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Government looks to 'revolutionise' UK EV charging network as plans to support tenfold chargepoint increase unveiled

The government has published the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy. Image: Getty

The government has published the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy. Image: Getty

Data regulation, the acceleration of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) approaches and standardisation of public electric vehicle (EV) charging payment methods are among key policy measures unveiled in today’s (25 March) Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy.

The strategy echoed several recent reports on the pace of the EV charging rollout, stating that it is currently too slow, particularly for local on-street charging, a finding that was also central to a Connected Kerb report released earlier this week.

Additionally, the government said that consumers often experience poor customer service, opaque or excessive charging costs, poor reliability and complex access regimes involving numerous apps and smartcards at public chargepoints.

As such, plans are to be implemented that would require a 99% reliability rate at rapid chargepoints, while the government is to mandate that operators provide real-time data about chargepoints.

The government is also to ensure consumers can compare prices and seamlessly pay for their charging using contactless cards. They will also be able to use apps to find their nearest available chargepoint, the strategy said.

Proposals to set a data standard that chargepoint operators (CPOs) would need to meet when making public chargepoint data openly available were outlined in a government consultation in February 2021, as well as proposals to mandate that ‘must-have’ data types including location, power-rating and pricing data must be made available.

In this previous consultation the government acknowledged that apps such as Zap-Map currently exist – describing it as the “most comprehensive” private-led solution – but said the lack of mandated data provision standards means data provision can be incomprehensive and inaccurate.

The reliability standard of 99% was also first proposed in this consultation, as were various options to standardise EV charging payments and another of today's commitments- to mandate a single payment metric so consumers can compare the price across different charging networks.

Smart charging and flexibility

The potential for smart charging and the provision of flexibility services by EVs was detailed within the report. Indeed, the government is to identify the role of smart charging in the public infrastructure network and consider the mechanisms to deliver this.

It is also to maximise the opportunities for flexibility from EVs while protecting the electricity grid and consumers, publishing a joint government and Ofgem Electric Vehicle Smart Charging Action Plan.

There is “huge scope” for chargepoint operators to gain by selling services to the grid, for the grid to gain by increasing flexibility and for consumers to benefit through cheaper and potentially even negative tariffs if they agree to cede some control over charging, the strategy said.

As such, the government is to continue to facilitate this innovation and encourage new business models, it said, with this potentially being through local community charging companies, longer-term on-street concessions, remote charging, cable guttering, lamppost chargers or peer-to-peer charging services.

It is to accelerate the widespread deployment of V2X technologies, working in close collaboration with Ofgem and the industry and this summer publishing a summary of its 2021 Call for Evidence and outline next steps.

Alongside this, the government is to ensure that the bulk of EV charging is smart and ideally off-peak, the strategy said. Indeed, the government has previously announced its plans to mandate from June 2022 that all private chargepoints sold in GB must be smart and meet minimum device-level requirements.

Accelerating public charging deployment

The government is to launch a £450 million Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund, which is to boost projects such as EV hubs and on-street charging. A pilot scheme for the LEVI fund is to launch today (25 March) which will see local authorities bid for a share of £10 million in funding.

The LEVI fund comes as part of a £500 million commitment to bring high quality, competitively priced public chargepoints to UK communities. The LEVI fund was first announced as a £90 million fund in 2021’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

The strategy also referenced the previously announced £950 million Rapid Charging Fund, with the government to launch pathfinder projects in winter 2022 ahead of the fund opening in 2023.

The fund is to support the rollout of at least 6,000 high powered chargepoints across England’s motorways and major A-roads by 2035 by enabling electricity network infrastructure to be installed ahead of chargepoint demand.

Additionally, the government will consult on mandating that service area operators and large fuel retails must meet minimum chargepoint numbers at specific sites, with increasing levels over a period of time.

The strategy also details plans to reduce the costs to businesses by tackling barriers to investment and delivery of public chargepoints, stating that where barriers are slowing down private sector deployment, “we will address them”.

It gave the example of consulting on measures to make Traffic Regulation Orders, which are part of the process to install on-street chargepoints, more straightforward.

The government is also to develop chargepoint design standards to improve accessibility and improve signage to chargepoint locations.

In 2021, the Department for Transport and disability charity Motability commissioned the British Standards Institute to develop new accessibility standards for EV charging.

A number of reports into the challenges faced by disabled drivers when charging an EV have been published, with a 2020 survey finding that a third of disabled drivers have difficulties locating a suitable charger that could meet their needs. Challenges include the weight of charging cables, the lack of dropped curbs around chargepoints and unsuitable parking arrangements among others.

There will also be obligation for local authorities to develop and implement local charging strategies to plan for the transition to a zero emission vehicle fleet, although this will be subject to consultation.

The government will not be intervening in the destination charging sector, however, and is to look to end direct subsidy support for home charging and workplace charging at the earliest appropriate time.

The measures announced by the government are to support the EV charging market in reaching 300,000 public EV chargepoints by 2030, which would be almost five times the number of fuel pumps today.

Since 2020, the government has committed over £2.5 billion to the EV transition, of which over £1.6 billion is to support charging infrastructure.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "The scale of the climate challenge ahead of us all is well known and decarbonising transport is at the very heart of our agenda.

"That’s why we’re ensuring the country is EV-fit for future generations by the end of this decade, revolutionising our charging network and putting the consumer first."

The government is to review its approach by 2023 and decide then whether it needs to change the regulatory framework further, stating in the strategy: "We will intervene further if progress is not fast enough."

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