Steering the Future of E-Mobility: Proposals for Policy, Infrastructure, and Investment in Response to EV Driver Perspectives

By Ella Feist – Green Mobility Magazine

Given the EU’s and UK’s shared commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, a pressing issue emerges: how can we effectively encourage the adoption of sustainable practices among the general public? Within the transport industry, the use of electric vehicles (EVs) is on the rise. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that Europe has become the second largest EV market, with electric car sales increasing by over 15% in 2022. The IEA expects global EV sales to increase by 35% by the end of 2023, aided by policies and incentives

Due to the unsustainability of petroleum fuels, many consumers may be considering turning to EVs. With this in mind, decisions on policy, infrastructure, and investment may be the key to encouraging and incentivising the use of EVs to the public, and thereby contributing to net-zero targets. Several surveys have been conducted in recent years to record the attitudes of current EV drivers within Europe. By comparing and analysing the survey results, several for governments and policymakers can be drawn. 

The 2023 ‘Shell Recharge EV Driver Survey’ is the largest European survey of EV drivers, recording findings from almost 25,000 people. Shell’s principal finding is that the range anxiety of respondents has reduced since 2022, suggesting that drivers are becoming more confident with longer journeys and charging frequency. However, they noted an issue with charging accessibility, with only 56% of respondents having private charge points, and 7% being unable to charge at home at all. Only 16% of drivers said they used public charge points. The other issue highlighted by the survey was the inconvenience of charge cards and apps. 23% of drivers were found to have more than four apps for their EV, and 47% claimed that they would be willing to pay slightly more per charge if it meant they could use a single method for all public charge points. 

In 2022 the European Commission conducted a survey for both EV and non-EV drivers in ten EU countries, receiving over 16,000 responses. Overall, 54% of respondents had a positive attitude towards EVs, stating their cost-effective and climate-friendly attributes as the most important advantages. On the other hand, the respondents considered price, insufficient range, and limited charging options as disadvantages. As the Shell survey claims that range anxiety has since improved, it may be that non-EV owners estimate an EV’s range to be lower than the reality. As for EV drivers, the European Commission found that drivers faced several issues with public charge points, mainly an insufficient choice of providers, unclear signposting of points in their area, and long wait times. A shocking 37% of people said that they would leave without recharging their vehicle if the charge point was occupied. Compared to the Shell survey, these findings suggest that public charge points are simply too inconvenient for EV drivers to use. 

Focussing on the UK, a 2022 government survey from the Department of Transport collected responses from 848 EV drivers. The results were quite positive in contrast to the EU surveys, finding that charge points were highly available for EV drivers. 93% of respondents had access to home charging, and 88% had used public charging locations at least once. Like Shell’s findings, the UK government found that range anxiety is not an issue for most, even though 56% of drivers made long journeys (over 130 miles / 209 km in one day) at least once a month. One of the most prominent issues encountered with EVs was not the availability of charge points, as found in the EU data, but their conditions and location. Whilst two-thirds of respondents rated the safety of charge points as high, women were significantly less likely to rate them as safe.  They proposed concerns such as limited charging availability in isolated areas, a lack of suitable lighting at night, and concerns over theft and cable exposure. It appears that the social angle of sustainability has not been thoroughly considered during the construction of public charge points. Further research on this relationship could benefit those who face barriers towards making climate-friendly choices.

Looking at Northern Ireland specifically, the issue with public charge points remains clear. In 2021, the Northern Ireland Assembly conducted a survey of 742 drivers. Whilst 89% of EV drivers had access to a charger at home, they were incredibly dissatisfied with the public charge points. The largest disadvantages of public charge points recorded were poor maintenance (77%), the lack of availability (68%), and inadequate locations (46%). As for non-EV owners, the Assembly discovered that a third of Northern Ireland’s housing is terraced houses and flats, and therefore, most respondents would not be able to install an EV charger. For non-EV owners, the poor state of public charging options could be a huge deterrent from switching to EVs if they have no private charging capacity. 

By combining the conclusions from these four surveys, numerous suggestions can be made for future decisions to incentivise the public use of EVs and improve the current issues EV drivers face.

These include:

  • Installing a higher number of charging points in public spaces
  • Increasing the frequency of rapid chargers to improve wait times
  • Giving drivers more information on the availability of charging points in their area and the options of operators and providers
  • Improving and investing in charging infrastructure so that public charge points are in central, well-lit areas that are accessible to disabled drivers
  • Making payment options such as charge cards and apps more convenient for users
  • Ensuring that public charge points are well maintained, as well as making it easier to report faults

The ramp-up of the hydrogen market and its derivatives requires a sufficient planning horizon to give operators the necessary investment security. This is complicated by the fact that legislation such as the RED or FuelEU Maritime does not include longer-term targets for RFNBOs. For the RED, the targets end in 2030, and for FuelEU Maritime, they end in 2034. Future legislation needs to be more ambitious and reach further into the future. The ReFuelEU Aviation exemplifies that the path to 2050 can be paved – even if the share of climate-friendly aviation fuels (SAF) and RFNBOs at 70% (with 35% RFNBO) is not yet in line with the climate neutrality target.

It is vital that these proposals are considered for future policy, infrastructure, and investment decisions in the EU, UK and elsewhere to improve the overall experience of using EVs, particularly in public areas. Doing so will, in turn, make it more likely that more consumers will switch to using EVs. 

References:

IEA, “Global EV Outlook 2023,” 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.iea.org/reports/global-ev-outlook-2023 

Shell Recharge, “EV Driver Survey Report,” 2023. [Online]. Available: https://a.storyblok.com/f/85281/x/f117d74319/sr_ev_driver_survey_2023_uk_final_version.pdf 

Department for Transport, “Electric Vehicle Charging Research: Survey with electric vehicle drivers,” 2022. [Online]. Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1078871/dft-ev-driver-survey-summary-report.pdf 

Northern Ireland Assembly, “Electric and Ultra-low emission vehicles: Public survey results,” 2021. [Online]. Available: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/raise/publications/2017-2022/2021/infrastructure/4621.pdf 

European Commission, “Consumer Monitor 2022,” 2022. [Online]. Available: https://alternative-fuels-observatory.ec.europa.eu/system/files/documents/2023-06/2022%20EAFO_CountryReport_EU.pdf 

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