The UK is set to ban the sale and use of petrol and diesel cars within the next two decades, but the transition to electric vehicles has been held up by some drivers fearing a lack of charging infrastructure might leave them stranded on long journeys.
Such fears particularly apply to those making journeys through rural areas and the BBC has carried out an experiment to highlight the extent of the challenge in Wales.
Wales correspondent Tomos Morgan set out to drive 175 miles from Cardiff to Nefyn on the Lleyn Peninsula, using an electric BBC pool car. The vehicle had a longer range than this, although the figure was about “standard” for a second hand electric car and well within the range of the latest models, he noted.
Mr Morgan tested the journey by undertaking it in both directions, one of which used rural roads and the other took main roads including the M4 motorway.
What he found was highly informative about the situation in Wales and certain other regions; that journeys like this can be made, but it requires careful planning to take routes with EV charging points, preferably those that can charge a car swiftly.
Explaining how this had forced him to avoid the AA recommended route northwards along the A470, as there were only four rapid chargers between Cardiff and Nefyn, he said: “I had to change my journey in order to avoid stopping for a much longer period, and to avoid being stranded in rural mid Wales.”
Even then, having switched to a route via Llanymyddfri and Aberystwyth, he had to switch off the Satnav, air conditioning and radio to avoid running out of energy before getting to the latter town.
The situation highlights how more people taking electrician courses in the UK could help provide the workforce to install and maintain more EV charging points, especially in regions where the current provision is low.
As Mr Morgan noted, Wales is not alone in having a low number of EV chargers, with huge variations between regions. London has almost 10,000 chargers and is way ahead of the rest, not surprisingly for a region comprised of one densely-populated city. The south-east is second and Scotland third. By contrast, only Northern Ireland and the north east have fewer charging points than Wales.
This suggests there may be a particular need to add more charging points in some regions than others. For example, in the north east the geograhy is not dissimilar to Wales, with most of the population living in medium-sized cities and industrial towns near former mining areas, outside of which lie very rural and sparsely-populated expanses such as most of Northumberland.
However, it is not just rural areas where there will be challenges. A report by This is Money has suggested the West Midlands will have a particular challenge, not because of its history as a car manufacturing region but because the built environment has the lowest number of off-road parking spaces for electric cars, which could hamper home charging.
There won’t be so many problems for visitors to the NEC on the edge of Birmingham, however; planning permission has just been granted to establish an EV hub with 182 charging points there, one of the largest in Europe.