Why has the number of electric vehicle charging points in Greater Manchester fallen and then risen again?

Government figures for the past couple of years show the number of charging points in the city region going down and then up again.

Electric vehicles are often regarded as a key part of a greener transport future, but that puts the spotlight on the infrastructure required to charge them up.

And Government figures for the past couple of years show something rather curious about the number of places to charge up available to the public across Greater Manchester.

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Quarterly figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) showed the number of charging devices available in the city-region fell throughout 2020 and reached a low point of fewer than 400 in January 2021 before climbing again throughout the year.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has now explained why this is and said numbers of charging points should continue to go up, after a leading business organisation queried if the city-region was going in the right direction.

How many electric vehicle charging points are there in Greater Manchester?

The DfT statistics showed that as of October 2021 there were 447 charging devices of all speeds available to the public for use by electric vehicles (EVs).

The number has climbed with each quarter in 2021 from January when there were 395.

In July 2020, there were more than 500 charging devices available for people to use, with 509 in total.

One of the FSB's proposals is focused on helping deliver necessary zero-emissions-vehicle charging infrastructure by 2030. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

That means that there are still fewer charging devices available now than there were 18 months ago.

Of the 10 boroughs Manchester had most EV devices available in October 2021, with 112, followed by Salford where there were 76.

What is behind the data?

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) said that the creation of the Be.EV infrastructure network for electric vehicles in the summer of 2020 involved upgrading and rebranding the charging devices.

That meant some of them were decommissioned because they were not used very much or removed from the numbers as they were no longer available to the public.

TfGM says making it easier to run an electric vehicle is an important part of its long-term aims.

What has been said about EV charging devices?

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) expressed concern about the fall in the number of devices available to January 2021, saying that if firms were going to get electric vehicles in the future there would need to be more places to charge them or they would need to shell out some £20,000 for rapid charging stations themselves.

Robert Downes, FSB development manager for Greater Manchester, said: “We need massive investment in this type of infrastructure before most businesses can even consider the jump to electric.”

TfGM said Government deadlines for removing new cars running on fossil fuels for sale and the urgency of taking environmental action to combat climate change both meant increasing the roll-out of charging devices is a priority and more will be coming.

A TfGM spokesperson said: “Supporting the switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is a crucial part of Greater Manchester’s ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2038.

“Our recently approved Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Strategy sets out a clear expansion plan to accelerate the roll out of charging points across the city-region.

“The demand for EV charging infrastructure is even more pressing, given the Government’s commitment to phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

“With interest and investment from the private sector increasing, TfGM and Greater Manchester authorities are committed to supporting and strengthening this activity, with additional public EV charging points opening each month for both public use and for taxis and private hire vehicles.

“In addition, we’re exploring the potential installation of more points in residential areas where home charging is more challenging.

“While public sector intervention is required in the short term to encourage and accelerate the transition to EVs, we will be collaborating and working with the commercial and private sector in the long term to enable more people to transition to cleaner, less polluting vehicles.”