Researchers are warning that a “postcode lottery” in car charge points could hamper the Government’s levelling up agenda, as regional infrastructure shortages slow down SMEs’ ability to switch to electric fleets.
Some 720,000 electric vehicles (EVs) are now on UK roads, around 60% of which are company registered. However, analysis by insurer Zurich UK warns that a wide geographical disparity in publicly available chargers could prevent SMEs from making the switch, potentially missing out on significant savings.
Zurich mapped the number of publicly available EV charge points across the UK against the small business population and found, on average, there is just one public charge point available for every 56 small businesses.
Small businesses in Greater Manchester have access to the fewest electric vehicle chargepoints, with 237 firms competing for every publicly available socket. This is followed by Essex (203 firms per charger) and Surrey (169 per charger).
The analysis also suggests regional disparities, with 111 SMEs in Northern Ireland vying for each public chargepoint available. The North West averages 70 SMEs per charger, while the East of England averages 67 firms per charger.
Researchers say firms in these regions may be less able to enjoy the significantly reduced tax liabilities, as well savings on fuel, that come with switching to electric.
Small businesses in Greater London have the lowest number of businesses per charge point at 23, followed by Scotland (32) and the North East (35).
Zurich is calling on the Government to address the disparities as part of its levelling up agenda and to ensure a level playing field for organisations wanting to go electric.
Will Edwards, Zurich’s Head of SME, said: “SMEs have a huge and vital role to play in helping the UK reach the Government’s net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. With lower running costs and exemption from many charges that apply to combustion-engine vehicles, switching to an electric fleet should be an easy decision for SMEs. However, the shortage of chargepoints in many UK regions and counties could prevent SMEs from making the leap. Furthermore, regional disparities in access to charging infrastructure may hinder the ability of small firms to do business, or their desire to invest, in some parts of the UK.
“We need to see a levelling up of public charging infrastructure, so all businesses, irrespective of where they are located, can benefit from the EV revolution and also meet sustainability targets.”
The Zurich researchers say that, positively, some progress is being made and the number of public charging points grew 31% in the year to July 2022. The number of sockets installed in UK workplaces via the Government’s Workplace Charging Scheme also saw a 60% jump during the last financial year (April 21-Mar 22), with over 10,000 new sockets installed in workplaces across the UK. However, some regions are stalling, and workplaces in the North East, Wales and Northern Ireland completed the least number of sockets installations through the grant – 1,198, 976 and 536 respectively.
Zurich is advising businesses and local authorities to investigate their eligibility for grants through current government schemes which aim to boost charging infrastructure across the UK. This includes the Workplace Charging Scheme which provides businesses, charities and public sector organisations with support towards the upfront costs of the purchase and installation of EV charge points. Local Authorities are also able to apply for grants through the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme to install residential charge points.
There are more electric vehicles on UK roads than ever before, with an estimated 720,053 cars that can be plugged in. Around 59% of these are company registered.
Will Edwards continues: “We are committed to supporting SMEs as they respond to the electric vehicle revolution and make their day-to-day operations more sustainable. This includes enhancing our SME motor policy to future proof cover for customers and meet the evolving needs of modern fleets.”
(Picture – Highways News)