Forum Focus: Ian Johnston on speeding up deployment of EV infrastructure

As the founding Chairman of ChargeUK, Ian Johnston, Chief Executive of Osprey Charging Network knows a thing or two about collaboration and implementing networks at pace. We caught up with him during the Transport + Energy Forum at the end of last year, to get his thoughts on how 2023 had shaped up and asked him to look forward towards 2024. 

With the Forum’s overarching theme covering how the transport end energy sectors can work further and faster, Johnston conveyed his motivation for decarbonisation, expressing how frustrating the pace of implementation can be, despite having all the tools:

“We’ve got all the solutions we need. We’ve got the expertise in how to deliver infrastructure for electric transport that people need and want. We’ve got the capital – there’s over £6bn of private money invested in the public charging space in the UK and there’s consumer demand, we just need to get more of it delivered in 2024.

“There have been so many learnings, we know exactly how to do this. We’ve got the cash, we’ve got the tech, so we just need to work together now with good operators: with the government, with the planners to get more and more built, as soon as we can.”

Demonstrating the rate at which networks can be commissioned, Johnston explained that Osprey moved at an astonishing pace in 2023:

“We started the year with 394 chargers – that was four and half years’ work – and during the year we’ve built nearly 600. We’ve more than doubled the size of the network in the first ten months of the year and we’re going to go at the same pace next year. There will be 1,000 chargers in the ground by Christmas, with another 600 planned for 2024.

“With the rate of growth we’re seeing across the UK, Osprey is certainly playing its part, not only with the volume of charging, to show people there is infrastructure everywhere, but also that it’s easy to use for all those people we’re trying to convince that now is the time to make the switch.”

Johnston commented on the importance of learning from others as we move through the transition:

“There is a highly competitive market, which is great for consumers, great for EV drivers, but once we have secured all the various contracts we’ve competed for, we must ensure that we are all aligned and that we then spend all our time and energy on solving the issues with the grid connection system, the planning and working with government to get the money to flow quicker.”

One of the primary objectives of the Transport + Energy Forum is to encourage collaboration, which paid off for Johnston, with a direct result:

“Events like today are great because you get the charging networks to sit together to say ‘this is what we’re focused on’ and then half an hour later, the grid guys can say ‘right, this is what we’re focused on’. What happens is, as soon as we leave stage and they leave stage, we can run up and talk to the right people to say ‘OK, great, we’ve heard you, this is what we need to do’. And already today after this morning’s session, we agreed a big meeting with National Grid to get the charging guys in a room together to talk to the very top of these companies about what we can change tomorrow to speed up the rate of deployment.”

Watch the full interview below:

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