Richard Jones, managing director of Lex Autolease and Black Horse, has stated that Britain’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure “not fit-for-purpose”, as parts of the country are poorly served.

He explained: “I have people in my business that work all over the UK and we’ve had some real horror stories about charging availability.

“The infrastructure is just not there, particularly once you get outside major urban environments.”

Jones noted that charging infrastructure lacks “consistency” and the further north you go, unless you are in a city, the “worse it gets”. Jones speaks from personal experience as he drives an electric vehicle himself.

Lex Autolease, Britain’s largest vehicle leasing company, pledged to achieve net zero emissions across its customer fleet by 2030 and switch the entire Lloyds Banking Group fleet to EVs by the same date at the beginning of this year (2020).

The leasing company has a risk fleet of more than 350,000 vehicles and, when it made the pledge, it funded some 28,000 ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

Khaled Shahbo, managing director for Enterprise Rent-a-Car UK and Ireland, has also voiced criticism of EV infrastructure. He joined Jones in a panel debate at the ‘Fleets in Charge’ virtual conference organised by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), stating:

“We’re still seeing confidence issues, range anxiety issues, and, quite frankly, practical and pragmatic logistical issues. We’ve recently moved our entire company car fleet to either electric or plug-in hybrid options and even with dozens and dozens of charge points (at our offices) we can’t keep up with the hundreds of vehicles we need to charge on a daily basis; we’re simply a microcosm of corporate Britain and any residential community. That concern over range anxiety hasn’t gone away.”

Results from a recent Department for Transport (DfT) survey showed that concerns around charging infrastructure were the largest perceived disadvantage to EVs.

The results from the Transport and Technology Public Attitudes Tracker report showed that more education around charging is needed, specifically how often to charge vehicles compared with daily mileage.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps responded to concerns at the Fleets in Charge event, explaining that the Government had published an “ambitious vision” for rapid charging infrastructure along the strategic road network in England over the next decade:

“As an EV driver myself, I know that it’s vital that EV drivers have confidence in the public charging network. That’s why we’re going to consult on regulating to improve the driver experience of electric vehicle charge points; to make it as easy and as hassle-free as possible.”

Jones welcomed this, but said: “We have to get the charging infrastructure into a much stronger position across the UK if we’re going to continue to see the step changes we’re starting to experience.”

Tom Callow, head of external affairs at BP Chargemaster was also present at the event and explained that the current infrastructure is placed where demand for charging is greatest, but he recognises the need for greater “geographical balance” for charge points.

Despite this, he insisted there are “enough (charge points) nationally”, because 25% of the nationwide charging infrastructure was only being utilised at any one time.

“I think a lot of perceptions of public charging are about three years’ out of date,” he said.

Shahbo responded: “The fact that 75% (of the charging network) is unused at any one moment doesn’t relate to the accessibility and availability of the network.”

Jones concluded: “The charging infrastructure is not fit-for-purpose today and it has to get much better. We have to overplay the charging infrastructure, even if the utilisation stays low.”