New analysis shows chasm in electric vehicle chargers between rural areas and cities – with London having more than England’s counties combined

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2021 | 08 November 2021

Council leaders today warn of a chasm between cities and rural areas in the availability of electric vehicle charging points, as new figures that drivers in county areas have one charging point every 16 miles, compared to one for every mile in London.

New analysis from the County Councils Network (CCN) shows that there are more publicly available charging points in London – 7,865 – compared to the entirety of England’s counties, which are home to almost half of the country’s population.

With 7,781 public charging points in total in the 36 county areas the CCN represents, it means the average distance between chargers is 16 miles in those places. They are lagging well behind London, which has a charger for every mile on average, and England’s largest eight cities, which have a six-mile distance between chargers.

As a result, county local authority leaders are warning that it is more difficult to drive an electric vehicle in England’s counties compared to cities, which could put people off switching from petrol and diesel. Just 35% of electric vehicles are registered in county areas, despite them being home to half of the country’s population.

They also say having good access to charging points will be vital for the county areas that see large influxes of visitors, such as Devon, Cumbria, and Lincolnshire.

Government advisors on the Climate Change Committee say that charging points should be ‘widely available’ by 2025, but only 21,925 have been installed in England as of last month – with county areas seeing just 35% of the total. Council leaders in those areas fear the government is a long way off the committee’s 150,000 target and their places could be left behind the cities, as they were for years with superfast broadband.

The government estimates that one in five electric vehicles will be charged publicly, meaning a significant number of people will be reliant on publicly available chargers, or plugs on residential streets.

The government is providing grants to local authorities to part-subsidise the installation of on-street residential chargers, but two-thirds of England’s total either installed or approved for installation are in London – 2,071. Just 494 are in county areas.

Having adequate electric charging infrastructure is vital for county areas, where an overwhelming majority of people (65%) travel to work by car, owing to a lack of public transport options compared to the cities.

Ahead of the government’s Cities, Regions, and Built Environment Day at COP26, county leaders say that their areas have been overlooked on climate actions compared to the cities for too long, which if continued will undermine the government’s net-zero by 2050 target. Emissions have decreased slower in England’s counties since 2005, compared to every other part of the country.

Read CCN’s recent report which highlights the climate change in county areas here.

The government’s Net Zero Strategy included the announcement of £620m to install more charging points, but ministers said this would be largely focused on grants for on-street residential chargers. An electric vehicle infrastructure strategy has been promised by the end of the year.

County leaders say it is vital that this strategy focuses on improving publicly available electric vehicle charging points, and that funding ramped up to support this. With adequate resource, county authorities will work with the private sector to improve accessibility for county residents to support them transitioning to electric vehicles.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, Climate Change Spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:

“As we move towards a zero-emission future, most households should be able to charge their car up at home. But many people will not have this an option so having a good amount public charging points near their homes will be vital, as they will be for tourists.

“Having a car is a necessity rather than a luxury in many county areas owing to a lack of public transport options, but we cannot incentivise people to switch to electric vehicles if the infrastructure is not readily available to support them. There is already a chasm between county areas and England’s biggest cities in charging points, and this must be addressed urgently to stop rural areas falling behind.

“County areas have seen emissions fall the slowest compared to the rest of England and switching to electric vehicles will help our climate change ambitions. County leaders are ready to support the government in hitting net zero, but we need a new focus and investment to address the lack of electric vehicle infrastructure in our areas presently.”

Councils want to build on their electric vehicle infrastructure that they have installed over the past few years, such as:

  • Suffolk County Council’s Plug In Suffolk programme saw the local authority work with green suppliers to install 100 chargers across the county, where drivers can use their contactless card to recharge their vehicles.
  • Surrey County Council has been working with its Local Enterprise Partnership to install 80 residential on-street fast charging points across four towns and boroughs: Guildford, Woking, Spelthorne, and Waverley.
  • Cumbria County Council has spent £250,000 on installing 30 public charging points in popular locations in the county, and this investment also upgraded the each area’s power supplies, allowing for a possible expansion of 162 further chargers.