Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) in UK facing significant challenges due to limited mobile phone connectivity

A recent report suggests that the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK is facing significant challenges due to limited mobile phone connectivity.

According to the RAC Foundation, two-thirds of Type-2 public chargers lack adequate signal coverage from major network providers, making it difficult to guarantee activation of these chargers at all times.

This patchy phone signal poses potential problems for drivers needing to charge their EVs, as it could hinder their ability to top up their car batteries at thousands of locations across the country.

Extent of the Issue

As of the beginning of 2024, there are over 53,000 public chargers available for EV owners in the UK, with the majority being Type-2 chargers capable of slow charging up to 8kW.

These chargers typically rely on mobile apps for access and are dependent on the mobile phone network to ensure adequate signal for activation.

With four major mobile network providers in the UK, including EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone, drivers may encounter connectivity issues if all four networks do not offer sufficient signal coverage.

Regional Disparities

The RAC Foundation’s findings reveal that outside of London, only a third of Type-2 chargers are located in areas with acceptable 4G coverage across all networks.

Even in London, where signal quality is presumed to be high, less than 40% of slow public chargers have adequate signal. This disparity highlights the need for improved infrastructure integration to address connectivity issues effectively.

Call for Better Integration

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, emphasizes the importance of designing infrastructure systems with a focus on real-world network coverage.

He suggests that inadequate connectivity at charge points may lead drivers to perceive faults with the chargers, undermining confidence in the reliability of public charging options for EVs.

Gooding calls for better assessment and reporting of connectivity adequacy to inform the design of reliable connected services for motorists.

Industry Response and Recommendations

The study coincides with reports from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) indicating a decline in the market share of new pure battery electric cars.

Industry leaders have criticized the government’s lack of incentives for EV adoption, particularly in the absence of measures like reducing VAT on public charging to make it more affordable for EV owners.

The RAC Foundation proposes potential solutions such as using roaming SIM cards that connect to the most robust mobile network at charging sites, implementing external antennae for data, and exploring mast sharing between network operators.

Gooding stresses the need for a comprehensive approach to assessing and addressing connectivity issues to ensure the reliability of EV charging infrastructure.

Conclusion

As the adoption of electric vehicles continues to grow, addressing connectivity challenges in charging infrastructure is crucial for facilitating widespread EV usage.

By improving integration, reporting, and implementing innovative solutions, stakeholders can enhance the reliability and accessibility of public charging options, contributing to the transition to sustainable transportation.

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