Caravan parks ‘cannot cope’ with growing number of electric cars

  • by David Harvey
  • Business correspondent, BBC West


The current layout is a charging point for 300 homes in the caravan park

Holiday park owners have warned the government that they will not be able to cope with the growing number of electric cars.

A Somerset park is home to a thousand static caravans, but only has three electric charging points.

The owner has been told that National Grid can only support a few more, leaving most electric car drivers unable to recharge on site.

Alan House said: “The reality is that it just won’t work in a holiday park.”


Alan House said the Grid would not be able to cope with the massive load on a caravan park site

Mr. House’s Holiday Park began in simpler times.

His grandfather ran a dairy farm near Brean Sands, just south of Weston-super-Mare.

In 1948 a local Scout group asked if they could camp on their land and Bert said yes.

Seventy years later, Unity Resort is home to 1,000 static caravans, 500 touring van pitches, camping pitches and luxury accommodation.

There is a golf course, a theme park with roller coasters, soft games for the kids, the works.

And each caravan can be connected to electricity for lights, heating and the appliances of modern life.


Connecting each caravan at Unity Resort would be quite a task

The main difference is that electric cars are much hungrier.

Installing hundreds of charging points would be a huge job, House said.

“I would have to dig up the whole park, lay big new cables.

“Supply to the site from the grid would have to quadruple, if not more.

“And the holiday parks are in remote areas, at the end of the line.

“That’s why people come. The network couldn’t handle it.”

The holiday park industry is lobbying the government to get serious about charging in remote areas.

Martin Cox chairs the Holiday Parks and Homes Association. His park is on the Dorset coast, near Bridport.

He has six chargers for 500 vans and he’s been told that’s his limit.

“In our area there aren’t many places to charge an electric car.

“So instead of having fun and visiting the local attractions, they’ll be driving around trying to find a charger.”

Cox likens the challenge of electric car chargers to the battle for rural broadband.

For years Dorset and Somerset were locked out of high-speed broadband networks because the resident population was small.

Similarly, there are fewer high-speed electric charging points in these remote areas.

He said: “The government will have to invest in charging networks in our area.”

They are making some progress. Dorset recently received £1m funding from a government scheme aimed at improving electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

But other people argue that there’s no reason caravan parks should provide electric car chargers.

After all, even a thoroughly modern site like Mr. House doesn’t have a gas station on site.


Some people argue that there is no need for caravan parks to offer refills when the forecourts are designed for that purpose.

Simon Williams campaigns on electric car issues for the RAC.

He said: “People should go to an electric concourse, like a gas station, and recharge quickly there.”

He takes me to the kind of place he wants to see more of.

A line of eight modern chargers, all super fast, offering 150 kilowatts.

In simple terms, you can add 100 miles to your range in about 15 minutes.

Today, there are 38,942 porters in Britain. Of these, 7,426 are classified as fast or ultra-fast, like the ones Mr. Williams shows me.

If the rollout goes ahead, tourists will use them and not worry about charging at the caravan sites.

But there is a downside. Fast charging is expensive.

The RAC investigation found that electric motorists pay 75p/kWh on fast chargers. That compares to just 34p plugging in at home.

And, importantly, 75p/kWh makes electric driving more expensive than petrol.

Compared to a petrol car running at 45 mpg, 75p/kWh electricity is equivalent to paying £2.30 per liter for petrol.

“The price has to come down,” Williams argues, “or we’re going to discourage people from switching to electric cars.”

The RAC has joined other electric motoring activists calling for government action.


Mel Shufflebotham runs ZapMap which maps charging points across the UK

In Bristol, a new tech company has mapped the UK’s charging network.

They call it ZapMap and it allows drivers to find a charger, see if it works and is available, and what price it charges.

Mel Shufflebotham runs ZapMap and is pushing for a reduction in VAT for public chargers.

“If you charge at home, you pay 5% VAT on electricity,” he said.

“But you charge on the road in a place like this, and you pay 20%. We want them to equal 5%.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will announce his 2023 budget on Wednesday, March 15.

If there is a VAT cut like this, it will be welcomed by electric car campaigners, but it would be a big surprise.


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