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Clean Transport

Published on August 4th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


Electric Car Charging Spots Dwarf Gas Stations

August 4th, 2016 by  

A new analysis from Nissan has found that UK charging points will outnumber UK petrol stations by 2020. Note that the analysis is a little awkward since it is comparing charging locations (not individual car charging points) and petrol stations (not individual petrol pumps). Nonetheless, it’s fun to play with numbers and it’s an interesting point that might help bring more attention and awareness to the electric vehicle market.


Image Credit: © Michal Wnuk

However, I think that, despite the good intentions, it repeats a mistake in framing that is already perpetrated in the media far too much, and that could even have a counterproductive effect on EV awareness and adoption.

Discussions in the media about EV charging almost always center on public EV charging. Meanwhile, the vast majority of EV charging is done at home, and ~97% is done at home or work when both are available (that is data from the US, but I assume the story is essentially the same in the UK,or even better since Brits drive approximately half as much as Americans, on average).

By focusing the discussion on a tiny percentage of charging, the media and Nissan are screwing up the story and framing electric car ownership in an unbalanced, relatively negative light.

If you count the number of electricity outlets out there (note that electric cars can charge even using normal electricity outlets), the number of possible charging places dwarfs the number of petrol/gas stations or even petrol/gas pumps. (We did this a few years ago using a conservative estimate of electricity outlets in the US.)

Yes, it’s true that charging an electric car on a normal outlet takes longer than pumping gas, but your car is parked ~95% of the time. As long as it is regularly parked next to an electricity outlet and you spend a few seconds to plug it in, chances are high that you won’t care much about how long it takes to charge and you will hugely appreciate the greater convenience of an electric car.

Via the Guardian, here are some statements regarding the new analysis from Nissan:

“The report found that there were 8,472 traditional fuel stations in the UK at the end of last year, representing a steady decline from the 37,539 recorded in 1970. Based on the rate of decline in recent decades the number of petrol stations is likely to fall to under 7,870 by summer 2020, Nissan said.

“In contrast, the UK’s EV charging network is expanding fast and plans are underway to accelerate its growth further over the coming years. As such, Nissan predicts the number of public EV charging locations will reach 7,900 by August 2020, although it adds that ‘accelerating adoption of electric vehicles means this crossover could happen a lot sooner’.”

It’s a fun analysis, but seriously, I think it equates EV charging to petrol fill-ups in a counterproductive way. We don’t have petrol pumps in our driveways (thank goodness!), but many of us do have electricity outlets and even extra EV charging equipment there. If we don’t have it there, there’s still a strong chance we have it at our place of work.

To end on a better statement from Nissan, here’s a nice on from Edward Jones, EV manager at Nissan Motor (GB) Ltd.:

“As with similar breakthrough technologies, the adoption of electric vehicles should follow an ‘S-curve’ of demand. A gradual uptake from early adopters accelerates to a groundswell of consumers buying electric vehicles just as they would any other powertrain.”

We can certainly agree on the usefulness of highlighting the S-curve with regards to electric vehicles. For some of my talks highlighting this point in more detail, see one or more of these four:

Importance of Tesla Superchargers, Battery Upgrades, Electric Car Benefits… (My EV Summit Presentation)

Cleantech Disruption — My Presentation At Institutional Investment Conference In India (Video)

State of the EV Industry (Cleantech Revolution Tour → Berlin)

The Future Is Now! (My Renewable Cities Opening Night Prez)


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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