an electric vehicle in the future.

Urban dwellers are also more comfortable transitioning to electric vehicles than rural residents, with almost half (47%) of those living in urban areas open to switching and two-fifths (42%) planning to buy one. However, only a third of those living in rural areas felt comfortable switching (34%) or intend to buy an electric vehicle (36%).

Electric cars are currently more expensive to buy compared to petrol or diesel vehicles – a possible contributing factor to lower enthusiasm levels for switching among lower-income households.

The consumer champion found just a third of households (32%) on lower incomes (£21,000 and below) intend to make their next car an electric vehicle and two-fifths (41%) said they have no intention of buying one. This compares to more than half (57%) in more affluent households (more than £48,000) saying they would buy an electric car in the future and only a fifth (21%) saying they had no intention of buying one.

While the upfront cost of an electric car is one reason many people are reluctant to switch, the most common is related to perceptions about inferior performance.

Two in five (44%) said concerns about battery range put them off switching to an electric vehicle, while a third (34%) cited the upfront cost.

The UK’s charging infrastructure is also a concern for motorists, with a third (33%) stating they are put off buying an electric car as they are worried about accessing charge points away from home or on long journeys.

In a market study published earlier this year, the Competition and Markets Authority suggested there needs to be a tenfold increase in the number of charge points across the UK by 2030 and that more needs to be done to address the “postcode lottery” of finding a charge point.

In their new report, ‘Building an Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure that is Fit for the Future’, Which? makes the case for major developments in the public charging infrastructure.

April to July 2021. 48,034 respondents told Which? about 56,853 cars they own and drive, including 2,184 EV/BEV owners and 923 PHEV owners.

The full report can be found from their website.