Where can I charge my electric car? UK's hotspots and notspots revealed

  • Department for Transport reveals the extent of UK's charging network
  • Local authority figures show surprising gaps in availability
  • You might be better running an EV in Orkney than in Oldham

Few people would disagree that electric cars are going to play a crucial role in mobility after 2020, as the UK's company car tax regime changes to make running a zero-emissions vehicle very attractive, and incentivises long-range plug-in hybrids. Every local authority, every employer, every business is under pressure to support the reduction in emissions that appears vital to the survival of the very planet we inhabit.

In the bubble of cities like London, it's hard to imagine finding it difficult to charge your EV when away from home, too. Blessed with plentiful public transport options, relatively short distances between home and office, and the daily exposure to politicians and policymakers that places infrastructure under the spotlight, any South-East-centric commentator might think that we've already reached the stage where charging an EV is as easy as parking at the local shop.

Look elsewhere in the UK - particularly the North West and Derbyshire, where workers face long, congested commutes and poor public transport provision, making car use an essential rather than a luxury - and the story is very different. Despite car industry employment and large industrial parks miles from affordable housing, Derbyshire has only 79 public charging points - or 10 per 100,000 people.

Electic car ownership should be easy everywhere

The Department for Transport, as part of wider initiative to support investment in electric car infrastructure, has released a league table of local authorities that highlights the best, and worst places to own an electric car if you're relying on public charging facilities.

As of 1 October 2019 there are 15,000 public charging devices nationwide, providing 22,500 charging locations. These serve over 212,500 plug-in electric vehicles, including 60,700 battery EVs (as of December 2018) registered in the UK; by the end of 2019 there will be over 85,000 BEVs on Britain's roads.

Tesco's investment in EV infrastructure helps UK electric car drivers

Significant investmet by companies such as BP Chargemaster and even Tesco has contributed to an increase in charging point availability in the past 12 months, but there's a long way to go. It's unsurprising that London leads the way, with almost 4,000 public charging points, but that works out as 49 charging points per 100,000 population. Even then, where you are in London significantly impacts your changes of finding a charging point - unsurprisingly Westminster leads the way, with 485 devices, 190 per 100,000 people.

London too congested for you? Orkney might be the answer. With renewable energy, short distances and low population density, the islands' provision of 24 charging points equates to 108 per 100,000 - a good thing, too, as electric vehicle ownership there is much higher than the UK average. Clearly if you live in an area of unspoilt natural beauty, you want it to stay that way...

Positive action from the Department for Transport

As well as publishing a 'league table' of local authorities and their provision of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has written to local authorities across the country, urging them to take advantage of funding on offer to build up their electric car charging infrastructure and to increase local access to chargepoints for drivers.

“Your postcode should play no part in how easy it is to use an electric car, and I’m determined electric vehicles become the new normal for drivers.

“It’s good news there are now more charging locations than petrol stations, but the clear gaps in provision are disappointing. I urge local councils to take advantage of all the Government support on offer to help ensure drivers in their area don’t miss out.

“To help increase the provision of charging locations, the Government is offering grants for the installation of chargepoints on the street, in work and at home. We are also offering grants to lower the upfront cost of these cars so everyone is able to experience the benefits.”

To achieve the 2050 'net-zero' goal - widely challenged as inadequate by Extinction Rebellion and other environmental groups - driving an electric vehicle needs to be convenient for people from all corners of the country.

Local authorities have a key role to play in achieving that. Currently the most supportive regions for electric car use are:

  • Glasgow - 140 charging locations
  • Manchester - 119 charging locations
  • Liverpool - 119 charging locations
  • Milton Keynes - 258 charging locations

That doesn't tell the whole story, though, and Scotland - with 1,743 locations across the country, or 32 per 100,000 people - has impressive infrastructure in and around Edinburgh. The City of Edinburgh and the East, West and Mid-Lothian regions cobined have 239 points providing for a key commuter region, and the Scottish Borders - with many towns 10-20 miles apart and heavy reliance on car use - has 42 locations providing 36 per 100,000.

The worst places to find electric car charging

There are some real surprises in the data provided by the Department for Transport. If you want to transform your commute and can't realistically find an off-road location for your own charging point, the lack of support in these areas could make electric car use impossible - or at the very least, impractical.

  • Rugby - 3 charging points, 3 per 100,000
  • Walsall - 14 charging points, 5 per 100,000
  • Kettering - 6 charging points, 6 per 100,000
  • Neath, Port Talbot - 8 charging points, 6 per 100.000

There are now more charging locations than petrol stations (though of course, most petrol stations can serve several cars simultaneously and many more cars per hour), but there are still over 100 local authorities with fewer than 10 public charging devices per 100,000 population.

Some parts of the UK have fewer than 10 charging points per 100,000 people

The Government has also recently announced a £400m Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund, which aims to catalyse private investment in charging infrastructure, and is consulting on requiring chargepoints be built into all new homes with a parking space.

Funding for electric vehicle chargepoints remains available in 2019/20 through schemes including:

  • On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (£5million)
  • Workplace Charging Scheme (£500 per chargepoint socket and £10,000 per business)
  • Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (£500 per chargepoint socket)

Want to find out how and where to charge your electric vehicle?

> > Zap-Map - an interactive map to find available chargers

> > What is an electric car?

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