Public charging provision ‘falling behind’, warn car industry bosses

Claims drivers ‘will lose confidence’ in electrified future unless UK’s public network expands rapidly

Public EV charging provision is failing to keep up with the rise in sales of electrified vehicles, according to car industry experts.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents car makers in the UK, has warned that the number of public charging points per vehicle has fallen by more than 30% in recent years, placing it among the worst performing nations in the major EV markets.

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According to its figures, just one new charger is being installed for every 52 new plug-in vehicles sold, leaving the country with one charger for every 16 vehicles in 2020, down from a ratio of one to 11 in 2019.

The number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles sold in the UK has soared over the last two years and plug-in vehicles now account for one in every six new car registrations.

Despite investment in charging sites, the SMMT warns the UK is slipping backwards (Photo: Gridserve)Despite investment in charging sites, the SMMT warns the UK is slipping backwards (Photo: Gridserve)
Despite investment in charging sites, the SMMT warns the UK is slipping backwards (Photo: Gridserve) | Gridserve

However, SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes warned that unless public charger provision improved drivers, especially those unable to charge at home, would lose confidence in the infrastructure around EVs.

The SMMT data shows that the UK’s ratio of 16 cars per public charger places it near the bottom of the top 10 EV markets globally. South Korea has a ratio of 3:1 and the Netherlands 5:1. China (9:1), France (10:1), Belgium and Japan (both 13:1) also offer better public provision.

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Mr Hawes said, “Appetite for electric vehicles has never been higher, but making Britain a net zero nation means convincing everyone, wherever they live, that an electric car can meet their needs.

“Those who can’t have their own home charge point need the confidence that they can still charge as conveniently as they can refuel. A deteriorating ratio of public charge points to cars will drain that confidence.

“Recent Government funding for infrastructure was welcome but more private sector investment in public charge points is needed across the country. The UK therefore needs a framework of regulation that makes it easier to fund, build and operate electric vehicle charging infrastructure.”

The analysis of charging provision also found huge regional disparities, with some areas enjoying five times the provision of others.

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London is the best served part of the country with a ratio of 10 cars to every charger. In contrast the East of England and the North-West have 49 plug-in cars for every public charger.

Wales performs slightly better than the national average, at 12:1, while Scotland and Northern Ireland lag behind at 17 cars to every charger.


Many private operators have committed to massive expansions, including Ionity, which is investing £600 million in new infrastructure across Europe. The joint venture between BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and the Volkswagen Group, aims to add 5,000 new chargers across the UK and Europe by 2025, including units capable of charging at up to 350kW - enough to charge a typical EV to 80% in just 15 minutes.

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