Opinion: Whats the point of the public EV charging network?

Opinion: Whats the point of the public EV charging network?


Recently, Luton on Sunday released an article entitled “Car charging points in Bedfordshire are not plugged enough, motorists say”. The article brought up some good points about the importance of location when installing public charging points.

It also drew on research from the AA that suggested Bedfordshire’s 355 plug-in drivers preferred to charge at home than use the publicly available charging points. The article also claimed that on the 26 points installed across the county had only been used 4,200 times between 2010 and 2012.

While public funds should always be invested wisely, it seems somewhat strange to me that this is being painted in such a negative light, as slow and fast charging points were never intended to underpin the viability of the EV fleet. Public charging points, especially within cities are designed for supplementary use; it is generally accepted that EV drivers will rely upon their charging point at home 80-85% of the time.

True, with rapid charging points it is a different story, as these are commonly placed along main roads and motorways to facilitate longer journeys in an EV. They are large, high powered units that can recharge an EV’s battery to 80% capacity in less than half an hour.

However, in not also covering the usage of the latest fast 22kW and rapid charging network, the news items such as the ones highlighted above fail to represent the emerging use pattens of the charging network as a whole. Much public money, for example, has also subsidised tens of thousands of home chargers which are used by EV owners night-in and night-out.

On-street slow and fast chargepoints are installed as a safety blanket for when an EV driver either forgets to charge at home or needs a top up. This safety blanket is important as it gives city dwellers that extra assurance should they run out of charge, which could make the difference to consumers when contemplating the switch to electric.

Hetal Shah, Head of Go Ultra Low, supports this argument. She said: “The majority of plug-in car and van drivers only need to use public charge points as a back-up to their day-to-day home or office charging routine. Sceptics often question the usability of the roadside charging network, but they are important for electric vehicle owners.”

Electric cars are perfect for urban commuting and those who are not travelling further than 40-50 miles a day from their base. This means there is not always a need to utilise the public charging infrastructure available. The fact it is there, however, is crucial if the EVs are to be normalised and pushed into the mainstream.

When thinking of buying an electric car, it is crucial that you have somewhere to charge your vehicle whether that be at home or work. Public charging infrastructure is there to be used but not relied upon – with the rapid network designed for extending journeys beyond an EV’s range.

For more advice on things to consider when going electric by reading our EV buying guide.


Luton on Sunday, OLEV