Interoperability is “not really relevant” in light of free and already-interoperable contactless charging, Ecotricity and Pod Point have said in response to a letter urging them towards interoperability.
The two charging networks have hit back against a letter penned by Matt Western, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and electric vehicles (EVs). The letter called on Ecotricity, Pod Point and BP Chargemaster to facilitate roaming within the next twelve months or risk government intervention to “ensure” progress is made.
When contacted by Current±, BP Chargemaster declined to comment, with a spokesperson saying its response will be conveyed directly to Western.
However, Ecotricity and Pod Point argued that increased interoperability is unnecessary for their networks and would pose financial challenges for their respective networks.
Erik Fairbairn, CEO of Pod Point, said the concept of roaming “is not really relevant to us” due to the Pod Point network being accessible without membership fees and without the use of RFID cards, meaning its network is available to anyone on an ad-hoc basis.
Fairbairn pointed to Pod Point rolling out contactless card readers on its DC chargers, and discussed his reasoning for not rolling them out on AC chargers too. The majority of Pod Point’s AC units are free to use, with 85% not requiring payment. For those that do charge, adding in card readers increases the cost of the unit and its operation.
“Increasing the cost of charging infrastructure slows down the rate at which we can roll out new locations and over time will increase costs for EV drivers who wish to charge on a public chargepoint,” he said.
Ecotricity, too, has responded to Western’s call to action by stating that roaming agreements are rendered unnecessary in a new age of contactless payments.
Whilst Ecotricity does not currently offer contactless payment, founder Dale Vince said he is on board with the idea.
However, “interoperability is a more difficult service to land from a technical point of view,” he said.
“Right now, not every service is billed as it is used, on an account that could be charged by whichever service provider was used - through roaming charges. And some networks use apps, some use RFID cards and some are contactless. These are not compatible means of access for interoperability.
“On top of this the push towards contactless is something that, if completed, renders interoperability obsolete because no accounts are needed to use any hardware,” he said.
In response to Western’s questions as to whether there was a role for government support in transitioning to interoperability, Vince said there may be a role for government to assist with funding in relation to “what to do with the existing fleet of chargers” that cannot do contactless payment nor be upgraded to.
“There is definitely a role for government funding to create the kind of market that we all want - to date there has been zero contribution to open road charging networks, just some funding for councils in car parks,” Vince continued.
Interoperability has caught headlines in recent months as operators rack up roaming agreements left, right and centre. The most notable example is that of Allego, EVBox and NewMotion signing a letter of intent to open their charging networks.
This is set to take the form of collaborations with Chargemap, ChargePoint, Charge4Europe, Engenie, Franklin Energy and Travelcard.
Other agreements to be announced recently include Enel X adding its European network of chargers to the Hubject platform, snapping up a 12.5% stake to boot. The platform has 200,000 charge points across Europe, available to any driver with a membership for any of its operators.
NewMotion, one of the operators to sign the letter of intent to open its network, has also been ramping up its partnerships of late, signing a roaming agreement with Vattenfall, then ChargePoint and lastly an agreement with Ford to provide all Ford drivers access to its network.
A spokesperson for NewMotion told Current± interoperability stimulates the uptake of EVs by helping with range anxiety and a sense of safety and “makes owning an EV a lot more convenient”.
“For the market, there are many advantages amongst all parties from the cooperation agreements itself. Not only because it benefits current EV drivers, but together, we are growing the market by lowering the obstacles to EV adoption.”