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Is the UK infrastructure ready for a surge in electric vehicles?

Since the start of industrialised automotive manufacturing in the early 20th century, cars have incrementally become faster, safer and more economical. During this time, the internal combustion engine has ruled the automotive roost, with improvements and variations on the original concept throughout the proceeding decades.

Various alternatives have gained attention during this time – from hydrogen fuel cells to solar power – but none have threatened the crown. Some, such as liquefied or compressed natural gas, have even made it through to manufacturing but, for various reasons, never became popular. One of those reasons was the cost of infrastructure to support refuelling and repairs.

What about electric cars?

Electric vehicles appear to be bucking that trend, as every major manufacturer has announced the production of at least one new model using the new technology. Some companies have even been founded to solely produce electric vehicles. At Car Care Plan, we now provide warranty for some electric vehicles, demonstrating our commitment to the burgeoning technology. Still looming large, however, is the question of infrastructure.

Can our fuelling stations meet the potential demand of 38 million electric vehicles on UK roads (statistics from the Department for Transport)? Currently, under 3% of those are plug-in vehicles, so what demand would tens of millions of vehicles place on our power grid? And do we have the skilled workforce to build the necessary infrastructure as well as annual maintenance and repairs on electric vehicles?

Learn more about the switch to electric vehicles in our blog: Car retailers must change with the Alternatively Fuelled times

What changes are needed to put more electric vehicles on the road?

In 2017, the UK Government announced £400m is being allocated to build electric vehicle infrastructure; half from taxpayers and the other half from private companies. The money has yet to be spent but that hasn’t halted the increase in charging points across the country. There were around 400 new connectors installed in the last 30 days alone, according to Zap-Map, the UK’s leading charging point map. That takes the total to over 16,500 connectors at almost 5,800 locations.

Providing enough power for the rising number of electric vehicles is also a major issue and one that has not escaped National Grid. After the Government announced a ban on new diesel and petrol cars and vans after 2040, National Grid said they expect 25m electric vehicles on our roads by 2050, which could account for up to 11% of national power demand. That may sound like new power stations are needed, but the Grid states: “This is where better consumer engagement and advances in technology both have a part to play.”

Finally, the IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry) called on the Government to clarify what funding will be allocating to the training of technicians required to work on electric vehicles? They stated that only 1% of all technicians have been trained to work safely on high-voltage technology but that £30m could help accelerate the uptake of the requisite skills.

Is the UK ready for electric vehicle technology?

There are still many unanswered questions when it comes to providing the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles but there is a lot of work going on in the background to analyse the implications and find solutions. As National Grid stated in their report, Electric dreams: The future for EVs: “We do, however, know the answer to one of them: “Are electric vehicles here to stay?” It’s a simple “yes”.”

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