BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

Lack of charging points hinders EV take-up

Opinion: Motorists are being nudged towards electric vehicles as a greener alternative to petrol and diesel cars. But the UK needs more charging points to enable this transition

Author: Michael Morgan

25 November 2021

Electric vehicle charging point

© Michael Morgan

In September, about 15% of new cars sold in the UK were battery-powered electric vehicles, and a smaller proportion were plug-in hybrids.

The government has stipulated that all new cars and vans should be zero-emission by 2035, as part of its net-zero target for 2050. But although figures have increased substantially in recent years, take-up is still too slow to achieve these targets.

This lack of progress is in part due to the global shortage of the semiconductors that electric vehicles (EVs) need. But it is also to do with the location of charging points.

Government to mandate charging points

As I mentioned in a previous article, most EV owners still charge at home or work. According to data from Rightmove the number of households with EV charging has risen rapidly and potential homebuyers see it as a key feature.

The government has decided to enforce charge points in new buildings, and legislation, a new approved document and draft technical guidance are all due next year. It has also set up the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles to oversee this and related policies and initiatives.

While the exact requirements for charge points are yet to be finalised, they may include:

  • minimum power of 7kW, which will in effect prevent use of domestic 13A sockets
  • control circuitry and basic safety electronics
  • compliance with relevant parts of BS EN 61851-1: 2019 Electric vehicle conductive charging system
  • cables suitable for all kinds of EV
  • accessible locations compliant with the Equality Act 2010.

Rear of electric car

Electrical safety of EVs is likely to fall under other legislation such as Electrical Safety: Approved Document Part P, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, and the IET Wiring Regulations.

A separate mandate may require that charge points are smart. Smart chargers can analyse and protect EV batteries, and even help with repair. They respond to the condition of the battery to charge it as quickly as possible.

Requirements for small, non-residential buildings may be limited, depending on the capital cost of installation. Where it would be excessively difficult to install charging points – for instance, where local electricity supply infrastructure is poor – new dwellings may be exempt as well.

Outstanding barriers to EV take-up

The government wants to progress EV take-up in the UK to alleviate socioeconomic disparities, among other issues. To do so, it will need to address common worries about EV ownership, with range remaining the main concern for consumers.

Charging points – particularly public facilities – aren't reliable or plentiful enough to accommodate a drastic increase in EV usage as yet, with many drivers reporting that points are out of order. However, charging will need to become as ubiquitous and as reliable as petrol stations.

Most people still charge at home but many UK households have no off-street parking, so workplace or on-street charging should be available as well. Expanding provision should also ensure more affordable charging for lower-income households.

The government's EV Homecharge Scheme provides up to £350 towards a charge point. This scheme will continue into 2022, and expand to target people in rented and leasehold accommodation.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has also opened its Workplace Charging Scheme to SMEs and the charity sector. This offers certain smaller businesses such as bed and breakfasts a grant of up to 75% or £350, whichever is lower, towards the cost of the installation. The DfT does expect this to increase the rate at which charging points are installed. However, all this has implications for site planning as well as building designs.

As demand for charging infrastructure is predicted to increase, it is important that the developers engage with power network providers and charge point operators at an early stage to ensure that sites can accommodate the planned expansion.

Road transport accounts for 10% of global emissions and these are rising faster than any other sector. So it's imperative that charge points form part of the push towards carbon-neutrality.

Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan MRICS is technical and major projects manager at London Building Control
Contact Michael: Email

Related competencies include: Legal/regulatory compliance, Sustainability

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