Huge rise in electric car ownership in Sussex but charging point infrastructure still ‘patchy’, investigation reveals

Electric vehicles are rising in popularity
Electric vehicles are rising in popularity

A huge rise in electric car ownership in Sussex has failed to spark a widespread network of charging points across the county, an investigation has revealed.

More than 3,000 electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles were registered in Sussex by the third quarter of last year – up 3,945 per cent since the end of 2011.

But according to BBC Local News Partnerships research, all but two of the county’s local authorities rank below average when it comes to the ratio of charging points to electric vehicles.

Here we look at how many charging points exist in each area

The ‘patchy’ availability of charging points is replicated nationwide, according to RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes.

He said: “These findings show that despite the Government’s ambitions to accelerate the take-up of cleaner vehicles, charging infrastructure is presently something of a postcode lottery, and patchy at best in some parts of the country.”

“RAC research has found the lack of charging infrastructure is one of the three main barriers for electric vehicle take-up, along with range anxiety and high upfront vehicle costs.”

At the end of 2011, there were just 80 registered electric vehicles in Sussex – and Adur had none, according to the BBC.

By the third quarter of 2018, 3,236 vehicles were registered, with Adur still having the fewest at 87 and the most being in Wealden, which had 447.

The biggest percentage increase came in the Arun district, where registrations rose by 11,200 per cent from two to 226.

Despite Arun’s increase, according to the BBC it ranked in the bottom 20 per cent of locations for its rate of charging locations per 1,000 registrations.

Likewise Wealden was also in the bottom fifth.

At the other end of the scale, Eastbourne and Crawley were ranked by the BBC in the top 20 percent.

But the rest of Sussex’s local authority areas were rated as below average.

Bridget Fox, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We need a nationwide fast charging network on motorways and A roads managed by Highways England and in rural areas Government support should help to provide a charging point for every community.

“There is more being done in towns and cities, but there are practical challenges in providing a public charging network without encroaching on pavements or competing for kerb space with bikes and buses.

The BBC also calculated the mean average distances to a charging point, conducting 49 million calculations to build up a nationwide picture.

Crawley and Eastbourne again ranked among the best in the county, joining Worthing and Brighton and Hove with an average distance of less than one kilometre.

Brighton and Hove was one of just 28 authorities across the country to have taken advantage of the Government’s £2.5million On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme, which aimed to help drivers to charge their vehicle.

Rother and Arun scored lowest in the BBC’s distance tables, with mean average drives of 4.5 and 4.05-kilometre journeys respectively.

Wealden was third-bottom in Sussex at 3.98 kilometres.

Ms Fox said councils could help by requiring off-street charging points as part of planning applications and by prioritising electric vehicles in car parks.

Arun District Council officers produced a study alongside its new local plan, setting out guidelines for new developments.

In January, 2018, Arun adopted its Vehicle Infrastructure Study. Minutes from full council read: “It was felt to be vital for the council to be ready to deal with the need to be able to accommodate the future expansion of electric vehicles and the need to provide adequate charging points throughout the district.

“It was hoped that the council could address, at a future council meeting, consideration to enhancing the number of rapid charges points on its own land.”

The availability of charging points in Wealden was raised with the district council in an FOI as early as two years ago, the response to which was posted on its website.

The council said: “WDC actively encourages the take up of electric vehicles and has previously been successful in bidding for funds for the installation of rapid chargers and a standard charger in the district.

“The council regularly reviews central government initiatives to improve EV (electric vehicle) infrastructure and where appropriate will consider further projects.”

Data on charging points used to compile the results of the BBC’s investigation came from Open Charge Map. There is currently no definitive government resource mapping out charging locations.

The Government has stated 80 per cent of charging takes place at home.