How close are we to a tipping point for large-scale electric vehicle adoption? Gregory Allouis, Strategic Solutions Director at SPIE UK investigates.


A recent freedom of information request found that the expansion of the UK’s electric fleet has stalled as local authorities across the country have halted plans to increase the number of existing charging points.

Road to Zero, the UK’s ambitious scheme to transition to zero emission road transport and reduce emissions from conventional vehicles, is a long-term objective that will make the UK a leader in the revolution to an electric and sustainable future. However, are we in danger of skidding off course? At this time the UK plan was to have 250,000 electric vehicles on the raid; currently there under 60,000.

“Fleet vehicles account for a sizable amount of the UK transport industry representing an estimated five

million vans and heavy vehicles on British roads.”

The adoption of electric vehicles (EV) is rising across the country as the sale of hybrid and EVs gathers critical mass – the UK ranks 10th in the world for the number of EVs per capita - but there’s some way to go to achieve the government’s zero emission aims by 2040. The government must do more to match the private sector’s commitment and investment in fundamental infrastructure. Furthermore, fleet managers require policy clarity to resolve many of the concerns the industry has.

There are three main factors limiting the mass adoption of electric fleet vehicles – these are range anxiety, charging infrastructure reliability, and cost of purchasing and maintaining the vehicles.

While government measures, such as the Plug-in Car Grant, have successfully kick-started the early market for electric vehicles, the fact is large swathes of the country remain unplugged from charging point networks.


This is problematic because the range of these vehicles remain limited by current battery technology giving fleet managers pause before committing to EVs long-term.

This matters. Fleet vehicles account for a sizable amount of the UK transport industry representing an estimated five million vans and heavy vehicles on British roads. So, although transitioning these vehicles to EVs is essential to lower carbon emissions, powering them could put extra pressure on the national and local electricity grid. It remains unclear if the nation has the right energy mix to cope with future energy demands.

Furthermore, according to an insight paper by Pixie Energy, the gap between the fleet and power sector prevents them from building up mutual aims and understanding. The UK government must do more to incentivise collaboration between the direct elements of the EV ecosystem and work to resolve the gap on energy policies.

Another consideration to take into account is the drivers of EVs. Although half of UK drivers hope to be eco-friendly, at the moment fleet drivers unduly carry the burden and cost of these vehicles. The fleet industry must work to clarify the tax policy and energy reimbursement schemes for charging these vehicles off-premises or at home. And, critically, the industry must communicate better not just the environmental benefits of switching to EVs but the financial gains in the long-term.

Despite these challenges, the EV sector is making significant progress. There are currently over 20,200 charging points in the UK with hundreds more earmarked in 2019 and the UK government is launching a £400m Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund this spring to pay for the next stage of infrastructure work.

Finally, by investing in infrastructure early on and introducing the right policies that continue to drive adoption, the UK has the potential to be a global leader in electric vehicles benefiting the economy and local communities.

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