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Plug in your car … but only Britain’s richer motorists can charge up cheaply | Electric, hybrid and low-emission cars

Almost 10 million households in England and Wales risk missing out on savings of £950 a year that come from owning an electric car, according to a study warning that richer households stand to benefit most.

About a third of households have no access to off-street parking or a personal garage, so will miss out on lower costs from charging the cars using cheaper overnight electricity.

Switching to those tariffs and away from fossil fuel-run cars could see weekly fuel costs fall from £21 to less than £3 for those who can access them. However, while 76% of the richest households have access to off-street parking, the same is true for only 56% of the poorest fifth of households. The findings emerge in a forthcoming study by the Resolution Foundation think tank examining Britain’s plans for achieving net zero emissions and the impact on living standards. The switch to electric vehicles has the potential to cut fuel costs, but it reveals the barriers that remain in ensuring everyone can access them.

Purchases of battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) have already surpassed projections, representing one-in-five new vehicles bought so far this year. This is double even the most ambitious projections produced by the Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on green policies.

The running costs are one of their major draws. Even public charging points cost about 25% less than the average cost of filling a petrol car at the pumps. However, the type of home someone has will impact on the costs of charging. “Unless addressed, these stark cost differences risk creating a ‘charging divide’ – with the bulk of savings risk being accrued by richer households, which risks widening inequality,” the report concludes.

It finds that for households with off-street parking at home, low-cost overnight charging could see annual running costs fall to £139, or £389 for those who do not use the cheapest off-peak tariffs. However, those with no choice but to use the public network of charging points face annual fuel costs of £712 – five times higher than the cheapest off-peak tariff. The equivalent cost of filling up a petrol car is around £1,100 a year. Some 9.8 million households across England and Wales have no access to a garage or off-street parking.

Non-homeowners are less likely to have access to off street parking. Only 51% of private renters, 38% of housing association tenants and 26% of local authority renters have such access, compared to 81% of homeowners.

The government can address the ‘charging divide’ by acting to reduce the disparity in prices across the network. Jonny Marshall, Resolution Foundation

Jonny Marshall, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, called on ministers to prioritize reducing the cost of public charging and encourage the installation of home charging points in rented accommodation. “Britain’s electric car revolution must be more than just buying new cars,” he said. “The government can address this ‘charging divide’ by acting to reduce the disparity in prices across the charging network and stop those without access to at-home charging paying a much higher rate.”

It comes after calls from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year for the government to intervene in the electric car charger market to prevent “charging deserts”. It said locations outside of London remained underserved. The expansion of electric car use is a key part of government plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We’re providing over £1.3bn to support the roll-out of charge points at homes, businesses and on residential streets, and today a driver is never more than 25 miles from a rapid charge point anywhere along England’s major A roads and motorways. Our EV Infrastructure Strategy will be published soon, setting out our vision to create a world-leading charging infrastructure network.”


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