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Keeping 36 million electric vehicles on the move

By 2040 there could be 36 million electric vehicles (EVs) on UK roads. But how best to keep them all charged? We’ve come up with one potential solution. It’s a network of ultra-fast charging stations dotted around our motorways.

If you need to fill up the family car, a petrol station is never too far away. Today it’s harder for drivers who need to charge their EV while on the move. We’re helping the UK tackle the challenge with proposals for a network of 50 ultra-fast charging stations at motorway services.

The lack of quick and easy charging points is seen as one of the barriers to greater EV use. The plans will make life easier for EV owners. These hi-tech charging points would allow drivers to charge their vehicles in five to 12 minutes. We also estimate that 95% of drivers in England and Wales would be within 50 miles of a charging station.

And as society starts to embrace EVs more widely, the work we’re doing will help the UK be ready for the expected rise in EV use over the next 20 years.

Why the shift to EVs matters

There’s a bigger picture behind the EV debate. Transport now accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Meanwhile, the issue of air quality is on everyone’s lips. In 2017, the Royal College of Physicians put the number of premature deaths in the UK linked to air pollution at 40,000 a year.

It’s not just about the cars themselves. The infrastructure behind them matters too. Without the right charging network, EV growth will grind to a halt. So, what’s the solution?

The fast lane for EV charging

Over the past 12 months we’ve been working with Government and other parties to get to grips with the technical challenges. We’ve used our Future Energy Scenarios as the starting point to gauge how EV use is likely to grow.

Our proposal sets out five charging locations where drivers will need access to chargers. These are at home, at local sites such as a petrol station, at a destination like the workplace, at a depot or fleet hub, and finally on motorways.

The motorway element is crucial. One of the barriers to greater EV uptake is so-called ‘range anxiety’. In other words, drivers are worried that they will run out of juice on a long trip. Having easy access to chargers on motorways will help to solve this issue.

How it would work and who pays?

We’ve worked with motorway service station operators to understand what infrastructure is needed to support ultra-fast charging. We’ve also assessed the power needs of each site. For example, does it require a direct connection into the transmission network?

We estimate that the cost of the network of 50 charging sites would be between £500 million and £1 billion. That’s about 66p per car per year over the life of the assets. More debate is needed between Government and industry on how this would be funded

Our proposal identifies several ways forward. These include vehicle excise duty, electricity bills, or other types of taxation.

Trialling the idea

The next step for the plans would be a trial on the motorway network and talks are under way on how to move ahead with this. The goal is fast and simple charging that’s available where it’s needed. We’re committed to playing a key role as society gears up for an EV revolution.