THE North East is “lagging behind massively” in the push to get thousands more electric vehicle (EV) charging points installed across the region.

Serious concerns have been aired about whether transport bosses can hit a target of having up to 28,000 publicly accessible chargers spread across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham in the coming years.

Latest figures showed that there are currently only 846 such charging devices at 403 different locations around the region, but officials expect there to be a huge spike in demand over the coming years – with the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles to be banned from 2030.

North East leaders say, under an ambitious EV strategy published in 2022, they want to help create a reliable public charging network everywhere it is needed.

But councillors were warned on Thursday morning that the push to get people to switch to cleaner vehicles faced a number of difficulties – including charging points being faulty, anxiety about how far vehicles can travel and the financial cost of EVs.

Newcastle councillor Thom Campion told a North East Joint Transport Committee scrutiny panel that he was “really, really concerned” about the region’s ability to make vast improvements by 2030.

The Liberal Democrat said: “We are lagging behind massively compared to other similar authorities across England and Scotland and to only be talking about our strategy now is really concerning.

“2030 is just 77 months away – if you want to hit 28,000 then that is installing 364 a month. I do not think that there is the capacity to be able to do that right now.

“In terms of funding, the estimation of how much it would cost to install those 28,000 is around £154m. At the moment, NECA has about £40m set aside for this – including the charging of buses too, not just cars.  

“That is some gap between what we think we are going to need and what we have set aside to deliver it. I am concerned that the private sector is not going to be able to fill that £114m potential gap, and with inflationary costs it could be significantly higher.”

According to EV charging point locator Zapmap, the North East has fewer devices than any other English region.

Its data shows that there are 1,550 in the wider North East region, compared to 2,557 in Yorkshire and the Humber, 2,964 in the North West, and a huge 13,382 in London.

Transport North East managing director admitted that it was “perfectly valid” to say that the North East is behind the curve, but added: “But, through this strategy and some of the other actions and work that the council are doing, we hope that we will be in a much better position to accelerate and deliver what we need to.”

Transport North East’s Rachelle Forsyth-Ward told the scrutiny committee that the 28,000 target could be reduced depending on advances in technology.

She added: “As technology develops and you can travel further, people will need to charge less. You may need to charge every day at the moment, but if you buy a vehicle that can travel 200 miles then you might need to only charge it once a week.”

The North East has been awarded £15.8m from the Government’s Local EV Infrastructure Fund to help install more chargers, plus an extra £1m to increase staffing and apprenticeship levels.

Between 64 per cent and 74 per cent 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.

Data from last year showed that the North East had just two per cent of the fast-charging infrastructure required to support the expected 2035 demand, and 12 per cent of the ultra-rapid charging posts needed by that date.