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Government misses motorway services high-power EV charger target by end of 2023 reveals RAC

The RAC revealed that the UK Government has fallen short of its ambitious target to install at least six rapid or ultra-rapid electric vehicle (EV) chargers at every motorway service area in England by the end of 2023.

This target was a crucial part of the Government's strategy to support the growing number of EVs, expected to surpass one million by the end of 2023.

According to the RAC's research, using data from Zapmap, only 39% (46 out of 119) of motorway service areas now meet the target. This is a marginal improvement from April, when only 23% (27 service areas) had the requisite number of chargers. Since then, 178 high-powered chargers have been added. Positively, over half of these service areas (55%) now offer ultra-rapid chargers, which provide some of the fastest charging speeds available.

Despite these developments, concerns remain. Four motorway service areas, including Leicester Forest on the M1 and Tebay South on the M6, lack any rapid charging facilities above 50kW. Moreover, four locations have no publicly accessible charging options at all.

The growth in the number of Combined Charging System (CCS) connectors, which are widely used, is notable, with nearly 700 (693) now installed, marking a 48% increase since April. CHAdeMO connectors, primarily used by Nissan and Renault electric cars, have also seen a 32% rise, now totaling nearly 300 (282).

In a positive trend, the number of service areas with more than 12 high-powered devices has risen from six in the spring to 14, with the Moto-run services at Exeter on the M5 boasting the most at 24. On average, there are now 4.9 high-powered charging devices at each of the 119 service areas, up from 3.4 in April.

This shortfall comes despite the Government's outlined goal in its 'Taking charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy', published in March 2022. The strategy aimed to boost the roll-out of high-powered chargers on strategic road networks, ensuring EV drivers can confidently undertake longer journeys. It wasn’t until December 2023 that the Government announced a £70 million grant for a pilot scheme to upgrade chargers at 10 motorway service stations.

As of November 2023, Zapmap's data shows the UK has 53,029 charging devices, with 19% (9,992) being rapid or ultra-rapid. However, only 6% (581) of these high-powered chargers are located at motorway services. The Government anticipates around 300,000 public chargers by 2030 and more than 6,000 high-powered chargers on strategic roads by 2035, aligning with the Competition and Markets Authority’s forecast of needing 280,000-480,000 public charge points by 2030.

This report underscores the challenges in meeting infrastructure demands for the burgeoning EV market and highlights the need for accelerated efforts to reach the Government's ambitious targets.

RAC EV spokesperson Simon Williams said: “It’s clear from our research that the Government has fallen well short of its target of having six high-powered chargers at every motorway service area in England. While that’s the case, some very good progress has been made since the end of April when we last carried out our survey, with four-in-10 services (39%) now having met or exceeded the target number of chargers, compared to just under a quarter (23%) eight months ago.

“There is undoubtedly an eagerness among charge point companies and motorway service operators to install these types of units but unfortunately, it’s often the high-power cabling to the grid that’s the major barrier which is out of their hands.

“More clearly needs to be done to make this process simpler than it is currently. Hopefully once the Government’s Rapid Charging Fund kicks fully into action some of these hurdles will be overcome.

“We continue to believe that the wide availability of ultra-rapid charging is crucial in giving both current and future EV drivers confidence to know they can easily make journeys beyond the range of their vehicles in a time-efficient way.”


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