Paul Routledge, Regional Director UK & Ireland at EV charging solutions provider Charge Amps, discusses the Rapid Charging Fund, which still hasn’t opened for applications three years after its creation.
In 2020, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his ambitious 10-point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’. Central to this plan is the allocation of £950 million to bolster the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in a fund known as the Rapid Charging Fund (RCF). This substantial investment marked a critical step towards realising the United Kingdom’s ambitious target of banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 – which has already been pushed back five years.
Three years after the fund’s creation, it remains unopened for applications.
Before delving deeper into the necessity of expanding EV charging infrastructure, it is important to understand the current state of electric vehicles in the UK. The UK has made consistent strides in fostering the adoption of EVs, buoyed by incentives including ownership grants and tax benefits that have enticed individuals to consider electric alternatives to combustion engines. However, an enduring challenge prevents many of those contemplating purchasing an EV from doing so: the availability of charging infrastructure.
While EVs have made significant technological advancements, now offering impressive ranges with many models capable of covering over 200 miles on a single charge, there remains a notable gap in charging infrastructure accessibility across the country. This is a particularly concerning issue for those who often need to embark on longer journeys, especially on motorways and major A roads where the prospect of finding a charging station at a critical moment raises significant anxiety (so-called ‘range anxiety’). For many, the lack of convenient charging options outside of urban areas makes the purchase of an EV entirely impractical.
For the UK to successfully prepare for vehicular electrification, bolstering charging infrastructure across the entire nation is a crucial first step. Those who routinely undertake long journeys beyond the typical single-charge range of an EV must have the confidence that they can recharge their vehicles conveniently and efficiently at locations they may stop at – including hotels, petrol stations, golf courses, and B&Bs. Without this assurance, the UK’s 2035 goals are untenable.
The reason why charging infrastructure is not presently being rolled out evenly across the UK is a sort of “chicken and egg” dilemma. The paradox is rooted in the fact that local councils and private businesses are hesitant to invest in charging points if there is insufficient demand from EV owners. Simultaneously, non-electric car owners will be unlikely to make the switch until they feel confident in the charging infrastructure local to them or on their travel routes. This Catch-22 situation hampers the expansion of any wide-ranging charging network.
Government intervention, such as the RCF, will play a crucial part in breaking this cycle. The fund would target areas where charge points are not yet commercially viable, and so private investment is unlikely to occur without government support. By strategically deploying charging points in these locations, the government can stimulate demand for electric vehicles and, in turn, encourage local councils and private enterprises to invest in charging infrastructure.
Three years after the RCF was announced, it is high time we put the money to use. The government’s commitment to funding initiatives like the RCF is a step in the right direction – however, this is only true if the fund is actually opened and the capital promised materialises. As citizens and policymakers alike, we must rally together to support these efforts and advocate for the rapid development of EV charging infrastructure. The time to act is now, and by doing so we can drive positive change for our environment and future generations.