Northumberland has the fifth highest number of electric vehicle charging points of all the UK’s local-authority areas.
And even when you look at the rate of charging points per 1,000 electric vehicles licensed, the county’s figure is still comfortably in the top 20 per cent of council areas nationally.
The Government’s vision is to have one of the best infrastructure networks in the world for electric vehicles, but figures from the BBC Shared Data Unit reveal that 137 (42.8%) of the 320 local authorities in England have 10 or fewer different charging locations.
Out of 385 councils in the UK, more than a third (153 or 40%) have 10 or fewer charging locations, more than two-thirds (266 or 69%) have 20 or fewer and just three have more than 100 different charging locations – Milton Keynes (138), Westminster (131) and Cornwall (115).
But Northumberland is not far behind in fifth place, with 84 different charging locations available for users of electric vehicles across the county. As of the third quarter of 2018, there were 641 licensed electric vehicles, which means a rate of 131 charging locations per 1,000 licensed vehicles.
And on this measure, Northumberland’s neighbouring authorities in the North East also fare well with Newcastle, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham all also in the top 20 per cent of UK local authorities.
North Tyneside’s rate of 75.4 leaves it outside the top fifth but still above the national average, while Middlesbrough is in the top 10 with a rate of 245.3.
The data also shows the rapid growth in popularity of electric vehicles this decade – and Northumberland is no different.
The county had just 30 licensed electric vehicles in the last quarter of 2011 and, by quarter two of 2013, this had only risen to 37, which equates to growth of 2,037 per cent and 1,632 per cent respectively from those points up to last year.
The analysis also looked at the average distance between charging locations and given Northumberland’s vast size and sparsity, it is not surprising that the county is also in the top 20 per cent of local authorities – and above the national average – for the highest mean distance between points.
However, due to its high number of locations, its average of 2.93km between points is far from the worst, with 64 council areas having longer distances.
Only 17 local authorities have more than a 5km mean distance to drive to reach a charging station (excluding those with only one location and those made up of islands), while the top three are Craven (10.33km), West Somerset (8.55km), and Ryedale (7.96km).
On average, drivers in Wales have the furthest to travel between charging points – approximately 2.83km. This is followed by Scotland (1.80km), Northern Ireland (1.58km) and England (1.72km).
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “As a council, we’re always looking to make the most of future technologies and we’re pleased to be recognised as one of the UK’s best-performing counties.
“We’ve made significant investment in electric vehicle charging points in recent years and will continue to do so as the number and use of electric vehicles rises.”
Reflecting on the national picture, Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of roads policy, said: “These findings show that despite the Government’s ambitions to accelerate the take-up of cleaner vehicles, charging infrastructure is presently something of a postcode lottery, and patchy at best in some parts of the country.
“RAC research has found the lack of charging infrastructure is one of the three main barriers for electric vehicle take-up, along with range anxiety and high upfront vehicle costs.
“Clearly, we need to improve this access to charge points as a whole, but special attention needs to be given to installing more rapid chargers on the strategic road network as well as adding charging capability at car parks where people spend longer periods, such as at shopping and leisure centre car parks.
“We’d also like to see local authorities work more closely with the Government to find on-street charging solutions. The key is to give drivers the confidence to go electric, which will not happen quickly unless they are given the right incentives to do so, alongside easy access to reliable charging infrastructure.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service