The Government has published its latest update on the growth in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, confirming the UK has passed 20,000 publicly-accessible devices.
A total of 4,270 new charge points were added to the network in 2020, an increase of 26 per cent. And of the 20,775 plug-in points now available, 3,880 are judged to be 'rapid' devices, with a 37 per cent increase in installations in the last 12 months.
The Department for Transport also revealed this week that Scotland is ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of availability of public devices, though highlighted uneven distribution of them across the country.
But experts responded to the latest data to say infrastructure is not growing fast enough to cope with the surge in demand for new electric models - and those already driving plug-in cars have voiced their opinions to rate the best and worst providers of public devices.
Infrastructure 'falling behind': Experts have commented on the latest data on new public electric car charger installations in the UK in 2020, saying the network isn't growing at the same rate as surging plug-in vehicle sales
The DfT's new figures - which are powered by Zap-Map, show that in the final three months of 2020 alone, 1,288 chargers were installed, including 350 rapid devices.
However, the stats show there's an 'uneven geographical distribution' of public EV chargers in the UK.
On average, there are 31 public chargers per 100,000 people in the UK.
But when you break down the figures by nation, Scotland is miles ahead of the rest.
The darker blue parts of the map show the highest availability of EV chargers (left) and rapid EV chargers (right). Scotland is miles ahead of other UK nations
The DfT maps show the huge rise in EV charger installations across the UK since 2015, though experts warn it needs to accelerate much faster
These tables show the huge disparity in public charger availability per population across the UK. Left: London has the most chargers in total. Right: Scotland is steaks ahead for rapid device
North of the border, there are 40 devices per 100,000 living there. That compares to 31 devices per 100,000 in England, 26 in Wales and just 17 in Northern Ireland.
The gap is more significant when you look at the data for rapid chargers only.
There are 5.8 of these devices chargers per 100,000 people in the entire UK, though Scotland has the most with 10 per 100,000 people while Northern Ireland has a mere 1.1.
On average, there are 31 public chargers per 100,000 people in the UK, the DfT stats up to January 2021 show
And it's not a national issue; there's also evidence of clear disparity between different regions in England.
London, for instance, has 69 public chargers per 100,000 people - more than anywhere else in the UK - while the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber have only 19 chargers per 100,000 people.
Lidls now have 100 rapid chargers
Supermarket Lidl now has 100 rapid EV chargers at stores across the UK, it has been confirmed this week.
And a tie-up with provider Pod Point should see 350 rapid chargers installed at Lidl shops by 2022.
The 100th addition was a 50kW charger at the Hayes Uxbridge Road store in Hillingdon, West London, this week.
Alan Barry, chief development officer for Lidl GB said: 'We are committed to empowering our customers to make the right decisions for their lifestyle and are delighted to have reached this important milestone of bringing rapid charging for Electric Vehicles to 100 of our stores.
'We look forward to delivering this service to even more local areas in the near future as we continue with our investment.'
Commenting on the latest figures, provider EO Charging - which provides devices for the likes of Sainsbury's, Ocado and DHL - said the data shows that the electric vehicle public charging network isn't expanding fast enough to meet growing demand for EVs.
It said the 26 per cent increase in public charger installations in 2020 is no match for the 186 per cent rise in electric vehicle sales recorded in the same year, with battery electric cars now making up 6.6 per cent of all new models bought (rising from 1.6 per cent in 2019).
EO says public charging infrastructure 'isn't being put in place fast enough to cope with this surging demand'.
Charlie Jardine, boss and founder at EO, said: 'While the best scenario for EV drivers is to be able to charge at home or at work, this is not always possible.
'It's vital that we develop an extensive and reliable public charging network both for private and business road users. Without it, we risk putting people off EVs when the ball is just starting to roll.'
Nicholas Lyes, spokesman at the RAC motoring organisation, added: 'While many EV drivers will be able to start the day on a full charge, they will come to depend on the network for longer journeys especially – and for anyone without access to their own private charge point, a publicly available network will be essential.
'It's important that public charging infrastructure mirrors the growth in EV take-up, so drivers always have access to the type of charging they require.'
Best and worst public charging networks ranked
Zap-Map, the UK's leading electric vehicle mapping service, has revealed the results of its annual network satisfaction study, surveying 1,500 plug-in car owners about their experience using 16 different suppliers.
The research found that Tesla had retained its top spot as the country's most appreciated EV charging provider, described by one driver as 'the standard all networks should aspire to'.
In second place overall, and the top place for multi-brand networks, is InstaVolt, which retains its second spot for the third year running while Osprey (formerly Engenie) posted the best improvement in performance since the 2019 results to be ranked third overall, scoring highly for reliability and ease of use.
At the opposite end of the scale, Ecotricity was again the worst rated.
Left: Tesla's Supercharger network leads the way in the driver survey. Right: Ecotricity chargers, which are located across the UK's motorway network, were ranked the worst
This is not only disappointing but a serious concern for EV drivers, given that Ecotricity has monopolised the motorway services network but is proving unreliable.
Dr Ben Lane, co-founder and chief technical officer at Zap-Map, said: 'This year's network rankings should focus the minds of all EV charging providers.
'As the survey demonstrates, EV drivers are very clear about the factors that make for a good charging experience, with reliability and ease of use being key priorities.
'A new generation of drivers want to arrive at a charge point and be confident that it will be simple to use and a trouble-free experience.
'They are quick to pick up that different networks offer varying levels of service, and will actively visit networks that provide a reliable and easy-to-use experience.'
He adds: 'The Zap-Map user rankings also highlight which networks urgently need to improve their charging services.
'As the EV market moves from early adopters to the mass market, EV drivers just want to be able to charge without any fuss.
'Poor-performing networks will need to take a long, hard look at the quality of the services they offer if they want to retain their customers as the EV market grows apace.'
Grants of £350 for installations of devices at homes extended
The Government has today announced (Saturday) a £50million boost for the installation of electric vehicle chargepoints at homes and businesses.
The DfT rubber-stamped the extension of the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), which provides up to £350 towards a chargepoint, for another 12 months and has also expanded the grant to target people in rented and leasehold accommodation.
At the same time, the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) will be opened up to SMEs and the charity sector, providing a boost as staff return to work.
The changes will also mean that small accommodation businesses, such as B&Bs, can apply for funding to install devices at their locations.
The decision to extend the grants comes as a result of a consultation on improving the charging experience for EV owners.
This includes simplifying payments and increasing reliability, which ministers say will 'take us a step closer to delivering on the commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030'.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said the nation 'urgently needs more charging points to accelerate the transition to electric motoring'.
'An electric vehicle revolution will need the home and workplace installations this announcement will encourage, but also a massive increase in on-street public charging and rapid charge points on our strategic road network', he said.
'This will give drivers the confidence that recharging will become as easy as refuelling.'
RAC's EV spokesman Simon Williams commented: 'More money to improve the UK's growing charging network is very welcome.
'The top priority for the Government should be making it as cheap and easy for as many people as possible to be able to charge an EV where they live so they can always start out with a full charge.'
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, added: 'We will also need a mixture of locations to come forward. As well as charging at work and home, more destination charging will be needed such as; supermarkets, leisure centres, shopping centres and sports grounds.
'It would also be an opportune moment to consider the experience for disabled drivers and those with physical limitations. Chargepoints can be difficult to use with some existing spaces too small for wheelchair users, heavy cables and connectors as well as payment systems set at heights mainly focused on able bodied drivers.
'To truly level up, we need to think of everyone who will use the network and ensure they can keep moving.'