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Is Wales missing out on the electric car revolution? Calls for more EV charging points

There are fresh calls for the Welsh Government to improve rapid charging points for electric vehicles in Wales.

In July, the UK Government announced that the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned in the UK from 2040.

The number of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles across the UK has risen sharply in recent years, from 3,500 in 2013, to 108,000 in 2017.

  • Watch the Wales at Six report below:

Energy consultant Neil Lewis, who lives in Carmarthen, started driving an electric car out of concern for the environment.

He says poor charging infrastructure makes travelling across Wales difficult.

I can go to Nottingham in a day and back, I can go to London in a day and back, but if I want to go to Anglesey or Gwynedd or the Llyn Peninsula, I'm stuck!

Wales needs to get with it, and the local authorities need to get together and develop a strategic plan, and put these charge points in place asap."

– Neil Lewis
Charging an electric car at a publicly-available point

In 2015, a report commissioned by the Welsh Government recommended a host of measures to support electric vehicles (EVs), including:

  • To consider installing low carbon vehicle (LCV) infrastructure at all its premises and encourages local authorities to do the same
  • To produce and market an up to date map of publicly accessible LCV infrastructure in Wales.
  • To consider establishing a grant scheme to which town and community councils could bid for installing publicly accessible LCV infrastructure

To date, only three Welsh councils - Blaenau Gwent, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire - say they have installed EV charging points that the public can use.

Monmouthshire County Council said it hopes to do so "in the very near future".

Industry experts say Wales has the potential to become a leader in battery technology.

Jonathan Williams leads the Centre for Automotive & Power System Engineering (CAPSE) at the University of South Wales, working with industry to develop low-carbon technologies.

He predicts the cost of EVs will continue to drop.

What's made it possible is a dramatic improvement in battery technology in the last five years.

They are about two thirds of the purchase cost of the vehicle at the moment.

As more vehicles are purchased, that element of the cost starts to come down, and then the realisation of more affordable EVs starts to happen at an even greater pace.

– Jonathan Williams, University of South Wales
A dashboard map of the vehicle's range and available charging stations

So who should take the lead in expanding the charging network for EVs?

Professor Peter Wells, from Cardiff Business School, says there are big opportunities for the private sector.

"All the evidence, particularly from countries that have taken on a lot of electric vehicles, like Norway, is that you need a whole suite of policy measures" he says.

"Incentives for owners, incentives to put in chargers, but also things like preferential parking, maybe even tax or access incentives - a whole package".

Companies have a massive opportunity here. Retail outlets have a massive opportunity.

It has to be a concerted effort, and you can't rely on the market to make this happen.

They need a framework, they all need a framework, and the Welsh Government has provide that framework to make it happen".

– Prof Peter Wells, Cardiff Business School

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas is calling for the Welsh Government to spearhead a rollout of more rapid charging points in more rural parts of Wales.

What's holding back the expansion now is that large parts of Wales don't have the infrastructure to give people the confidence to invest and know that they'll have a fast charging point at a reasonable home and place of work.

– Simon Thomas AM

The Welsh Government insists it is "taking the lead", but accepts work needs to be done on improving charging infrastructure beyond the M4 and A55 corridors.

The important point is that we work together with local authorities and private sector to identify where there are current gaps and there are too many, and to then ensure that the appropriate body, be it local government, be it private sector or communities apply for and secure the funding.

Where we are responsible for services and for estates and for roads, we're determined to make sure that you are able to access and charge your vehicle - like Welsh Government estates, Cadw sites and the trunk road network.

– Ken Skates AM, Economy Secretary

Your questions answered! Watch the Q&A with driver and broadcaster Amanda Stretton and energy campaigner Neil Lewis:

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Are you an electric car driver or thinking of making the jump? I'd like to hear from you!