UK’s electric vehicle market ‘approaching crossroads’ – report

UK’s electric vehicle market ‘approaching crossroads’ - report
Credit: Matej Kastelic

As pressure ramps up for the 2040 deadline to phase out sales of new diesel and petrol engines to be brought forward, demand for low carbon mobility has strengthened as the UK posted an upsurge of 54% in its electric vehicle stock to almost 134,000 vehicles in 2017.

The increase in EVs between 2016 and 2017 represented almost the total number of electric vehicles on the road in 2015 (48,510 vehicles). However, levels of consumer adoption are far outstripping the infrastructure.

PwC Strategy’s Powering Ahead report, written in conjunction with Energy UK, suggests the UK electric vehicle market is now at a tipping point.

Consumer demand for EVs is growing rapidly and is set to continue, in what is a fragmented and nascent charging market. While there are a few large incumbents providing charging infrastructure services, there are many smaller new entrants.

The sector is already showing early signs of consolidation with BP’s acquisition of Chargemaster earlier this year. If the UK is to become a leader in electric vehicles and low carbon transport, access to a range of convenient charging will be critical, the report suggests.

Steve Jennings, UK leader of Energy and Utilities at PwC, said: “The UK EV charging market is arguably one of the most advanced in Europe. We have one of the largest EV stocks of any EU country with a large conventional car fleet. We also rank alongside Germany when it comes to the number of publicly accessible fast chargers – an indicator of the UK’s efforts to provide the best service to consumers.

“Therefore, it is essential we retain the momentum of success. We need to nurture the commercial environment that allows multiple business models to flourish and provide a diversity of charging options for customers.”

PwC surveyed some of the leading operators in the electric vehicle charging industry alongside interviews with other key stakeholders including transmission companies, electricity suppliers and distribution businesses.

Industry data shows EV stock has grown by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 89% between 2011 and 2017, virtually doubling year-on-year. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have driven the bulk of that growth compared to a far smaller number of pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs), the report finds.

As a result, in order to keep pace with the increase in EV stock, the UK’s charging infrastructure has significantly increased. But infrastructure is struggling to keep up, growing at half the rate of electric vehicle stock (44% CAGR between 2011 and 2017).

The number of publicly accessible charge points – both slow and fast chargers in 2017 has risen to more than 13,500 publicly accessible charge points across the UK ( 2014:  7,742: 2015: 9,377, 2016: 11,208).