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Electric car owners issued dire warning by motorway services boss - 'It's a major problem'

Vehicles fill up at a BP (British Petroleum) petrol station in Tonbridge, south east of London on April 30, 2022. - Britain has been hit hard by rocketing prices of gaz and fuel after the invasion of Ukraine by key gas producer Russia. Britain has vowed to become carbon net zero by 2050, but recently announced plans to drill for more North Sea fossil fuels as it seeks to secure energy independence and axe Russian imports. (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
A motorway services boss has warned the UK does not have enough power capacity for electric charging points. (Stock image: Getty)

Charge points for electric vehicles are 'sitting there with no power' due to a lack of capacity, a motorway services boss has warned.

Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Moto Hospitality, which operates motorway service stations across the UK, said the lack of power capacity for charge points is a "major problem" facing the electric vehicle industry.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, McMeikan revealed that charge points at four Moto locations are 'sitting there with no power', leaving EV drivers unable to use them.

He said unless targets are set for power companies to provide enough power for charging points across the country, it will simply not be possible.

"Getting the right number of chargers is not a challenge," he said. "Getting enough power for those chargers to actually operate well enough for EV drivers is a major major problem."

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19:  Ken McMeikan, Chief Executive of Greggs, attends the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 19, 2012 in London, England. The United Kingdom's business leaders have gathered at The Grosvenor House Hotel  for their yearly one day conference.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Ken McMeikan called for the government to issue targets on power to match targets for charging points. (Getty)

The government has pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 in a bid to encourage people to switch to electric vehicles.

McMeikan said: "There was a target set for the number of chargers by the end of 2023 that there would be at each motorway service area and that was a minimum of six.

"Sadly what there hasn't been is a target set for the power companies of the amount of power that's going to be required to operate those chargers and also a time commitment for the power companies of when that power would be made available ready for those chargers to start to operate.

"We have got a situation... where we've put sufficient chargers on four of our motorway service areas and the power required once the chargers were put in place is not available. So EV drivers are turning up to motorway services at four of our locations and there are chargers sitting there but no power."

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McMeikan said that by 2030 around one in four or one in three motorists would be arriving at service stations in an electric vehicle - requiring the equivalent of "a quarter of all the power output from an average-sized nuclear power station."

He said with the scale of power required likely to be 12 times what it is today, he does not think there will be enough power for chargers by 2030.

"I don't believe the grid at the moment has the infrastructure and the power available at the time that it's going to be needed," McMeikan said.

"What the government needs to do is they need to set targets on a year by year basis, side by side, region by region, to ensure that there is sufficient power to be able to operate the chargers."

Watch: Jaguar Land Rover to build electric car battery plant in UK

Transport Minister Richard Holden agreed that there is a 'need for a plan', but said the government's £950m rapid charging fund along with a potential £6bn of private investment would help futureproof the infrastructure required for a switch to electric vehicles.

Asked if the rapid charging fund would actually help with the grid, rather than just charging points, he said a portion of it could be used to upgrade the infrastructure "at strategic locations where not commercially viable to do so".

He said there had been "good progress" on various parts of infrastructure - including battery infrastructure and public charge points.

What are the four types of electric car?

There are four types of electric vehicles, with their own pros and cons and variations in range, charging and the way they work. They are:-

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)

Sometimes known as 'full' or 'all' electric, this type of EV has a large rechargeable battery that provides all the energy it needs. Examples include the Tesla Model 3 and Nissan Leaf.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)

A PHEV uses both an onboard, rechargeable battery that can be recharged by plugging it in or via regenerative braking, as well as a typical fuel tank to move the vehicle. It is described by many as the middle ground between a full EV and a conventional hybrid.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)

A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) combines an onboard battery and a fuel tank but unlike the PHEV, the battery is not rechargeable so does not need to be plugged in. A common example is the Toyota Prius.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not powered by electricity stored in a battery. Instead, they produce their own electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell stack. However, they are relatively uncommon.

WEST SUSSEX, UNITED KINGDOM - 2023/06/27: Cars are being charged at an electric charging point in Worthing. United Kingdom aims at banning sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. (Photo by James Wakibia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Are electric cars cheaper to run? (Stock image: Getty)

What is the government's 2030 goal?

The government has committed to ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 and has said that from 2035, all new vehicles must be fully zero-emission.

Earlier this year it announced a series of new measures to support the shift to electric vehicles to support that pledge, including more funding to support the installation of tens of thousands of new chargers across the country.

Last year a survey by Which? found that the majority of EV owners were unhappy with the UK’s public charging system, with 74% of the 1,500 people polled saying they were dissatisfied with charging infrastructure.

Two out of five (40%) reported finding a non-working charger, while 61% said they had suffered difficulties making payments.

Is an electric car cheaper to run?

As well as the environmental impact, possible money savings are the motivation for people to switch to EVs.

From the cost of charging to road tax savings, electric vehicles offer savings in some areas, though in others can be more expensive, including insurance and the cost of buying them in the first place.

According to the RAC, motorists can save on the cost of charging by charging at home or by using free chargers at certain locations. And while some charge points can be more expensive, such as motorways services or petrol stations, they will still work out cheaper than conventional petrol or diesel.

Alongside this, electric vehicles are currently liable for zero annual Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) or ‘road tax’ because they emit no CO2, the RAC says - another way of saving.

"It’s not only private drivers that save money when driving an electric car," the RAC says. "Company car drivers can also save when it comes to Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) taxation. As with VED, BIK rates favour greener cars, with lower CO2-emitting vehicles attracting a much cheaper BIK rate."

However, the site points out that EV tax savings are likely to decline as they become more popular, with potential changes to legislation.