There are currently only about 800 publicly accessible charging posts dotted across the region, but that number will need to increase to as many as 28,000 in the coming years.
Serious concerns have been raised over whether that 35-fold uplift can be delivered in time – and whether the North East’s power grid can handle it.
But with the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles set to be banned in the UK from 2030, with hybrid vehicles to follow in 2035, the demand for electric cars is expected to accelerate rapidly.
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According to a report for the North East Joint Transport Committee (JTC) between 64% and 74% of cars and vans are expected to require some form of charging infrastructure by 2035, equating to approximately 800,000 vehicles across Tyne and Wear, County Durham, and Northumberland.
The document states that the North East currently has just 2% of the fast-charging infrastructure needed to support the predicted 2035 demand, and barely a tenth of the ultra-rapid charging posts needed by that date.
Richard Wearmouth, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, has questioned whether Northern Powergrid would be able to handle the “huge amount of additional electricity” needed.
He told this month’s (Tuesday, March 15) JTC meeting: “I strongly suggest politicians [start] pressing Northern Powergrid to make sure they are prepared for this, because I bet you anything that they aren’t.
“I have no confidence that they will be able to deliver it without significant investment on their side.”
The committee agreed to approve a new North East Zero Emission Vehicle Policy, aiming to boost the uptake of environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said: “In the future whenever people travel by car or van, we want that vehicle to be electric. For that to happen people must have confidence that they can charge up throughout the North East – whether they are driving in a city or whether they are in remote rural areas.”
Paul Glendinning, Northern Powergrid’s director of policy and markets, said the company’s latest business plan includes more than £3bn of investment by 2028 to enable decarbonisation.
He added: “This business plan has been informed by our Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES), which looks at how low carbon technologies, like EVs and heat pumps, are expected to grow in our region so we can invest in our network to support this growth in the coming years and decades.
"As part of our DFES, we ask local authorities to share their plans and we have also provided input into Northumberland County Council’s own plans.
"We remain committed to working with our local authority partners and we would be pleased to speak directly with Coun Wearmouth to talk through our plans in more detail.
“We have already encouraged local authorities, other key stakeholders and domestic customers who are planning EV connections to use our free AutoDesign tool which can help them identify the best location to install EV chargers.
"Using real-world network data, it can help customers quickly find the most viable and cost-effective connection solution to our network.”