Aim to double Scotland’s electric vehicle charging network


The government aims to double the size of Scotland’s electric vehicle charging network by winning the backing of private sector firms for investment.

There are currently more than 2,100 public EV charging points in Scotland.

Many more are needed, with up to one million electric vehicles expected to be on the road by 2030 when sales of new petrol and diesel cars are banned.

A new fund of £60m of public and private cash is to be spent over the next four years to expand the network.

Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson said the fund would “draw in and smooth commercial investment so that the future charging network is there to work for everyone”.

But opposition parties said the plans fell far short of expected demand for plug-in vehicles, and needed to go “further and a lot faster”.

New transport blueprint unveiled for Scotland
The Scottish government wants to reduce private car use by 20% by the end of the decade, shifting more people towards public transport and “active travel”.

The sale of new petrol and diesel-only vehicles is to be banned in 2030, and sales of electric and hybrid alternatives are already on the rise – having hit 21.4% of all new car sales in Scotland in December 2021.

Mr Matheson told MSPs that the ChargePlace Scotland network currently provided 2,100 public plug-in points, while the government had supported more than 14,000 private charging points in people’s homes and 1,400 in businesses.

A previous Transport Scotland report cited an estimate by the Climate Change Committee that the UK would need about 280,000 public charging points by 2030, implying a Scottish total of about 30,000. Hitting this target would require about 4,000 to be installed each year.

The new draft plan for the electric charging network – unveiled on Wednesday – does not include any specific targets for the number of charge points, but warned that expanding the network could cost up to £1bn.

It said the system would ultimately be “largely financed and operated by the commercial sector”, but that the government would need to be closely involved in “attracting and making the commercial case for investment viable”.

charging point parking spaces
Mr Matheson told MSPs that a new “public electric vehicle infrastructure fund” would spend £60m over the next four years, with “around half” of the cash coming from the private sector.

The minister said that “we can anticipate this investment doubling the size of Scotland’s existing network of charge points over the next few years”.

Mr Matheson said the charging network “must be powered on clean, green energy”, and announced that a design team from the V&A Dundee was helping draw up the plans.

However he said it was “simply not feasible” for the government to run the charging network on its own, adding that it was not desirable given the number of citizens who do not own a car.

He said involving private sector firms could see Scotland benefit from a “fast-growing market with rapidly developing technology and innovation”.

He said: “This network will seek to place Scotland as the global destination for investment in zero-emission mobility.”

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Kevin Keane, BBC Scotland environment correspondent
This is Scotland entering the middle phase of infrastructure development for charging electric vehicles.

For early adopters, public charging has relied on Scottish government funded chargers being installed and maintained by local councils.

But growth in EV ownership is making that increasingly expensive for the already pressured public purse.

There’s an acknowledgement that it’s still too early to leave it entirely to the private sector and so ministers want a public-private partnership approach.

They’re digging deep with a £30m investment to be matched by private funding.

But their ultimate aim, once uptake has reached a sustainable level, is to step away and leave public charging in private hands.
Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said it was difficult to see how the network could be big enough by 2030 under the current plans.

He said: “All we have is an intention to double the network over the next few years – will the Scottish government get to the necessary 30,000 chargers by 2030?”

Meanwhile Labour’s Colin Smyth said some guidance had suggested that a ratio of one public charging point per EV could be needed, meaning up to 100,000 could be needed.

He said: “This was a masterclass from the SNP in under-delivery that will leave Scotland’s electric car owners stuck at the side of the road. We need to go further and faster.”

Mr Matheson said meeting demand would be “a significant challenge, because it’s a significant piece of infrastructure that needs to be put in place”, but insisted Scotland had one of the UK’s best charging networks outside of London.

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Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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