A new government report has criticised the ‘postcode lottery’ of electric vehicle charging, as well as recommending new measures to improve infrastructure in the UK. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report says “further action” is needed to ensure the charging network is fit for purpose.

While the CMA admits some aspects of the charging sector “are developing relatively well”, including charging at shopping centres and workplaces, the CMA says other parts are “facing problems”. The authority says it’s these issues that could “impact” the government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

Chief among the CMA’s criticisms of the network is the patchy coverage, which means Yorkshire and the Humber has a quarter as many public charge points per head as London. The CMA also said it was “concerned” that the choice and availability of charge points at motorway services would also limit the desirability of electric cars.

Volkswagen Golf eHybrid charging

And the organisation also criticised the charging experience, claiming research found charging could be “difficult and frustrating” for drivers. Concerns about the reliability of charge points risk reducing people’s confidence and trust in electric vehicles, the CMA said.

As a result the authority has set out four key principles, which it says would make electric car charging “as simple as filling up with petrol and diesel”. These include making charge points easier to find, simplifying payments and making charging costs clearer, as well as making it easier for any type of electric vehicle (EV) to use a given charger.

Volkswagen ID.3 and e-Golf at Tesco charging station

“Electric vehicles play a critical role in meeting net zero [emissions], but the challenges with creating an entirely new charging network should not be underestimated,” said Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the CMA. “Some areas of the roll-out are going well and the UK’s network is growing – but it’s clear that other parts, like charging at motorway service stations and on-street, have much bigger hurdles to overcome.

“There needs to be action now to address the postcode lottery in electric vehicle charging as we approach the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Our recommendations will promote strong competition, encourage more investment, and build people’s trust, both now and in the future. The CMA has also opened a competition law investigation into EV charging along motorways and will continue to work with the government and the industry to help ensure electric vehicle charging is a success.”

Woman at the charging station plugging in electric car

The RAC’s director of electric vehicles, Sarah Winward-Kotecha, said the organisation welcomed the findings, and hoped the implementation of the CMA’s recommendations would help drivers switch to electric cars.

“We welcome these findings as drivers need complete confidence that they will always be able to charge up quickly and easily when they’re making longer journeys,” she said. “When more rapid public charge points are added in the locations where they are needed the most, then the term ‘range anxiety’ will become a thing of the past and in turn the switch to electric driving will accelerate at pace.

“While there is still some way to go before rapid charge points are as commonplace as fuel pumps, things are changing fast. There is a huge amount of investment taking place, particularly at motorways where older chargers are now being replaced with the latest technology which offers much faster charging. We’d also like to see motorway provision supplemented by many more ‘regional hubs’ that give those in towns and cities, especially those for whom charging at home isn’t an option, easy access to rapid charging.”