PHILIP RAINEY: Gear change in Northern Ireland’s EV charging provision

Northern Ireland still – and by some distance – has the greatest scarcity of EV chargers
Northern Ireland still – and by some distance – has the greatest scarcity of EV chargers

WHAT a difference a year makes. Following the formation of Weev in 2022, we have witnessed huge strides in the provision of rapid charging infrastructure for the ever-growing EV driving community.

Testament to the industry, the latest government figures show that, in the past three months, Northern Ireland has recorded the greatest growth in availability of the fastest category of electric vehicle (EV) charging points than any other part of the UK.

It’s a privilege to play our part and as the latest official statistics show, significant inroads are already being made.

Published last week, the Department for Transport’s most recent quarterly update on the number of charging devices available to the public showed an incredible 54.1 per cent increase in rapid (between 25kW and 100kW) or ultra-rapid (over 100kW) chargers in Northern Ireland in the three months to June.

The percentage increase in total public chargers, including those of less than 25kW, at 11.3 per cent, also outpaced the UK as a whole.

Let’s not get carried away, the region still – and by some distance – has the greatest scarcity of chargers, but that is exactly what we set up to address.

To put it into perspective, there are just three rapid or quicker charging devices per 100,000 population here compared to over 19 per 100,000 in Scotland (the best performing region).

It’s a problem we’re focused on fixing with recent installations including the ultra-rapid hub at McGuckian Milling Company in Co Antrim, providing rapid chargers in areas where they’ve never been before.

The recent announcement of a £50 million commitment by Octopus Investments to accelerate our roll out plans also has a specific aim to ramp up the number of rapid and ultra-rapid charging hubs across Northern Ireland.

But public charging is only part of the solution. Increasingly, businesses are seeking to install EV chargers on their own premises for staff and to service electrified fleets in a bid to save on operating costs and improve sustainability.

Over the coming years, we plan to instal thousands of charging points in public locations, workplaces, residential developments and beyond – wherever there is need.

The rate of infrastructure growth is picking up pace, as shown in the official figures, but there remains significant need to increase the pace further still especially with the exponential rise in demand as people and business make the switch to EV.

As our efforts are showing, the private sector has stepped up to the mark, making a huge impact and we’re still only getting started.

To truly transform the EV infrastructure will take a wholly collective approach. Suppliers, charge point operators and investors have incredible ambitions but these can only be fully realised working alongside government, policy makers, planners and utility providers.

Together, we can create the conditions to enable the smooth drive to net zero.

:: Philip Rainey is chief executive of Weev