RAC says lack of re-charging points for BPVs is weakest link in drive for carbon-free cars

Is it nearly full up yet? Range-worries and a lack of re-charging plugs may hinder BPV market
‘Is it nearly full up yet?’ Range-worries and a lack of re-charging plugs may hinder the BPV market

Potential mass-market growth in the use of battery-powered vehicles (BPVs) could be stalled by the lack of a public charging network, according to a new report.

A study for motoring research charity the RAC Foundation found that without widespread, reliable and easy-to-use charging points, the mass market appeal of BPVs may be limited.

It could also hamper the Brit-Govt plan to ban the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040, the research warned. (The Scot-Govt would like to ban conventional petrol and diesel engines by 2032)

The report by automotive consultant Harold Dermott follows the announcement that Sir James Dyson is investing £2 billion into the development of a BPV to be launched in 2020.

Dermott found that the Department for Transport has encouraged quantity rather than quality in charge points, resulting in a network that is “unattractive to use and is unsuitable for encouraging the next wave of BPV drivers”.

More than nine out of 10 (93%) BPV owners use public charge points, but as of June some 13% were out of action at any one time, he said.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “Almost every day companies are announcing their latest foray into the BPV car market-  but the charging network threatens to be the weak link.

“Step-changes in BPV technology must be matched by equally big strides in our recharging infrastructure.

“The danger is that the future of the electric car suffers the equivalent of bed-blocking in the NHS, with queues of frustrated drivers stymied by the lack of adequate, widespread, reliable refuelling opportunities.”

“Few of the nation’s 30 million car owners think twice about the process of refuelling with petrol or diesel, but with BPV cars you need to find the right charger at the right location with the right tariff scheme. Even then it needs to be serviceable and not already in use by someone else.”

The UK advisory Committee on Climate Change has said 60% of new cars and vans must be electric by 2030 to meet carbon targets cost-effectively. In 2016 the proportion was 1.4%.

Info-graphic from Climate Change Committee
Info-graphic on BPVs from the Climate Change Committee

Meanwhile, the Renewable Energy Association – the UK’s largest trade association for renewable energy and clean technologies – has launched its “Forward View” (found here) for the evolution of the British BPV market.

The report says that a rapid shift to electric vehicles is possible in the UK but that a clear government strategy on re-charging grid for BPVs is needed.

The report also anticipates a significant increase in miles driven electrically, in fully electric and extended range BPVs, prompting a shift away from traditional filling stations, with the majority of charging taking place at home and at work.

This would be supplemented by public charging at supermarkets and other retail sites, public car parks, and at charging “hubs” along major motorways.

BPV re-charging could be supplemented by smart tariffs which could allow consumers to charge at different prices, depending on need and grid capability), onsite renewable energy, and onsite battery storage.

Matthew Trevaskis, Head of BPVs at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “Advancements in regional and global BPV markets, if co-ordinated with Government policy, could largely drive phase-out of purely combustion engine years before 2040.”

“The UK could grow its existing auto manufacturing supply base, particularly if new investment in battery manufacturing facilities is secured and a reliable and extensive charge infrastructure system is put in place to make BPVs an easy option for consumers.”

29 Sept 2017

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