THE Government has launched a major consultation to resolve the greatest barrier to the purchase of electric vehicles – the availability, reliability and complexity of the charging infrastructure.
The consultation will be looking to set out baseline expectations to improve consumer experience when using the charging network. The Government is proposing interventions in four areas:
quick payment process
There will also be workshops to engage with industry and consumer groups to evolve the policy options for each of the areas above to reduce the burden and costs while best meeting consumer needs. Parliamentary time allowing, the intention is to bring in the necessary regulation following this consultation in autumn 2021.
The consultation period began on 13 February and will run until 10 April 2021 and can be accessed via an online form. There will be consultation workshops running throughout the period. Anyone interested in attending these events should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is considerable evidence of a move towards consumers adopting EVs. In a pan-European study, EVBox released the findings of its inaugural Mobility Monitor report showed that majority of UK citizens are considering investing in an EV with climate change being one of the main reasons for this change.
The study, conducted alongside Ipsos and including responses from over 3,600 European citizens across six countries—UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and Norway, also found that charging possibilities and price perception remain biggest obstacles among potential EV purchasers.
The study also revealed Governmental policies and tax credits have the power to turn potential EV drivers, into actual ones. In the UK, 81 percent of people considering investing in an EV think the government should prioritise policies that protect the environment. A solid majority of potential EV drivers (69 percent) strongly support tax credits to purchase an electric or hybrid vehicle.
Charging possibilities and EV price perception remain the biggest obstacles In the UK, along with five other countries surveyed. The two main barriers to not going electric are the uncertainty of the availability of publicly accessible charging stations and the perception that EVs are still relatively expensive.
Responding to this, the Government announced this month (February) that small businesses and those in leasehold and rented accommodation are set to benefit from up to £50 million to install electric vehicle chargepoints.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), which provides up to £350 towards a chargepoint, will continue through 2022 and be expanded to target people in rented and leasehold accommodation.
At the same time, the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) will be opened up to small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and the charity sector, providing a boost as staff return to work. The changes will also mean that small accommodation businesses, such as B&Bs can benefit from the funding, boosting rural areas, and tackling the ‘range anxiety’ associated with long journeys.
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair, Mike Cherry, said: “It’s great to see the Department for Transport putting businesses front and centre as part of the UK’s mission to achieve net-zero by 2050.
Small businesses want to play a critical role in helping the UK reach its green targets, and electric vehicles are the future. That’s why this is important news for the nation, particularly rural areas which are often left behind.”
The Prime Minister announced in November 2020 a commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, with all new cars and vans required to have a significant zero-emissions capability (for example, plug-in and full hybrids) from 2030 and be 100% zero emissions from 2035.
To support the transition to EVs, the government committed £2.8 billion, with grants available for plug-in cars, vans, lorries, buses, taxis and motorcycles, as well as funding to support chargepoint infrastructure at homes and workplaces, on residential streets, and across the wider roads network. The provision of chargepoints is being increased along the strategic road network through the Rapid Charging Fund.
The investment follows £20 million in funding announced for councils to improve the on-street charging infrastructure in their local areas, and is part of a suite of measures the government is taking to accelerate electric vehicle uptake and decarbonise transport.
“We know high consumer confidence in charging infrastructure is crucial to securing the market transition at pace and ensuring a modern, innovative market that attracts investment. We’re building on the positive steps from industry to encourage the uptake of EVs through a better consumer experience at the public network,” according to the Government’s consultation documentation.
This consultation reflects ambitions for the EV sector to:
build confidence in the market
build up the demand for EVs
open opportunities for innovation and market investment
“We need to ensure this emerging market can continue to innovate and grow while providing an excellent consumer experience. Therefore, any new regulation must be proportionate and appropriate. This consultation sets out our baseline expectations to improve consumer experience when using the charging network.”
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is conducting a forward-looking market study to help develop competition as the sector grows. This study is also looking at consumer interaction, including building consumer trust, pricing and access to a reliable charging infrastructure. The Government will be working alongside the CMA to ensure alignment in considering these and related issues.
The Charging Experience And Vision
The EV chargepoint market has grown rapidly during the past 10 years. In this time, there have been considerable market development and growing breadth of consumer offers such as payment apps covering multiple chargepoint networks and private bodies providing availability data. However, consumers too often report frustrations over unnecessary complexity when using public charging infrastructure. This is detrimental not just to the charging experience but to encouraging faster take-up of EVs by other consumers.
Consumers should be able to access a range of software solutions providing them with comprehensive and accurate chargepoint data that enables them to locate and access chargepoints with ease. Currently, chargepoint operators (CPOs) only display static information such as location and power rating related to their network on their apps.
More comprehensive private-sector led solutions are emerging such as Zap-Map’s platform and its provision of location and ‘live’ availability chargepoint data. However, this data is not openly available and lack of mandated data provision standards means that chargepoint data can be incomprehensive and inaccurate, leading to a poor consumer experience.
Comparing Costs Of Charging
The Government wants consumers to be able to easily compare the cost of charging between different networks, helping drive competition and bring down prices. Evidence suggests that consumers are confused by a lack of comparability of pricing information at either public chargepoints or through other means (for example, smartphone apps).
Electricity drawn from public chargepoints by EVs is currently priced using a range of different metrics. This creates confusion for EV drivers and a lack of comparability of pricing information between different chargepoint networks.
The Government is proposing to mandate CPOs to adopt a p/kWh metric for a unit of electricity sold under both subscription and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) models. CPOs will have the flexibility on how they display pricing, consumption and cost information to the customer in a clear and easily accessible manner.
Charging The Vehicle
Public chargepoint reliability is improving. Analysis shows that in August 2019 around 8% of public chargepoints were out of service, a decrease from 15% in 2017; however, further improvements are required to drive consumer confidence.
Chargepoints being out of order undermines consumer confidence in the public chargepoint network and can put people’s safety at risk if they are left stranded and unable to charge their vehicle.
The Government is proposing that CPOs must meet a minimum 99% availability standard as an average across its entire fleet of chargepoints. It expects industry to work with us to identify an effective approach to monitor reliability. It is also proposing that CPOs must provide a 24/7 call helpline for consumers so that help can be provided to consumers who are struggling to access or use a chargepoint.
Paying For The Charge
Paying for charge should be a smooth, hassle-free process for the consumer, regardless of who operates the individual chargepoint. Simple payment solutions have emerged.
But there remains no common method of access across chargepoint networks and consumers can sometimes need a different smartphone app or membership card for each network. This results in a more complicated experience than that enjoyed by petrol or diesel vehicle drivers and those on the continent, where roaming solutions exist.
At present, consumers need to have multiple membership cards or smartphone apps to access the public charging network. Currently, only 41% of rapid and higher-powered chargepoints (50 kW+) have contactless debit or credit card payment as an option.
Consumers should have a comparably simple payment experience at all chargepoints and be able to have a payment option that enables them to pay without the use of a smartphone. The consultation seeks views on the best way to achieve this that meets consumer needs and is commercially viable.
Drivers need to be able to pay quickly and easily for charging when making longer journeys. Consumers have reported frustrations with the number of apps and cards needed. They’re less likely to be aware in advance of which charging apps may be needed for their journey than on short-distance journeys or when charging near their work/home.
To remedy this, in July 2019, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that government wanted to see all newly installed rapid and higher-powered chargepoints provide debit or credit card payment by spring 2020.
Several CPOs have responded, and 41% of existing 3,500 rapid devices now have contactless card payment compared with 28% in 2019. There was an expectation of progress on new rapid devices, but this has not been the case.
Access to public chargepoints should also be achieved by a payment roaming solution, meaning that drivers can access any public chargepoint using one membership card or smartphone app. A roaming approach requires CPOs to cooperate and third parties to enable members of other networks to access their network.
The EV Energy Taskforce, which brought together over 300 stakeholders, has recommended that a roaming solution should be in place by the end of 2021 and adopted by all CPOs at all chargepoints. Some progress has been made in the past 12 months, with peer-to-peer roaming agreements established between some CPOs and third-party aggregators.
This is a rapidly evolving market, with new technologies and business models emerging. It is important to ensure that any solutions address the needs of current consumers, while maintaining flexibility is important to encourage innovation.
For example, plug and charge technology would allow consumers to simply plug their car into a chargepoint and charge without the need for a membership card, smartphone app, or debit or credit card.
Instead, the car and the chargepoint would communicate to identify the consumer and their charging contract. Some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are testing this experimental technology, which could see charging speeds, times and cost limit preferences set from within the vehicle.
This would enable service bundles in which charging fees and ongoing vehicle loan finance are grouped into one payment plan.
Payment Approaches For Fleets
Fleet drivers need a simple payment solution that operates across the chargepoint network and allows them to manage their business effectively. The consultation is investigating how to deliver a roaming solution that achieve this.
In July 2019, the Secretary of State for Transport signalled that government expects industry to develop a payment roaming solution across the charging network. The lack of payment interoperability is a regular theme raised by consumer bodies and fleet operators.
Companies with fleets need access to a simple payment method that allows the company to monitor and manage payments centrally rather than relying solely on the individual driver. Typically, this has been managed through fuel cards. These enable fleet drivers to refuel their vehicle using any fuel station contracted with the refuelling card.
Leading fuel card suppliers issue RFID cards to individual drivers or cars, which they use to pay for the fuel they consume, and then aggregate, payment and utilisation data for the respective fleet. Fuel card companies are looking to replicate the service they provide for EV fleets, and some have launched a recharging card; however, to date, only a small number of CPOs are participating in charging cards for fleets. The emergence of electric fleets is also key to growing the second-hand EV market.
A roaming solution would provide a common method of access to all public chargepoints, including lower-powered chargepoints, through one membership card or smartphone app. It could also provide a payment solution to meet the needs of fleet vehicle drivers. Several pan-European roaming solutions have been well received by consumers
Case Study – RFID In The Netherlands
Nearly all public chargepoints in the Netherlands are accessible with a single RFID card. Following direction from the Dutch government, a trade association, eViolin, was launched by CPOs and freight services in 2012. This ensures payment interoperability through uniform standards across all networks (developed by industry under direction from the government).