According to various reports, the United Kingdom now has more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations than it does gas (or shall we say petrol, or filling) stations, boasting 8,646 EV charging locations compared with 8,400 gas stations and reflecting a growing EV footprint in the U.K. The data revealing this milestone comes from Zap Map, an entity which claims to be the U.K.’s leading charging point platform. This news marks the first time in the country’s history that EV charging stations have outnumbered gas stations.
This is quite a remarkable milestone because in many ways Europe was slow to recognize EVs as a more sustainable form of transportation until quite recently. For several decades, Europe’s go-to for efficient transportation were cars with small capacity diesel engines, which attained great mileage per gallon compared with gasoline engines, and consequently accounted for in excess of 50 percent of vehicle sales in Europe.
However, with policy driving change across the pond with aggressive goals for zero emissions vehicles - commensurate with improving EV technology and a growing number of EV choices for consumers on the market - diesel’s dominance is slowly, but consequently, on the way out.
Autocar reported last year that new car sales in the U.K. saw demand for diesels fall by 15.7 percent in one year between March 2017 and the same month 2018 while in the same period, EV demand increased by 5 percent.
In recent years there has been a realization that diesel-powered cars are not as environmentally friendly as they had been made out to be. Despite the unquestionable fuel efficiency of diesel engines, carcinogenic particulates from them have diminished air quality in urban environments throughout Europe. No doubt too, VW’s emissions scandal in the USA brought to the public’s attention the deleterious effects of nitrogen oxide emissions, landing another blow to diesels’ reputation.
Going forward, policy will likely play a significant role in promoting EVs over diesels too. For example, Autocar reported the U.K. government increased the new vehicle tax on diesel vehicles as of April 2018, unless new cars met the latest Euro 6d air quality standards - which none of them did at that time.
On top of this, the future vision for the U.K.’s transportation fleet turns away from the internal combustion engine altogether. In the summer of last year the U.K. government unveiled its Road to Zero strategy. Edie.net detailed how under this initiative a £1.5 billion investment into EV research, development and infrastructure will help phase out gasoline and diesel sales by 2040.
Part of the Road to Zero plan included a recognition that a lack of EV charging infrastructure would be one of the top impediments to widespread adoption of EVs in the country. However, as reported here, Ben Lane, Zap Maps’ founder says, “the public and private sectors are now investing heavily in the U.K.’s EV charging infrastructure to ensure that there are sufficient charging points to support the growing electric fleet.”
Demand for EVs remained robust in the U.K. for the entirety of 2018. According to Airquality news.com, the EV market grew by a record 19 percent in 2018 with 59,911 new plug-in electric cars registered in the U.K. Plug-in hybrids accounted for the bulk of the market, with 74 percent of registrations.
In addition to public policy, the private sector forms an important part of the equation as well, and is notably attracting nontraditional EV players, who are perhaps seeing the writing on the wall. For example, last year oil giant BP acquired Britain’s Chargemaster, and the energy company now says it manages the country’s biggest public charging network.
Charging infrastructure growth appears to be a growing global trend too. AP reports in the forecast period of 2019-24, the market is expected to grow by 38.45 percent - with China currently leading the EV charging market.
For readers in the United States, the trend in building out EV charging infrastructure is gaining momentum here as well. TriplePundit reported last week the EV charging market is heating up with the news that General Motors and Bechtel are planning a venture to build out a network of fast charging stations. Their strategy is to build out charging stations in urban environments where people drive and park. This, along with range improvements of EVs, will continue to remove impediments to EV ownership.
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Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.