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blog: EV-aluating the distribution of public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in England

Author: Matt James

In April 2024, the Department for Transport (DfT) released their latest statistics on electric vehicle (EV) public charging infrastructure in the UK, with figures showing a 11% increase in total installed devices since January 2024 and a 49% increase since April 2023 [1]. Despite this, it is well established that the UK needs to urgently scale up and improve its charging infrastructure to help ease charging and range anxiety for drivers, whilst continuing to grow EV sales.

This is only part of the challenge, however. The other being where to install charging infrastructure. This blog seeks to analyse where infrastructure is being rolled out and how this aligns with the UK government’s wider transport policy and climate change goals.

The first key priority set out in the Department for Transport’s ‘A Better, Greener Britain’ strategy is ‘accelerating modal shift to public and active transport.’ It also emphasises that walking, cycling or public transport should be the natural first choice for journeys. As such, the promotion of EVs must sit within these goals, recognising that they are still private vehicles.

We know that EVs are not a silver bullet (see previous blog by ITP colleague Charlotte Rhodes here); they won’t achieve transport decarbonisation goals on their own and they still present issues for congestion, road safety and air quality in towns and cities. As such, the ‘where’ is as crucial as the ‘how many’ in terms of installing charging infrastructure.

Factors impacting EV infrastructure rollout

It is inevitable that factors such as demand, car ownership and the availability of alternative modes will impact the geographic spread of public charging across the country. However, this risks the market, as well as funding lotteries, primarily dictating who will benefit from the infrastructure. Instead, a vision-led approach must be applied to ensure equitable outcomes and the prioritisation of active and public transport.

One important factor to consider is the relative deprivation of an area, reflecting that deprived communities must not be left behind as public EV charging infrastructure is scaled up. Wealthier people are more likely to have private driveways to access lower cost charging at home and can shoulder the cost more easily, meaning there is less justification for taxpayer-funded infrastructure. Those who are poorer are more likely to live in accommodation which would rely on on-street public charging, and, as such, it can be argued that local authorities which cover more deprived areas should be prioritised for government funding.

The rural/urban nature of an area is also an important consideration:

  • Rural areas are less viable for the private sector to invest in due to demand and cost of installing the infrastructure, meaning that public sector subsidy is required.
  • Believ, an EV charging network provider, found that accessing the electricity grid is a significant barrier for 15% of local authorities[2], and connecting chargepoints to the grid is especially slow and expensive in remote, rural areas. This furthers the case for greater public sector support in more remote locations.
  • People are more likely to be reliant on a car in rural areas to access essential services, so where a private car is necessary, and will be used in any case, funding should be directed to decarbonise them.
  • On the other hand, active and public transport are more viable in urban areas, whilst EVs exacerbate congestion and poor air quality. Consequently, funding should be prioritised for these modes rather than EV charging points.

Believ also highlighted that just 14% of chargepoints serve rural communities[3]. In September 2023, County Council Network noted that there is just one EV charger for every 10 miles in England’s county and rural areas, lagging far behind major towns and cities[4].

This shows that those in rural areas are underrepresented and emphasises the risk of remote communities being left behind.

Population density should be considered for similar reasons. Areas with higher population density will tend to be more conducive to active and public transport, and, as such, EVs should be seen as a secondary priority. Secondly, greater demand in higher population density areas will increase the viability for the private sector to invest, reducing the need to finance via taxpayer funding in these locations.

EV distribution analysis

The four maps below show deprivation, population density and rural urban classification in England alongside EV charging devices per 100,000 people. These can be used to pull out high-level trends regarding whether public EV charging is being installed in the most desirable locations.

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In terms of EV charging device distribution, good progress has been made in central London, the south-west, the north of England and pockets on the east coast around Norfolk. Lower coverage per population can be seen in the north-west, stretching east and south through Yorkshire and the East Midlands. This is partially reflected by the grant value of completed on-street residential scheme projects since 2019 as shown below.

Matts blog table

Central London particularly stands out as having a high population density, with a high density of EV charging infrastructure and large amounts of grant funding. The East Midlands, Yorkshire and south-east of London areas, in contrast, generally contain more rural deprived communities but with less EV infrastructure density, as well as funding in the case for Yorkshire. These are the locations that should be prioritised for EVs.

Higher density EV charging infrastructure in northern England and the south-west show positive progress, and while less EV infrastructure in the higher density north-west areas of the country is indicative of effective installation distribution, it is crucial that these are served by high-quality public and active travel infrastructure to compensate.


We know that EVs will play an important role in reducing transport-related carbon emissions, however, they are not a silver bullet and net zero targets will not be achieved without significantly investing and prioritising active and public transport. That is why EV charging infrastructure should be focused in areas that really need it; in rural locations, where other modes are not as viable, and in areas to ensure that deprived communities are not left behind. Investing in and encouraging active travel and public transport in higher density, urban areas will help to achieve the urgent social and climate-related challenges we face.

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If you would like to know more about how ITP can help support vision led Local Transport Plans and decarbonisation strategies then please get in touch.


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