With the government already having brought forward the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars to 2035, the pros and cons of electric cars are hot topics in the world of motoring. Infrastructure, in particular, is a key concern for many, but new data shows supermarkets are playing their part, having almost doubled the number of chargers in their car parks over just two years.

The figures, released by RAC and charging point platform Zap-Map, show 542 electric vehicle (EV) charging points were installed by supermarkets between the end of October 2017 and the end of 2019. That brought the total number of chargers to 1,115 nationwide — an increase of 95 percent.

According to the RAC, that means 6.5 percent of all UK charging points are located in supermarket car parks, and the growth in numbers is in line with growth nationwide. At the same time, the motoring organisation says the number of stores offering charging facilities for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles has doubled to 608 sites, or five percent of all supermarkets. That’s 313 more than in 2017.

Melanie Shufflebotham, co-founder of charging point platform Zap-Map, said the increased infrastructure in supermarkets was important for drivers using EVs on longer trips.

“It is very encouraging to see supermarkets increasingly embracing electric vehicle charging at their stores with a dramatic shift in the number of chargers being installed over the course of the last two years,” she said. “Our research shows that while the majority of charging is done at home, most EV drivers use the public network more than once a month. While a robust rapid infrastructure across the country is essential for longer journeys, having charge points in supermarkets provides EV drivers an excellent way to ‘graze‘ energy while doing an everyday task.

“With 89 percent of EV drivers taking the availability of charge points into account when selecting their parking, providing charging can be a real differentiator locally in the competitive supermarket sector. This seems to be recognised by some supermarkets, notably Tesco and Sainsbury’s, providing EV charging for free.”

Tesco store in Droylsden Manchester UK

Meanwhile RAC spokesman Simon Williams said the news was positive, but said the emphasis would soon shift from having charging facilities to offering rapid charging capability.

“It is extremely positive to see the supermarkets making it easy for drivers to go electric,” he said. “Having more chargers that are readily available will help to speed up the transition from petrol and diesel cars to electric ones.

Electric vehicle charging station

“We have always said that it makes sense for people to be able to charge at supermarkets because anyone doing a full shop will inevitably spend 45 minutes in store. The UK’s big four supermarkets currently dominate fuel retailing so it will be very interesting to see if a similar battle will develop in EV charging.

“At the moment the emphasis seems to be very much on installing any form of charge point. It is our belief that as the EV market matures there will be less need for slower chargers and a greater need for higher-power ones. The introduction of more rapid chargers at supermarkets may even stimulate take-up now as it would make EVs viable for those who cannot charge at home because of where they live. Currently, it seems that rapids are very much in their infancy at supermarkets, but hopefully this is all about to change.”