UK’s EV Transition Faces Phone Signal Challenge

A recent study by the RAC Foundation has revealed that patchy phone signals could potentially hinder battery electric vehicle (BEV) adoption in the United Kingdom. According to the study, poor phone signals in the country could make it difficult for electric vehicle drivers to use up to one-third of the most common public EV chargers in the UK.

The RAC Foundation noted that this poor connectivity could potentially “undermine” the public’s confidence in EV charging infrastructure. Unfortunately, the public is already wary of public EV chargers because they are too insufficient to support the nation’s growing number of electric cars and tend to experience reliability issues.

For EV drivers who can’t afford to install private home chargers or don’t have a garage or driveway to host the charger, public-charging infrastructure is one of the only ways they can keep their EVs charged. Most of the EV charging stations in the UK typically require drivers to download and use applications to operate the chargers.

However, the RAC Foundation’s research found that 66% of Type-2 chargers in the UK (excluding London) are located in places where at least one mobile network provider doesn’t offer usable 4G network coverage. This is despite the fact that most level-2 public electric-vehicle chargers in the country cannot function without a high-quality mobile connection and have to be accessed via mobile apps.

The foundation’s report warned that drivers will continue to face the risk of being unable to charge their electric cars if all four mobile network providers in the UK — O2, EE, Vodafone and Three — don’t provide enough network coverage where public EV charging infrastructure is located. Since EV charging typically takes longer and involves more hassle compared to fueling internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, this issue could potentially dissuade more drivers from switching to EVs.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding notes that the millions of petrol and diesel-powered vehicle drivers in the UK can easily and quickly fill up their cars at any of the more than 8,000 stations in the country. Unfortunately, BEV drivers don’t enjoy the same convenience, Gooding said.

In this case, poor connectivity might lead EV drivers to the false assumption that the EV charger itself is faulty, reducing the public’s already low confidence in public electric-vehicle charging infrastructure. This could, in turn, exacerbate range anxiety, an issue that has prevented many drivers from ditching their internal combustion engine cars in favor of battery electric vehicles. Gooding adds that the UK government’s novel mandatory reporting system won’t pick up on the poor connectivity issues plaguing the country’s network of type-2 chargers because it will only deal with the rapid-charging network.

Authorities in the UK need to take steps to address concerns about phone signal reliability so that motorists have greater interest in not just UK-made EV models but also those from overseas, such as electric vehicles made by QuantumScape Corp. (NYSE: QS).

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