Are Nearly Half of Scotland’s Charging Stations Really Not Used?

A flurry of headlines appears in the UK press this week crying out that ‘almost half of Scotland’s EV charging stations go unused’ or variations there of.

Thanks to a press release from the RAC Foundation, a transport policy and research organisation, that contained usage statistic obtained through the freedom of information act, both the BBC and Autoblog picked up the news.

But is the situation as clearcut as the headlines make it seem?

From the press release it looks simple. Scotland had, at the charging stations being tracked within the period being measured, 2885 charging sessions on 265 of its 482 units. This works out that only 55% of the units were used in that time.

But there is a lot of information missing from that, so let’s try and fill some of it in:

The period being measured was just one month in 2014; August to be exact.

The charging stations being tracked were non-domestic installs but non-public charging stations were including, for example those installed by local councils for their own fleet use.

ChargePlace Scotland provides a map of charging locations in the country.

ChargePlace Scotland provides a map of charging locations in the country.

This was even highlighted in the press release, although went unnoticed by many sites that reported it. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “This data also suggests a good proportion of charge points are located on private premises including council sites. This is encouraging as it was always envisaged that fleet operators would lead the way in the electric revolution.”

It’s this “encouraging” piece of datum that provides a massive kink in the statistics. The inclusion of non-public charger usage statistics in a news story which references the general move to electric vehicles is a tad disingenuous.

News stories like this are always used to highlight the public’s move, or rather reluctance to move, towards electric vehicles.

How good is the charging network?

But a quick look at forums on the Electric Vehicle Association of Scotland website shows the same complaints we see over and over when it comes to public charging stations: Problems with ICEing (internal combustion engined cars parking in the bays), charging stations not working, the wrong level of charging station installed, rapid chargers being installed without the full power to support them.

Adrian Loening, chair of the Electric Vehicle Association of Scotland, commenting upon the press release and associated data, said: “Whilst there has been a significant growth in charger numbers and locations in Scotland which EVAS very much welcomes there are ongoing reliability and commissioning problems.”

The report didn’t even begin to look at the issues that may be stopping people from using the network in the first place. The ‘build it and they will come’ mentality can only work with reliable, appropriate hardware that is policed to ensure it isn’t misused or blocked.

The problem of policing charging locations seems universal.

The problem of policing charging locations seems universal.

Unfortunately, the issues with the report don’t end there. Users of the forum have been digging into the data and found that it includes usage statistics for charging stations that haven’t been made live yet. One user writes: “East Dunbartonshire is being shown as having 4 unused posts, yet none are commissioned.”

Another point brought up is the known issue that some charging stations always report 0kWh of usage regardless of how long a car charges. As part of the report highlights the amount of electricity used, these kind of problems only go to question the validity of the report.

Is there anything positive?

However, it wasn’t all bad news, the report did include some great statistics about usage that weren’t always picked up by the other news outlets. In comparing August 2013 to August 2014 there was a 366% increase in the number of recorded charging sessions, a 304% increase in the number of different users accessing the network and the number of electric cars registered in Scotland had increased nearly 120%.


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  • vdiv

    There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. I use these points all the time! ;)nnThere is nothing like waiving a flawed data set in people’s faces and making decisions based on it with detrimental consequences.

  • Martin

    Still quite a way to go before the network of rapid chargers is built out to the stage that you could plan a long trip in Scotland. I think the motorway network in England and to Glasgow is better but not robust enough to convince me to try a long distance trip in a BEV so I’m still driving a PHEV

  • jeffsongster

    Seems like you could probably trace this to a press release from some big oil firm. Distorting truth to grab more subsidies and profits from government is their stock in trade. The last thing they want is for us to be energy independent.