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Government eyes up options for EV charging regulation in new consultation

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

The government is launching a new consultation on electric vehicle (EV) charging, focusing on improving the consumer experience through four key areas.

These areas, in which the government is proposing it intervenes, span quick payment process, network reliability, pricing transparency and open data.

More specifically, the government has outlined how 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.

Whilst it acknowledged the likes of Zap-Map – describing it as a “more comprehensive private-sector led solution” – it said that a lack of mandated data provision standards means that chargepoint data can be incomprehensive and inaccurate.

It is proposing that it will set a data standard that chargepoint operators (CPOs) will need to meet when making public chargepoint data openly available and will mandate that ‘must-have’ data types including location, power-rating and pricing data must be made available.

Additionally, consumers should be able to easily compare the cost of charging between different networks, helping drive competition and bring down prices, according to the government.

When it comes to costs, it is proposing that CPOs will be required to adopt a p/kWh metric for a unit of electricity sold under both subscription and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) models.

CPOs will, however, have the flexibility on how they display pricing, consumption and cost information to the customer in a clear and easily accessible manner.

Another area the government is looking at regulating is ensuring payment for consumers is as smooth and hassle-free as possible regardless of who operates the chargepoint, stating that there remains no common method of access across chargepoint networks. This results in a more complicated experience than that experienced by petrol or diesel drivers and those on the continent where roaming solutions are prevalent.

The government is therefore seeking views on the best way to achieve a simple method of payment at all chargers, detailing how a roaming solution could be one such method of doing so.

This could be implemented through a number of different approaches, with these being:

  1. A market-led approach where the government continues to work with industry but doesn't yet regulate.
  2. A requirement for all public chargers to be accessible by a QR code that directs users to a payment platform.
  3. An interoperable roaming platform established by the government.
  4. A requirement for CPOs to open their networks to a third-party eMSP or each other without discrimination.

Roaming and interoperability has been on the government's radar for some time. In July 2019 it was announced that the government wanted to see all newly installed rapid and higher-powered chargepoints provide debit or credit card payment by spring 2020, however it today said that not as much progress on this has been made as it would expect.

In October 2019, Matt Western, then-chair of the APPG on EVs, called on Ecotricity, Pod Point and BP Chargemaster to implement roaming, warning that "many MPs are expecting action on this issue, and we would be happy to support amendments to the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act to ensure it if progress is not made".

However, Ecotricity and Pod Point hit back, suggesting roaming agreements are “not really relevant” in light of contactless payments.

Commenting on the announcement of the new consultation, Daniel Brown, head of transport at the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), said that the REA welcomes the government "setting baseline expectations and ‘guard rails’ for the industry to deliver on".

"The EV charging sector, however, is a complex blend of telecoms, electricity provision, payments, real estate, and hardware and we would caution against interventions that would stymie innovation that will benefit consumers and be the backbone of emerging British brands."

Also covered in the consultation is the reliability of chargepoints, which it said is improving – with only 8% of public chargepoints being out of service in August 2019 compared to 15% in 2017 – although further improvements are still required.

The government is therefore proposing that CPOs meet a minimum 99% availability standard as an average across its entire fleet of chargepoints.

It pointed to its powers under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, which allows it to enact measures such as requiring a common payment method, requiring CPOs to make available static and dynamic information on chargers, introduce availability and performance standards for public chargepoints and introduce connector standards to ensure physical interoperability between EVs and public chargepoints.

"Reliable and easily accessible charging infrastructure is key to making the switch to EVs as easy and smooth as possible," said transport secretary Grant Shapps.

"These proposals will ensure the growth of EVs can take place at the pace required to hit our bold climate targets. To that end, the measures in this consultation represent significant progress towards our end goal: to ensure that drivers of electric vehicles have a refuelling experience equal to or even better than petrol or diesel vehicle drivers."

The consultation is to run until 10 April 2021, with full details available here.

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