The electric vehicle (EV) industry is being held back by a lack of collaboration across production, support and vehicle charging elements. That’s the view of a leading EV manufacturer that believes the industry must work together to accelerate its efforts to scale-up production and support of electric vehicles. The comments follow news that the UK is falling well behind in meeting targets for rapid EV changing.
“The transport industry is clearly not doing what we need to do to reverse the rapid climate crisis,” says Fredrika Clarin, head of sustainability at Swedish EV-maker Pollstar. “Only 1.5 per cent of the cars on the streets today are electrified. It is so demoralising to see that the industry is not scaling up the technology at the pace that is needed.
“The EV industry is very fractured and we don’t collaborate. Part of the problem is that automakers are still investing in legacy technologies. If we would only put that money and those resources into overcoming the barriers that are holding back the industry, we could see an exponential increase in EV adoption within this decade rather than post-2030. Electric cars are one of the most under-utilised climate solutions but major companies are only committing to setting targets when they should be only selling and supporting electric cars.”
Charging stations are pain points
A lack of support around available charging points is a major barrier to widespread EV adoption, the issue highlighted in the UK by new R.A.C. research that shows the country is unlikely to meet a target of having six or more rapid or ultra-rapid electric vehicle chargers at every motorway service area in England by the end of 2023.
The UK government says it expects there will be around 300,000 public chargers of all speeds as a minimum by 2030 and more than 6,000 high powered chargers along strategic roads by 2035. Latest charging statistics from Zapmap show the UK has just 42,566 charging devices of which a fifth (7,928) are rapid or ultra-rapid. Only five per cent of high-powered chargers are located at motorways services. Less than a quarter of motorway services reviewed by the RAC currently have the target number of chargers to serve the UK’s estimated 760,000 battery electric vehicles.
“Policymakers and incumbents are not stepping up the way they should but we cannot take that as an excuse for inaction,” Clarin urges. “It’s really important that the car industry works together to scale-up and send positive signals to consumers and regulators that everyone involved with EVs are committed to net zero transformation.”
A long road to EV sustainability
The UK government’s ‘Taking charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy’ published in 2022 set out an ambition to accelerate roll-out of high-powered chargers on the strategic road network through the £950m Rapid Charging Fund so that EV drivers have confidence in the ability to undertake longer journeys. However, scarcity of charging points means charging infrastructure and energy grid problems are going to become increasingly acute in coming years.
With the EV market still in its nascent stages it will take time for countries’ entire EV networks to become seamless and universal but major progress has been made. China’s state-sponsored approach has seen 470,000 public fast EV charging stations and 680,000 slow EV charging stations installed in major cities, elsewhere the market is being determined by private companies. Elli has installed 500,000 charging stations across Europe while in UK ubitricity has installed 7,000 EV charge points across the country, converting lampposts into charging points for EVs in residential areas and in public areas such as council car parks and leisure centres.
In France, charging points for commercial vehicles are being installed at specific points in terms of distance, no more than 50 miles apart and within the four hour windows when commercial drivers must stop for their breaks. “France is looking at the problem sensibly and starting from the ground up,” says John Randerson, CTO at sustainable vehicle manufacturer WN VTech.
“Vehicle manufacturers are absolutely on board with what a journey to zero emissions looks like across various ranges of vehicles but there are a few areas where solutions aren’t fully developed yet. In UK and across parts of Europe we have not even begun to understand how we actually get the energy to the vehicle.”
RAC research found there are around 400 high-powered charging units situated at motorway services capable of charging 682 electric cars at one time. This means there is currently an average of just three rapid or ultra-rapid chargers at UK motorway services. Six major motorway services in England don’t have any high-powered chargers.
Forecasts by the UK Competition and Markets Authority suggest that 480,000 public charge points will be needed by 2030.
New energy, new thinking
“The root cause of problems in the industry, both in terms of the production of EVs and their use is the lack of renewable energy,” Clarin says. “As an industry we cannot simply rely on our suppliers to fix the problem, or wait for countries around the world to fix the lack of renewable energy in charging stations and charging grids.
“We have to go about this in a new way in order to speed up the transition. We need to change our way of working to solve these issues. We should be collaborating to build renewable power plants close to factories and supply chains; we should be streamlining and standardising materials and processes.
“The industry has to think and act in new ways in order to overcome the challenges it faces, and collaboration is the key to success.”