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Electric nation: Which cities will benefit most from the UK’s new Rapid Charging Fund?

On Thursday 14 May, the Transport Secretary revealed updated plans about the government’s £500 million Rapid Charging Fund, which aims to support the increase of electric vehicles (EVs) on the UK’s motorways and A roads as the demand for greener forms of travel continues to accelerate.

As part of its ambitious plans, the government expects to have developed an extensive network of rapid charging points across England - at least 2,500 by 2030, rising to 6,000 by 2035. It also announced plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars during this time.

Exact details of the timing, funding and logistics of the expansion plan are still to be revealed but it’s clear that regional demand must be considered to offset the balance in where EV charging points are currently scattered across the country. It’s no surprise that some locations will have more charging points than others, but which cities will really benefit the most from this new initiative based on the number of EVs in their local area?

Where in the UK has the most charging points per electric vehicle right now?

To gauge the demand for EV charging points across the UK we wanted to take a look at how many electric vehicles (EVs) there are for each public charging point in 50 UK towns and cities.

For many people thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle,one of the concerns is about how easy it is to keep the car charged when on the road. These results suggest the chances of finding a vacant public charging point vary quite drastically across the country.

Bristol topped the rankings with each EV charging point needing to serve the smallest number of vehicles, at just 23. The city has 140 public charging points available to service its 3,200 registered electric vehicles.

Completing the top three were Milton Keynes (where each charging point needs to serve 23.4 EVs) and Dundee (where each charger needs to serve 28.0 electric vehicles), suggesting these locations are leading the way in terms of their provisions for EVs.

Image showing expected queue lengths at EV charging points

Which locations need to play catch up in electric vehicle preparedness?

The Rapid Charging Fund looks set to benefit EV drivers across the UK as a whole in the coming years. However, based on these results, it’s clear that some locations would benefit from this funding more than others.

With just nine charging points in total - that’s one public charging point for every 268 EVs - those in Stoke-on-Trent should consider how easy it is to access the juice required to keep moving. It’s locations such as these where the government could consider focusing its efforts to ensure residents don’t fear being caught short when out on the road.

Only just ahead was Southend (201.7 EVs to one charging point) and Birmingham (174.9 EVs to one charging point).

How did we get this data?

Using data from the DVLA to give us the number of registered UK drivers by postcode area, we then cross referenced this with official data from the Department of Transport, which suggests that 2.5% of vehicles (1 in 40) purchased in 2019 utilised electricity as its main form of propulsion. This allowed us to work out roughly how many electric vehicles were likely to be within each location.

Map of the UK showing the numbers of chargers per drive in each city

To ensure the results weren’t skewed by postcode area, each location was ringfenced to ensure there was a direct comparison between the amount of vehicles and charging points. For example, for Nottingham and its surrounding area this was based on the following calculations:

Across the postcode areas for NG1-17, NG80 and NG90, there were 227 EV charging points and 598,364 registered active UK drivers. Based on recent buying habits, we could then assume that 1 in 40 of these drivers had access to an electric or hybrid vehicle, meaning approximately 14,959 EVs on Nottingham's roads.

We were then able to estimate the number of electric vehicles per location and compare this to live EV charging location data provided kindly to us by Zap Map.

Which locations have seen the most improvement over the past 12 months?

Based on the last 12 months alone, it’s clear that many local councils are putting serious effort themselves into EV charging provisions in their towns and cities. When looking at a previous study in April 2019 and comparing those figures to today, we can see which locations have made the most ground in the last year.

With a rise of more than 293% it was Coventry that had made the biggest changes in provisions, installing more than 140 new charging stations in the last year alone. Sheffield (up 147%) and Derby (up 142%) were also making great strides in this area.

Table showing the annual rise in EV chargers per city between 2019 and 2020

What does this mean for the Rapid Charging Fund?

Quote from Sarah Broomfield, Energy Expert at Uswitch:

“The Rapid Charging Fund will be instrumental in providing access to electric vehicles for all residents across the UK and in delivering a more sustainable future for the nation’s transport. However, it’s crucial that this investment is spent wisely and is targeted towards the regions that need the funding most.

“While there is no obvious regional divide across the UK, it’s clear some towns and cities are more prepared than others for the rise of electric vehicles and by considering demand - in this case the amount of potential vehicles vs. charging points - ministers can make more informed decisions about where next to focus on expanding the network.

“It’s an exciting time to be an EV driver and I look forward to seeing how these changes impact what vehicles we see on our roads in the years to come.”

Electric Nation FAQ

What is an EV?

EV - or electric vehicle - is the term used to describe vehicles that are partially or fully powered by electricity. Electric vehicles are charged rather than filled with fuel like a typical petrol or diesel car, and charging points can be found in public places or installed at home.

What is an EV charging station?

An EV charging station is the electric vehicle alternative to a petrol/gas station. Electric vehicle owners can plug in their EVs to charge them up ready for their next journey. Charging stations can be public or can be installed at home, so that the vehicle can be charged easily overnight. 

Are electric vehicles cheaper?

Running costs for electric cars can be much lower than petrol and diesel vehicles. For fully electric vehicles you don’t have to fill up on fuel at all, and plug-in hybrids will use much less fuel than a standard car. Recent research from EDF Energy found that electric vehicle owners could save £41,000 on fuel over their lifetime, compared to the cost of charging their car. The cost of charging your electric car at home will be included in your normal electricity bill, so you should carefully consider your energy costs and choose the right energy deal for you so you don’t overpay. Find a full guide to electric vehicle costs here.

How many electric vehicles are there in the UK?

Official figures from the Department of Transport suggest that 2.5% of vehicles (1 in 40) purchased in 2019 utilise electricity as their main form of propulsion.

Do you have to insure electric vehicles?

Like any car, you will need to insure your electric vehicle to drive it on the road. Not all car insurers offer EV insurance as standard, but you can find a guide to those which do, plus considerations for insuring your electric vehicle, here.