Electric vehicles undeniably represent the future of the automotive industry. Whilst there have been significant developments in their technology over the last couple of years, there are still doubts about whether they are currently suitable for fleets. The battery range of electric vehicles is one of the biggest concerns that drivers currently have, particularly for those who regularly travel long distances. However, the charging network in the UK is growing substantially, meaning that electric vehicles are increasingly becoming a viable option.
Many drivers also have concerns about the availability of charging points as most locations have a limited number. Drivers can plan charging points into their route but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be working or not already in use. However, there are many mobile apps that can help to alleviate your anxiety by showing the status of charging points across the UK.
These are the top 3 apps that are recommended, based on reviews from Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
- This app has 95%+ of public charging points mapped and around 70% of the charge points show live availability status. Zap-Map allows EV drivers to easily search for charge points and then plan long journeys accordingly.
- With over 230,000 locations on file, PlugShare has one of the widest networks which is why this app is so highly regarded. Users self-report on the status of local charging points and you can search by type of station and filter by network provider to ensure that charging points are compatible with your vehicle.
- InstaVolt provides easy access to charging points to help drivers get back on the road quickly. Their charging points are available to use on a pay-as-you-go basis which is particularly convenient for EV drivers.
To test the current infrastructure, we looked at whether drivers could travel the famous route from Lands’ End to John O’Groats in an electric van, using publicly accessible charging points across the UK. For our test, we have used the Citroën ë-Relay which has a driving range of around 139 miles.
We have successfully mapped out a route from Penzance all the way to John O’Groats which covers around 837 miles. Due to the range of the Citroën ë-Relay, it’s necessary to stop and charge the vehicle 8 times. There were many charging points on this route that we could have chosen but we specifically chose the ones below to keep on the most direct route possible.
- Starting in Lands’ End (TR19 7AA) with a full charge, you would travel the 124 miles to Exeter Services M5 (North) (EX2 7HF) where you can buy a coffee from Costa.
- From this service station, the next stop we recommend is Welcome Break Michaelwood (North) (GL13 9JS) which is around 87 miles away. Here you have a range of restaurants that you can choose from, including Subway and KFC.
- The third accessible charging point on this route is in the M6 Services Stafford (North) (ST15 0EU) that’s 103 miles from Welcome Break Michaelwood (North). To get to this charging point, you will be travelling on the UK’s longest motorway!
- You would then travel another 103 miles to Burton-In-Kendal Services M6 (North) (LA6 1JF) where you can recharge the Citroën ë-Relay and enjoy the picturesque views of the Cumbrian countryside.
As you travel further North, the charging points are in more rural areas, as the route moves away from the motorway.
- The next stopping point that we would recommend is the Glebe Public Car Park (DG10 9HB) which is 97 miles North. You can leave your vehicle charging here whilst you explore the town of Moffat.
- From the Glebe Public Car Park, you would then travel 92 miles to the Crown Inn Wynd Car Park (PH3 1AA). This car park marks the start of the Provost’s and Oak Walk which is a great opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise as a break from driving.
- The next accessible charging point is 93 miles away in the Grampian Road Car Park (PH22 1RH). This charging stop is surrounded by beautiful scenery with Cairngorms National Park and Craigellachie National Nature Reserve located nearby.
- The last stop on this route where you can charge the Citroën ë-Relay is in the Gower Street Car Park (KW9 6PU) which is 85 miles from the Grampian Road Car Park. Brora Beach is a short walk away from this car park and is definitely worth a visit!
- There is then just 60 more miles until you reach John O’Groats (KW1 4YR).
This route shows that it is possible to travel from one end of the UK to the other in an electric vehicle. However, recent research shows that the battery in an electric vehicle drains significantly faster when the heater is used. So, although the Citroën ë-Relay has a range of 139 miles, we can assume this would only be the case if you didn’t need to put the lights or heater on. Therefore, if you plan on tackling this route then only drive during daylight, good weather and wear a good coat!
When you consider the long distances that many van and HGV drivers regularly undertake, the need for 8 stops could be perceived as inefficient, particularly as each charge may take a minimum of 45 minutes depending on the type of charger. With no traffic, an average charge time of 45 mins and no waits for the chargers, the trip would take almost 22 hours!
With this in mind, we have created a comparison showing how long this route would take in a standard diesel van. The Citroën Relay has a fuel tank capacity of 90 litres, allowing drivers to travel over 500 miles at a time, making this route significantly easier to navigate.
- After starting in Lands’ End (TR19 7AA) with a full tank of fuel, the first stop that you would need to make is at the Welcome Break Gretna Green (DG16 5HQ) which is 479 miles away. Here you can refuel both your vehicle and your body or even spontaneously get married!
- From Gretna Green, we recommend that you drive the 359 miles straight to John O’Groats (KW1 4YR) where you can take a well-deserved rest from driving and reflect on the memorable journey you just completed.
Even with a total of an hour stoppage time along the route, it would still be possible to drive the full distance in under 16 hours. A considerable time saving on the Electric option.
Although the infrastructure is continuing to improve, there is little consistency across the country in terms of the number of charging points. As such, whilst fleets which remain in a local area may be able to overcome any range and charging anxiety this will be dependent on their local infrastructure. For fleets covering larger distances, there is more to consider.
Whilst our trip for Lands’ End to John O’Groats should be seen as a bit of fun, it does highlight continuing pain points for fleet managers who are looking to switch to a greener fuel option.
However, as EV technology develops, offering a more extensive driving range and charging infrastructure, fleets should consider taking advantage of this sustainable mode of transport. To help make EV technology more accessible, we are looking to introduce EV fuel cards to our network. Register your interest today if you'd like to find out more about this product.
Of course, what we’ve not considered in this comparison is the cost factor of electric vehicles, but that’s a topic for another day…
Matt DoddsWith over 14 years of experience across two of the leading fuel card companies in the UK, Matt Dodds joined RFC Edenred to help lead the development of products to support our customer's move to EV and other alternative fuels, a transition he feels passionately about.