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Government warned not to 'over-regulate' EV transition or risk stifling innovation

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Whilst a mix of government and private funding is required to fuel transport decarbonisation, policymakers should be careful not to over-regulate.

This was the conclusion of a panel of industry experts at the Everything EV summit - which is taking place over the next fortnight - looking into the government’s pledge of £1.3 billion to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) chargers in the energy white paper.

To successfully achieve the transition to EVs, “significant investment” is required according to the Zemo Partnership’s managing director Andy Eastlake, who spoke during this week’s summit.

Whilst there is “no doubt about the need for significant money” behind the transition, this must be a mix of both the public and private purse, with the latter of these already seeing “some really big, heavy hitters coming in with some money”.

Where government funding is best placed is where it’s not commercially viable to put investment currently, Energy UK’s policy manager Joseph Cosier said. He gave the examples of high-powered charging, on street charging and rapid hubs for those without private driveways and then rural areas or tourist locations that may see seasonal demand.

However, this government intervention shouldn’t be too drastic, with innogy e-mobility UK’s CEO Karl Anders warning that the government shouldn’t “over-regulate” as “you really need the private sector to be able to drive this”.

He added that the government “almost needs a soft touch to be able to point everyone in the right direction”. One area he did praise the government for was bringing the various players involved in the decarbonisation of transport – including both the vehicle industry and the energy industry – together.

However, he said that what is really required is “stability of policy”, with a need for one plan that “we make sure we stick to” as the moment “we’re probably in danger of having too many things running at once”.

The need to not over-regulate was agreed upon by Cosier, who explained that avoiding “going in too hard and too strong with regulation” will allow companies to continue to innovate.

One challenge the industry is currently faced with is making charging simple for the everyday consumer, who is not as interested in the smart charging and smart grid side of the transition. As Eastlake explained, “we need a different relationship with energy at the consumer level”, however that’s “quite complex and we have to do that for the mass market”. Therefore the industry is going to have to “work out smartness, flexibility and put that into a really simple way in the home and car”, with this being one of the bigger challenges.

This was somewhat echoed by Anders, who said the UK “probably hasn’t” done enough to make the charging experience as seamless as possible for the end user. He made reference to some business models in the UK that are “a little more focused on ringfencing specific customers” in comparison to Europe where roaming is far more common.

He also pointed to reliability problems with some legacy chargers, adding that this is an area being looked at through regulation, stating it’s a “balance between not being too heavy on the companies and being too restrictive, making that environment where they want to do it, but at the same time realising that the market will probably shake out” the providers that don’t offer a good experience.

Currently, replacement works are underway for chargers on Ecotricity's Electric Highway - with GRIDSERVE to do the replacement works - and a £2 million initiative was launched by BP Pulse to deliver what it described as “radical improvement” in the reliability of older UK EV charging infrastructure.

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