By Irina Slav
- During the recent gasoline shortage in Britain, interest in electric vehicles exploded
- Despite the growing interest in both electric and hybrid vehicles in the United Kingdom, electricity prices and infrastructure problems remain
- The government is now looking at making charging points mandatory for all new buildings, but that strategy is facing resistance
Higher energy prices and the fear of a fuel shortage that prompted many Britons to panic buy gasoline has boosted interest in electric vehicles. According to Inside EVs, the fuel panic caused a 1,600-percent surge in online searches for EVs.
The UK has one of the most ambitious plans for EVs in the world and is scheduled to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2030 and even hybrid vehicles by 2035. The stage is set, then, for flourishing EV sales. However, it took a fuel crisis that wasn’t even a fuel crisis but a tanker truck driver shortage to spur a spike in demand for EVs.
Even before the spike, however, demand for EVs and hybrids was rising in the country. In August, demand for battery electric vehicles jumped by 32.2 percent, with demand for hybrid cars up by 45.7 percent. The biggest increase, however, came from plug-in hybrids, which many people apparently still believe is the best of both worlds. Plug-in hybrid car demand surged by 72.1 percent last month, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The current strong rise in EV interest reported by dealers was to be expected; when fossil fuels become costlier, people are more enthusiastic about alternatives. Yet, there is an ironic twist in the current situation: Britons now face much higher electricity bills because of the gas crunch that has struck the country because of its apparently excessive dependence on wind and imported natural gas. In other words, for the time being, the choice for car buyers seems to be either an EV that will be charged with expensive electricity or an internal combustion engine car that might get stuck in a queue at the fuel station.
Of course, the power crunch will not be a permanent one. Wind generation is already improving: at the time of writing, Britain was getting 41.55 percent of its electricity from wind farms, even if the utilization rate of all available capacity was moderate, at a little over a third, according to electricityMap.
But then, the panic buying at fuel stations will not be a permanent one either. The UK has urgently issued work visas for potential tanker truck drivers, and sooner or later, the shortage will dissipate. Yet, higher demand for EVs is likely to stay because of the country’s green transition plans. This means the government would need to double down on infrastructure.
Currently, there are only 25,000 public charging points for electric vehicles in the country, Euronews reported recently. The government plans to build millions more – and would make charging points mandatory for all new buildings. But some have criticized the charging point approach that Downing Street is taking. According to these critics, including the Competition and Market Authority, the charging point policy of the government is a “postcode lottery”, meaning the focus is being placed on urban areas, leaving rural ones behind.
This is not the only problem.
Speaking of urban charging points, a survey found that people living in apartments have a hard time accessing a convenient public charging point – a problem that could have been foreseen with a little more focus on the details of the EV transition.
When planning an overhaul of this scale, it always pays to address all potential issues that may arise. Otherwise, you run a risk of failure that could have a lasting effect. In this case, those in charge of decision-making might want to speed up the roll-out of public charging points and make sure they are widely and conveniently accessible.
Of course, this would raise the question of payback periods for the charging point investment, which depends on continued strong demand for EVs and grid reliability, but they are just two more parts of the EV transition equation that the UK and all other transition pioneers need to solve.