At the end of July 2018 there were 112,000 plug-in hybrid and 54,000 pure battery-electric vehicles registered in the UK. The latest battery-only cars need only five minutes at the quickest high power chargepoints to take on enough electricity to add about 15 miles of range, but the limitations of the on-board control units in hybrid vehicles means almost all plug-in hybrids take an hour or so to achieve a similar thing.
This mismatch means that expensive, high-specification equipment which is essential to battery-only vehicles on long journeys could be blocked by other, slower-charging vehicles and is highlighted in the report – Development of the UK Public Chargepoint Network – for the RAC Foundation by Harold Dermott.
Until plug-in hybrids have both a greater electric-only range and can accept electricity at a faster rate, chargepoints at motorway service areas should be reserved solely for battery-only cars, says Dermott.
While there has been an improvement in the reliability of public chargepoints in the last year, resulting in a reduction of out of service chargepoints from 14.8% (one in seven) to 8.3% (one in twelve), there are still too many malfunctions. The report says that while the pace at which the public chargepoint network has grown has been impressive, the difficulty of predicting how the electric vehicle market will evolve puts the onus on manufacturers to do more to communicate their future plans to infrastructure providers so that money is not wasted investing in the wrong equipment in the wrong location.
The study also recommends that chargepoint locations for battery-electric vehicles – particularly the larger hubs that are now being trialled – need to offer the services and facilities routinely found at traditional petrol stations, such as food and drink facilities, toilet provision and good lighting.
“Ever-faster and more powerful chargepoints might sound like the answer to creating the electric car recharging network we need, but if the cars themselves can only be recharged at a certain rate then at best we’re going to be disappointed and at worst we’re going to waste money. Compatibility between car and charger is key,” said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation. “In an area where policy, technology and the market are almost falling over themselves, such is the pace of change, communication between all parties is fundamental. Neither society nor drivers will reap all the potential rewards of greener transport if there is confusion about how it should best be delivered.”
“However, there are good signs of progress. [The UK] government is funding seventeen electric vehicle charging hubs through its Go Ultra Low Cities programme, and work is proceeding apace in both the Mayor for London’s chargepoint Task Force and the national Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce,” he added.
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