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Charging Towards Productivity: Moving Past the Bump in the Road?

Executive Summary

The UK government seeks to decarbonize transport to achieve net zero targets and inspire green growth. Key to achieving this aim is the development of a digitally-enabled infrastructure of public chargepoints to ensure that drivers can refuel their electric vehicles. In the UK, great hopes to be a leader in net zero mobility appear to be hitting a road bump.

Government has set a target to ban the sale of new internal combustion engine cars by 2035. This is a set back from the previous ban by 2030. The creation of a new industry and market for both the electric vehicles and the requisite charging infrastructure incurs high levels of uncertainty. The lack of joined-up thinking within government and consistent funding for local authorities have exacerbated pressures. Besides, there has been hesitancy and sometimes outright rejection from communities that do not want the charging infrastructure on their streets.

The deployment of net zero infrastructure fosters the growth of a green economy, which is essential for safeguarding the natural environment and creating avenues for ongoing business development and investment. Without a well-developed infrastructure across England, spatial inequalities already present could be exacerbated due to limited mobility and the ability to engage with the transition and the promise it offers for healthier communities and reduced vehicle costs. Access to residential charging for those unable to charge at home may be particularly important to ensure that this transition does not solely support some segments of society only.

Research conducted by The Productivity Institute has identified significant challenges that impede the deployment of charging infrastructure for individuals without access to home charging. The findings demonstrate that the sector has gained valuable insights which show that England can catalyse key enablers to provide a smoother transition to net zero mobility.

The research identified three key issues that constrain the deployment of on-street charging infrastructure, as a way to capitalise on the opportunity to build novel infrastructure leading to improved productivity.

Key Issues

  • Pocketed investment reinforces inequalities. The central government’s competitive funding approach for public chargepoint installation favoured local authorities with the capacity for high levels of reputational and financial risk, creating a cumulative advantage that resulted in a widening gap in access to public chargepoints compared to less advantaged authorities.
  • A ‘private-sector-first’ policy approach has crowded out local government. The government’s emphasis on private sector involvement in public chargepoint infrastructure overlooks the importance of subnational governance and local authority expertise, resulting in the ‘crowding out’ of local government agency and unnecessarily complex collaborations, ultimately compromising the potential for a nationally sustainable infrastructure.
  • Race to market domination versus participation in governance. Chargepoint companies, striving for market dominance and encouraging EV adoption, grapple with conflicting temporal priorities with local authorities, who must address current resident needs while considering future solutions.

These challenges hinder deployment of on-street chargepoints and productive green economy growth but are not insurmountable.

The Way Forward

Central government is uniquely positioned to advance and support the development of on-street charging infrastructure by applying three levers that can improve conditions:

  • Provide equivalent earmarked funding for all local authorities. Local authorities would benefit from dedicated, consistent, long-term funds specifically designed for chargepoint infrastructure, ensuring equal opportunities for all to develop and capitalize on the associated benefits.
  • Clarify responsibilities and streamline processes. The fragmented implementation and regulation of public charging infrastructure results in significant regional variation. To overcome this, the government should collaborate with local authorities and chargepoint companies to establish clear responsibilities and streamline regulatory frameworks for equal access during the scaled-up rollout across regions.
  • Ensure community engagement in the net-zero agenda. Local authorities, tasked with implementing the government’s net-zero mandate, face challenges from community scepticism about the transition to electric mobility, emphasizing the need for a cohesive government strategy, skills agenda, and effective communication to address concerns and facilitate the deployment of new charging infrastructure.

These three actions – providing consistent funding, clearer coordination and streamlined responsibilities, and ensuring public engagement – could pave the way for the transition to net-zero mobility enabling a more inclusive and productive green economy growth.


  • Transitions




B. Regal, D. Grimshaw, M. Miozzo, J. Pinkse (2024) Charging Towards Productivity: Moving Past the Bump in the Road? Productivity Insights Paper No. 029, The Productivity Institute.