Public charge points put electric car revolution at risk says RAC Report

Potential purchasers of electric cars tempted by the benefits of quickly-improving battery capacity might still hesitate if the public charge point network doesn’t keep pace with changing technology.

While range-anxiety is set to become a thing of the past, without widespread, reliable and simple-to-use charge points the practicalities of ‘filling up’ electric cars could limit the mass-market appeal of ultra-green vehicles.

Rapid Charger
Should rapid chargers only be used by pure electric cars?

It could also hamper the government’s plan to ban the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

If unacceptable delays in refuelling are to be avoided, the big strides being made by car manufacturers in battery performance – reflected in the growing distance vehicles can travel – needs to be matched by a rollout of high-performance public charge points, particularly on motorways and major A roads.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation commented on the report:

“Almost every day companies are announcing their latest foray into the electric car market but the charging network threatens to be the weak link.  Although four out of five electric vehicle owners are able to charge at home, a robust public charging network is critical for enticing people to go electric make the leap to ‘pure’ electric.

We may be on the cusp of a motoring revolution, but step-changes in vehicle technology must be matched by equally big strides in our recharging infrastructure. The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill offers the opportunity to make sure that happens.

Manufacturers can do much to make EVs attractive to a mass audience, but responsibility for getting the charging infrastructure ready lies largely in the public sphere.”

Volkswagen GTE Charging
Not all electric cars charge up at the same pace

Cable confusion

In a report for the RAC Foundation looking at how powers the Government is seeking in its Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill could be used to best effect, Harold Dermott lays out the key recharging challenges that urgently need addressing.

These include a lack of standardisation of charge points and cables leading to some to suffer from cable confusion.  Additionally how Rapid chargers delivering 50kw of energy are essential for pure electric vehicles on long journeys but are irrelevant for plug-in hybrids which can recharge at a rate no faster than 3.6kw.  With the cable tethered to the unit it too easy for PHEV drivers to plugin and leave their care grazing.

The report highlights the need for improved understanding of the types of charging required by both battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and how this needs to be matched to customer demand.

It makes clear that the rapid take-up of electric vehicles required to meet the Government’s recent confirmation that no new wholly petrol or diesel-fuelled cars can be sold after 2040 will only happen if there is a step change in the approach to providing an adequate national charge point network.

Charging options

The report recognises that the Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill – promised in this year’s Queen’s Speech – could provide the opportunity to address some of the problems through proposals such as:

• Ensuring that for each rapid charge point installed at a motorway service area, three slow ones are also installed for use by plug-in hybrids which cannot recharge at a rate faster than 3.6kw

• Grants should be on offer for providers of charge points at motorway services areas who also put in energy storage units to ease the pressure on the existing power supply

• Requiring charge point operators to cooperate on shared methods of payment

• Introducing time limits within which operators must fix faulty recharging equipment and fines for non-compliance

Read the full report here and give us leave your comments below – Ultra Low Emission vehicle infrastucture – what can be done

The Founder of driveEV. A driving and new technology fan enjoying learning all about the future of motoring. I drive a BMW i3.