Essex local authorities need to draw on their impressive networking capabilities to improve the county’s poor electric vehicle uptake, which is among the worst in the country, according to new research.

The comments from New AutoMotive, a transport research group, comes amid figures showing Essex had an uptake rate of just six percent in July.

They shared second bottom of the table ranking with Lancashire of the worst uptake of fully electric cars in the UK. Only Northern Ireland has a worse rate. However, hybrid car take up is strong in Essex.

The drive towards electric vehicles is among the key factors in determining whether Essex and ultimately the UK can meet its net zero commitments by 2050.

The Essex Climate Change Commission has set out its own goals that Essex should meet by then – including replacing every single gas boiler with a hydrogen model.

But with transport responsible for 27 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that travel is decarbonised if Essex meets the UK’s climate commitments.

Congestion on Essex roads is an “environmental disaster”, the commission has said, and economically is costing local businesses billions.

In 2017, more than £37.7bn in the UK was lost, directly and indirectly, through traffic congestion. This amounts to an average of £1,168 per driver.

The commission believes that for a county like Essex, with landscape that is 72 percent rural, to shift away from fossil fuelled engines presents specific challenges.

Petrol cars in the county make up about 56 percent of new sales.

Ben Nelmes, Head of Policy and Research at New AutoMotive, said the low uptake could be to do with large distances people are travelling.

He said: “I would imagine it would largely be that the places where we see high take up are places where the distances people drive are very low – London for example.

“So one thing is to get the infrastructure right and it is good to see Essex County Council is making electric vehicle infrastructure a priority.

“The other thing is that in places where there is high level of uptake we often see local authorities have gone out of their way to promote the benefits of electric vehicle ownership.

“If there was one bit I think that Essex County Council could add to their plan – though largely it looks good – is they should try to work with local car dealerships in Essex and do that public information piece so people can have it explained the benefits of EV ownership.”

While seeing low uptake of fully electric cars, Essex is seeing some of the strongest sales nationally of hybrid.

Mr Nelmes said that not having good charging coverage everywhere will also hinder EV uptake everywhere, even if a particular authority has good infrastructure in place.

He added: “Local authorities need to make decisions based around the evidence where charge points need to go. There is nothing worse with a charging network that is huge but is in all in the wrong places.”

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “Essex County Council has taken a proactive approach to promoting greater public uptake of electric vehicles.

“In partnership with energy firm Electric Blue, we have installed four new electric charging points at the Sandon and Chelmer Valley Park and Ride sites at no cost to taxpayers with drivers able to pay using a mobile app.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Gridserve's first UK Electric Forecourt opened adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131Gridserve's first UK Electric Forecourt opened adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131 (Image: ©Giles Christopher)

“In 2019 Innovate UK awarded Essex County Council, GRIDSERVE, Brunel University and Upside Energy £5.3m to develop and deliver UK’s first Electric Forecourt on the A120 just past Braintree.

“The Forecourt, which includes 24 electric charging bays, on-site battery storage and a solar powered canopy, opened in December 2020.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Gridserve has opened the UK's first Electric Forecourt adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131Gridserve has opened the UK's first Electric Forecourt adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131 (Image: Gridserve)

“The project means we can support community engagement, awareness and education, as well as promote a low-carbon agenda and electric vehicle ownership across the region.

“We have also helped promote the DfT’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), a scheme which provides up to £350 towards a home electric vehicle chargepoint and the Workplace Charging Scheme for small and medium sized businesses and the charity sector.”


Braintree council installs further electric vehicle charging points

Further electric vehicle charging points to be installed

First Electric Forecourt in the UK opens in Great Notley