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Government misses target for rapid chargers at motorway services

The government has not hit its target of having six or more rapid or ultra-rapid electric vehicle chargers at every motorway service area in England by the end of 2023.


Research conducted by the RAC found that 46 of 119 motorway services reviewed on Zapmap have the target number of chargers above 50kW to serve the UK’s growing fleet of battery-electric vehicles, which should have exceeded the one million milestone by the end of 2023. The number of rapid chargers has grown from 27 (23 per cent) at the end of April.

Since the end of spring a further 178 high-powered chargers have been installed at motorway services. Positively, there are now over 400 ultra-rapid chargers at services which means 55 per cent can offer some of the fastest possible charging speeds to drivers. 18 service areas have no rapid charging above 50kW, but four have no publicly accessible charging facilities whatsoever, namely Leicester Forest on both sides of the M1, Tebay South on the M6, and Barton Park on the A1(M).

There are now 693 Combined Charging System (CCS) connectors at the 101 services offering high-powered charging, which is an increase of 48 per cent. For the CHAdeMO connectors predominantly used by Nissan and Renault electrics cars, there are now 282, up 32 per cent compared to the end of April. Seventy per cent of all high-power motorway charging is now ultra-rapid, reducing the time drivers need to spend ‘filling up’. 

The RAC found also that there are now 14 services in England with over 12 such devices, up from six in the spring. The Moto-run services at Exeter on the M5 has the most high-powered chargers of all motorway services, with 24 devices. Looking at all high-powered motorway chargers collectively, there are currently an average of five devices at all 119 service areas in England, up from 3.4 at the end of April.

The government’s target of having at least six rapid chargers above 50kW by the end of 2023, with some having more than 12, is set out in its ‘Taking charge: the electric vehicle infrastructure strategy’ published on 25 March 2022. Its intention was to accelerate the roll-out of high-powered chargers on the strategic road network through the £950m Rapid Charging Fund to give EV drivers the confidence to undertake longer journeys. It wasn’t until early December 2023 that the government announced it would be providing £70m in grants for a pilot scheme involving upgrades at 10 motorway service stations.

As of November 2023, charging statistics from Zapmap show the UK has 53,029 charging devices, of which a fifth are rapid or ultra-rapid. Looking at this figure against the RAC’s research reveals that 581 of all these high-powered chargers are at motorways services.

The government said it expects there will be around 300,000 public chargers of all speeds as a minimum by 2030 and over 6,000 high-powered chargers along strategic roads by 2035. Forecasts in the Competition and Markets Authority’s ‘Building a comprehensive and competitive electric vehicle charging sector that works for all drivers’ suggest that at least 280,000-480,000 public charge points will be needed by 2030.

In a statement, RAC EV spokesperson Simon Williams said: “It’s clear from our research that the government has fallen well short of its target of having six high-powered chargers at every motorway service area in England. While that’s the case, some very good progress has been made since the end of April when we last carried out our survey, with four-in-10 services now having met or exceeded the target number of chargers, compared to just under a quarter [23 per cent] eight months ago.

“There is undoubtedly an eagerness among charge point companies and motorway service operators to install these types of units but unfortunately, it’s often the high-power cabling to the grid that’s the major barrier which is out of their hands. More clearly needs to be done to make this process simpler than it is currently.”