The Rise of the UK’s Electric Highways


Electric Highways are reinventing the way that we use our roads, and they’re helping electric powered cars really rival their petrol and diesel counterparts for the first time. But, what are Electric Highways and how are they revolutionising the way we drive?

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), by the end of June, the number of plug-in electric cars in Britain had reached 10,255. To coincide with this, the use of Electric Highways has quadrupled over the course of the past three quarters, according to Ecotricity, the company responsible for running it. Of course, at present, the Electric Highway system is still in its infancy, and the numbers still remain relatively low (in the grand scheme of things) as a result.


The data released shows us that 15,152 cars used the network in the second quarter of 2014, a massive increase from the 4,080 in the final quarter of last year (a 271% rise). The figures, as you would expect, coincide with a growing trend in the wider UK car market, with plug-in car registrations continuing to rise sharply.

Period Number of charges % change on Q1 Energy used % change on Q1
Oct-Nov 2013 4,080 _ 28,753 kWh _
Jan-Mar 2014 8,891 +118% 65,025 kWh +126%
Apr-Jun 2014 15,152 +271% 121,670 kWh +323%

Data sourced from Ecotricity.

Overall, the Electric Highway now spans just over 90% of all of the UK’s motorway service stations and there are 170 charging points up and down the land. Over the course of the past year, recycled electricity has been used to the extent that the network has provided over 1,000,000 miles of electric driving… all for free!

The question now remains: just how far can the Electric Highways go, and to what extent will they continue to grow? Many motorists still have their reservations about electrics cars because they are wary of how much charge they can hold. As motoring shows such as Top Gear continue to criticise – and even at times mock – the electric car, it seems as though there is a level of taboo to break through.

Top Gear’s electric car

However, there is no doubt whatsoever that the technology behind electric cars is improving massively (even though it is still far from perfect). Nowadays, rapid chargers at service stations can charge a car by 80% in half an hour. Perfect considering that this is probably around the length of any service station stop, allowing both the driver and the car to refuel in a very limited time. That’s barely the time it takes to drink a Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbucks.


As well as the time taken to charge a car, many motorists still won’t opt for an electric car because of a lack of available chargers. The Electric Highway, however, is rapidly turning the tide, and its 170 charging points now allow electric cars to travel the length and breadth of the country. This is starting to end cautiousness in some ranks (also known as “range weariness”) and is causing the sales of electric cars to slowly rise. So, how far can this ‘electric revolution’ go?


Well, over the last year alone, over 500,000 miles were covered by electric cars in Britain. This number may seem a little insignificant, but it is a huge rise on previous years, and it clearly surpassed many estimates. Alongside this, the UK Government has announced a new initiative that will incentivise electric vehicle purchases in Britain, making electric vehicles more affordable (and practical) than ever before.

Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity and the Electric Highway, said: “It’s still early days for electric cars in Britain. There has been a bit of a chicken and eggs situation – the lack of charging infrastructure put people off buying electric cars, but the infrastructure wasn’t being built because there weren’t enough vehicles on the road.


“The Electric Highway has addressed the infrastructure gap. Car manufacturers are producing exciting new models, increasing choice. And as we have seen over the last week, Government support for the sector is continuing. Those three things are all pulling in the same direction, meaning it’s an exciting time for the electric car market.”

Here at AA Cars, we have a number of electric cars available, as well as a number of hybrids for those who are either eco-conscious or not quite ready to take the plunge. The only question now remains:  what’s stopping you from going electric?

To see a video of the world’s fastest electric car, click here.



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