How is Cambridgeshire Fens tackling electric vehicle charger shortage?

Electric vehicle chargers in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire

Both Fenland and East Cambridgeshire boast just 13 public EV charging points, according to EV research database Zap-Map, two more than in 2019. - Credit: CAPCA/JS Holmes

If Fenland and East Cambridgeshire want to achieve net zero carbon emissions, more electric vehicle (EV) charging points could be necessary. 

Both districts boast just 13 public EV charging points, according to EV research database Zap-Map, two more than in 2019. 

However, figures from Zap-Map show the number of available charging devices rose by seven per cent as of April 2022 compared to January, with an increase in devices across all UK regions. 

But as EV points remain low in some of Cambridgeshire’s rural areas, we have looked into why there is a shortage and what is being done to tackle this. 

Why is there a low number of EV charging points in Fenland and East Cambs? 

From three years ago, there seems to be minimal progress made in the number of public charging points available to motorists in these districts. 

One of the key reasons is high costs, with some local councils suggesting it would be at least £5,000 to install a charger, like a 7kW on-street charging point. 

JS Holmes of Wisbech St Mary

JS Holmes of Wisbech St Mary has seen a rise in the number of electric vehicle sales compared to pre-Covid. - Credit: JS Holmes

Alex Holmes, sales director at JS Holmes Ltd in Wisbech St Mary, has seen a rise in the number of EVs being purchased compared to pre-Covid. 

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“People are gobsmacked with how many EV charging points there are in the area,” he said.  

“It probably costs a lot to install – for example, 50kW in a rapid charger would cost around £25,000 - £40,000."

But as well as cost, Alex feels the shortage could be due to a lack of understanding amongst drivers. 

“It’s probably the fact that some people don’t understand EVs fully, so there is apprehension to move forward with EVs,” he said.  

“If more places had rapid chargers, it would give more businesses the chance to transition to EVs.” 

Electric vehicle charger being used in Cambridgeshire

There are few electric vehicle charging points across Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, which local authorities hope to address. - Credit: CAPCA

How are residents affected due to the low number of EV charging points? 

Those with an EV but no charging point at home could face a heavier impact, especially if travelling long distances. 

“By not having adequate public charging, you significantly reduce the availability of EV driving to the population,” said Alex Holmes. 

“But if they need better charging, we don’t have rapid chargers anywhere between an hour and 90 minutes away from Fenland.” 

Some EV users living in rented or shared accommodation may also be confined to using a public charging point if not allowed to have a home charger. 

Cambridgeshire County Council says it is working on plans to provide more on-street charging points for residents. 

“There are ongoing discussions about this, but nothing is yet in place,” they said. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hopes that around 300,000 public electric vehicle chargers will become available in the UK by 2030. - Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

The government aims to make around 300,000 public chargers available by 2030, but for Alex, more needs to be done locally to cope with rising demand. 

“I don’t feel we are equipped even for two, three years’ time,” he added. 

“I probably understand why there are few charging points, but there has to be some provision in place to try and improve the situation.” 

What are local authorities doing to tackle the issue? 

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) found that Fenland, East Cambs and Huntingdonshire were “significantly below the national average” for EV uptake. 

In a draft local transport and connectivity plan to be finalised later this year, CAPCA said “a concerted effort will be needed to provide better charging provision”. 

An alternative fuelled vehicle strategy, which aims to develop a plan for more EV chargers across Cambridgeshire, is due to be released this year. 

Cllr Anna Bailey leader of East Cambs Council

Cllr Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, is pleased with the rate at which carbon emissions are going down as it plans to install 24 electric vehicle charging points. - Credit: ECDC

In East Cambs, 24 EV charging points are due to be installed in three district council car parks by this September as part of its 20-point environment action plan. 

“Other chargers may also be installed at council-owned locations as and when it is appropriate to do so,” a spokesperson for East Cambridgeshire District Council said. 

Fenland District Council (FDC) said most EV charging points are likely to be privately-owned, but intends to install public chargers in its off-street car parks. 

“We are confident that, once government sets such requirements for district councils to deliver, we will meet those targets fully,” an FDC spokesperson said. 

Both district councils hope that more charging points can be installed through the Building Regulations 2010, which make it compulsory for most new buildings to have EV chargers.