Creating greener cities: the role of EV charging infrastructure

Battery electric vehicles (EVs) are critical to cutting carbon emissions and tackling climate change – but only if local charging infrastructure is accessible and affordable. Europe is suffering from a charger shortage, and it’s putting the brakes on EV adoption.

While sales of EVs in Europe broke records in 2022, its continued growth hinges on the expansion of robust EV charging infrastructure. Here’s why a network of reliable, accessible, and affordable EV chargers is critical to creating greener cities and powering our transition to net zero transport.

Building greener cities

Across Europe, 70% of us live in cities, towns, and suburbs. Planners and politicians are urging us to go greener, introducing congestion charges, traffic calming measures, and more to shift us from our cars. While cycling is increasingly popular, and mass transit services serve many urban populations, car ownership remains high, with one vehicle for every two people.

It's positive to see that 20% of all new cars sold in Europe are now electric. It demonstrates that battery-powered electric cars are a realistic alternative to fossil-fuel-powered cars, particularly among those who live in cities where range anxiety is less of a concern.  We're also seeing a growing number of fleets shift to hybrids and BEVs, particularly for last-mile deliveries of consumer goods and groceries.

The truth is that many of us still prefer to jump in the car to pedal power or public transport – but the lack of charging points is a massive issue that could stall EV adoption. Experts estimate that we must install 150,000 new points weekly to meet demand. We're currently only installing a fraction of this number leading to a chronic lack of charging infrastructure, particularly in our cities.

The impact could be stark, warns the United Nations. It believes cities must invest in infrastructure to experience benefits. “It is only when we make electric vehicles more convenient than traditional petrol/diesel-powered vehicles that we will see exponential adoption and all the benefits to the environment,” says the UN’s Climate Change team.

Experts, EV manufacturers, and Europe’s drivers agree that installing charging infrastructure is critical to building greener cities.

Breaking down barriers

The lack of charging infrastructure is the most significant barrier to the adoption of EVs among Europe's drivers, stats show. In a study conducted by The Climate Group in 2021, 67% of drivers were worried about where they would charge their vehicles.

While many in the suburbs and countryside areas have driveways where they can install chargers, those who live in city centers face a battle to recharge their batteries. Communal chargers can quickly become taken, leaving drivers with little option but to park up and plan a new way to reach their destination.

Urban drivers lack the space to install EV chargers, so we need a bolder solution led by the state. The UK Government has acknowledged this issue and has committed to building more charging stations inconveniently accessible locations. They believe this is fundamental to alleviating driver concerns and driving up EV adoption rates.

It’s critical that the city EV charging infrastructure isn’t only accessible but also reliable, fast, and intelligent. It must also be affordable, providing a realistic alternative for domestic and commercial drivers to make the shift.

In the future, it’s likely that EV charging infrastructure will be integrated into urban planning and development. This will ensure that residents, visitors, tourists, and commercial drivers all have access to charging points when they need them, wherever they are.

Powering people

Publicly available EV charging stations can serve as visible reminders of a city's commitment to sustainability, encouraging both citizens and businesses to adopt greener practices. They demonstrate that planners, policymakers, and politicians are investing in sustainable solutions to the city's problems.

Switching from fossil-fuel-powered vehicles to EVs can dramatically reduce carbon emissions, but EVs can play an ever-greater role in a greener future. By linking EV charging stations to the grid, cities can make them part of the broader energy ecosystem.

Innovative grid technologies allow for variable charging rates based on supply and demand. They can even feed electricity into the grid during peak demand — a concept known as Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G). This reduces stress on the grid and makes the entire energy system more efficient and resilient, ultimately contributing to lower carbon emissions.

Building a net zero future

Every sector must play its part in tackling emissions as we transition to net zero – and transport is no different. In cities across Europe, EV charging infrastructure will form the backbone of our net zero transport future. Cities will need to commit to long-term structural investment to deliver the infrastructure at the scale required.

New innovations such as ultra-fast charging, wireless charging, and energy storage technologies are making charging infrastructure more attractive to build. As a result, demand for EVs is growing, buoyed by incentives for drivers and subsidies for those installing charging stations are creating an emerging market with huge potential.

New digital technologies are creating a smart EV charging network that can adapt to usage patterns, grid capacity, and renewable energy availability. This intelligent network will optimize energy consumption, further reducing carbon emissions and making our cities greener.

EV charging infrastructure is at the heart of transitioning to greener cities and a net zero transport future – but only if investment matches ambitions.

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