With almost the entire UK recently feeling the arctic effects of the ’Beast from the East’ mingling with Storm Emma, my thoughts turned to all those drivers stuck for hours in their vehicles. Then my thoughts turned to Electric Vehicles (EVs), and I wondered just how long their batteries would last with the engine on, heaters at maximum, radio keeping the news updated. And, when they ran out of juice, how could they be quickly re-charged?

Then I wondered about EVs and the government’s stated aim of developing a strategic network of charging points across the UK. As a result, PRA conducted a survey with a cross-section of members to better understand how they were responding to this challenge. Firstly though, the latest charging industry data was obtained from Zap-Map which showed the following for the UK: total connectors 15,273; total devices 8,934; and total locations 5,338. Devices are defined as the charging post and each can have up to three rapid connectors but only 477 devices are located on service stations with 405 being MSAs. Thus the number on traditional forecourts is a meagre 72 or less than 1% of the total.

It was very clear from the PRA survey that the current EV business model for dealers is unattractive for many reasons. Current demand is extremely low. Physical space is constrained. The National Grid supply capacity is very variable. There are parking limitations/conflicts with shoppers. Plus emerging safety issues of electric and petrol being in close proximity. Then there’s the length of lease required by installers plus meagre annual fees. There’s the unknown of electricity usage, payment and pricing regimes. And there’s no government investment grants available.

The holy grail for motorists and forecourts is 500 miles battery range with maximum five minutes forecourt-friendly charging, but how soon will we even get close to such a demanding technological target? However, some forecourt retailers are taking a positive decision now to install EV charging points, which will have more to do with projecting the right image than with immediate bottom line benefits. Do what you feel is right for you.