A sharp rise in EV sales in recent years have led to questions over whether charging infrastructure can keep up with the rate of expansion of the EV fleet, and whether ultimately the lack of charging opportunities will impede the growth of the EV market. This article draws on work from our Global EV Charging Outlook and our EV Charging Monthly Assessment, and will discuss the relative experience in a range of markets and how demographics and EV market dynamics shape the extent of charging infrastructure needed.

In Europe, 2020 saw a steep change in the rate of EV sales, as incentive programs were stepped up in response to the pandemic, and OEMs pushed BEV and PHEV sales to limit fleet average CO2 emissions. As a result the EV fleet grew 78% year-on-year, while the number of public charging points grew by 34% during the same period, with a resultant worsening of the ratio of EVs to public charging units. So is this a cause for concern? Looking at the European market as a sole entity is not especially illuminating in this regard, but common trends such as a high ratio of PHEVs in the sales mix, roughly half the market in 2020, ease pressure on charging infrastructure in the short term, and specific markets do present different solutions depending on the relative demands on the infrastructure.


In the Netherlands for example, a country with a very high population density, relatively limited access to private charging, and EV penetration rates over 20% so far in 2021, total fast (>22kw, DC) and slow (<22kw, AC) charging coverage is roughly 4 EVs to 1 public charger, the best ratio anywhere in the World, albeit the vast majority of these are slow chargers.

Norway, by contrast, currently has the highest EV penetration rate in the world, at over 60% of total vehicles sold so far in 2021, it also has the worst ratio of public charging to EVs anywhere in the world. But this relative lack of infrastructure does not seem to be impeding growth. This is the result of a combination of widespread access to private charging, as low density housing accounts for over 70% of the population; and the fact that a large portion of public chargers that are available are fast chargers, roughly 75% giving a BEV to fast charger ratio of roughly 1 to 50.

Governments and networks are also proving responsive to increased charging demand. In Germany for instance, the ratio of BEVs to fast chargers increased dramatically in 2020, there are currently 65 BEVs per fast charger, an increase from 31 BEVs per charger in 2019. In response to this, German Government has created the ‘Master Plan for Charging Infrastructure’. This aims to install 50,000 public chargers over the next two years, and by 2030, there will be 1 million additional public charging points in Germany. A similar plan was recently announced by the UK government which includes a £1.3 billion investment in public EV charging as part of its ‘Green Plan’.


In China, the high population density of urban areas means that fewer vehicle owners are able to plug in at their homes, and the level high ratio of BEV to PHEV sales, over 80% sold in 2020, means that this would likely prove an impediment to EV market growth if a comprehensive public charging network were not available. This has prompted the Chinese government to heavily invest in improving charging infrastructure, and to some extent ahead of the curve in terms of what is currently necessary. Public charging point availability increased by 55% year-on-year in 2020, while the fleet increased 39% over the same period. The government also intends to keep this momentum going by installing 570,000 new fast and slow charging points by 2025, and a further 380,000 by 2030.

The US market tells a wholly different story due to its stagnation in recent years. There are currently 65 BEVs for every public charger in the US. This is a significant improvement from the 115 in 2017, but his mainly comes as a result of charging infrastructure in the US catching up as EV sales growth slowed. Nonetheless, the outlook looks positive as President Biden has already promised to install 500,000 EV charging points by 2030, at a projected cost of USD5 billion. Suggesting that even if the EV sales were to accelerate sharply over the coming decade, charging infrastructure will be well placed to cover the needs of the market.

Taken as a whole the expectation is that in the coming five years the EV market will grow faster than charging infrastructure, and at top level this will be reflecting in worsening of the ratio of EVs to public chargers. When looking more closely at specific geographies we remain confident that based on current targets and investments by networks there will be adequate provision to support adoption in the coming years, but a continuous program of investment will be needed well into the next decade.


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