Cash boost for wireless electric car charging

The government is putting an additional £40m into improving charging infrastructure of for electric vehicles.

The Department for Transport has revealed a significant investment in a series of projects aimed to improve charging points across the country – despite significant drops in plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales.

The money has been earmarked for UK engineering firms that in return, will deliver wireless charging solutions – and plug-in pavement charging technology.

It’s hoped this new range of innovative charging solutions will broaden the appeal of electric plug-in vehicles, opening the market to people who don’t have driveways and personal charging points in their homes.

Falling demand

It’s thought the investment plans have been ushered in to help boost declining electric car sales - after the government scrapped the £2,500 grant that had previously been available to subsidise the purchase of next-generation plug-in electric vehicles.

Sales of PHEVs have dropped dramatically following the removal of the grant – with reported new registrations down by 50.4% in June; although sales of battery-powered electric vehicles are up by 61.7% this June compared to the same period last year. 

Despite increased registrations of fully electric vehicles, the decline in demand for plug-ins has impacted the alternatively fuelled vehicle sector as a whole, with just 2,268 vehicles registered this June, compared to 4,571 during the same month last year.

Although the government removed the grant available to potential PHEV buyers to shift buyer focus to “the cleanest, zero-emission models” – pure electric vehicles have also seen shrinking grants. Last year, the £4,500 subsidy was reduced to £3,500.

New charging technology

With the government recently announcing that 2040 would spell the end of conventional petrol and diesel sales in the UK, infrastructure preparations for an electric generation are starting to take shape.

£2.3m has already been invested in Char.gy; a London based tech company who aims to build “simple, sustainable on-street charging for everyone”. Part of Char.gy’s vision for the future of electric car ownership sees every lamppost in residential areas doubling up as a charge point – with customers choosing from Pay As You Go and monthly contract charging options.

Another £3m has been awarded to Urban Foresight, a Newcastle company specialising in innovation for cities. Urban Foresight’s vision for charging without driveways or garages involves “pop-up” chargers that, when not in use, can be stowed under pavement level - before popping-up to provide a plug-in point.

Wireless charging solutions

Another solution being explored by Char.gy is a type of wireless charging pad – not dissimilar to the method used on some modern smartphones.

The process involves the installation of a charging pad on the underside of the vehicle. When aligned with a charging pad, a process referred to as ‘electromagnetic induction’ sees an alternating electromagnetic field created, which the receiving pad on the vehicle converts back into electricity.

The downside with wireless charging is the cost of the vehicle modifications needed – around £1,000 – but that’s where government money is being spent.

As part of pilot schemes starting in 2020, some users will get the induction pads added to their cars free of charge. In addition to this, some car-club schemes in the South East will be making wireless charging cars available to their members.

An electric future

Although manufacturers are committing to a new generation of electric, zero-emission cars, there are reservations about the system that will support an all-electric motoring UK. 

While Jaguar Land Rover has recently pledged substantial funds to see a range of electric cars built at the firm’s Castle Bromwich plant near Birmingham, their Chief Executive, Professor Ralph Speth has raised concerns.

“The current charging infrastructure is not really sufficient to cover the country” explains Speth – calling on the government to govern the process.

While manufacturers will undoubtedly be concerned about their customer’s ability to charge their vehicles, they will also be understandable concerns about sales. With 32% of the UK’s homes relying on-street parking, the potential audience for plug-in vehicles, for now, remains limited.