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Changing the charging rules – better late than never

Recent negative publicity about charge point queues and problems with recharging on the move will have prompted many consumers to question if EVs are right for them. But the Government is belatedly starting to flex its muscles. The Public Charge Point Regulations 2023 set out a series of quality and availability standards for charge points
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26 July 2023

Paul Barker, Managing Editor UK carwow, comments on the Government’s Public Charge Point Regulations 2023 which set out the future of public electric vehicle (EV) charging in the UK

 

ARGUABLY the single-biggest obstacle standing in the way of mass-market adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is the creation of a reliable and readily accessible public charging network.

Recent negative publicity about charge point queues and problems with recharging on the move will have prompted many consumers to question if EVs are right for them.

But the Government is belatedly starting to flex its muscles. The Public Charge Point Regulations 2023 set out a series of quality and availability standards for charge points – for example, ensuring that charge points will actually be working when they arrive, contactless payment will be available, 24-hour helplines are in place, as well as greater transparency about charging costs and open data to provide real-time information on whether a charging point is working or already occupied. All this needs to be in place, say the rules, by summer 2024.

We recently surveyed consumers about the new Charge Point Regulations, and when asked to identify the biggest issues with charging points, 63% said it was the overall number available. Next was the wait time for a charging point to become available (40%), followed by charge points often not functioning (38%).

I’m someone that loves running an electric car, but I’m also someone who has experienced six attempts at finding a charging point on the way home with two bored kids in the car, because the first five were either occupied or not working. My kids and I would agree with the 77% of those surveyed who said that a regulation to fine those providers responsible for faulty charging points would help EV drivers.

Other criticisms of the UK’s charge points highlighted by the survey were that they’re too expensive (37%), they don’t accept contactless payment (26%), and they require multiple apps (32%). Anyone that hasn’t shown any interest in the world of EVs would rightly be appalled that this kind of basic stuff isn’t already commonplace. A whopping 86% of carwow consumers hadn’t yet heard about the Charge Point Regulations, which further proves that more needs to be done to educate prospective buyers.

These new Government rules won’t do anything to improve the availability of public charging points – they’re already growing in number but not fast enough to keep pace with EV registrations, which are up 20% year-on-year, according to SMMT figures. It would be great to see more incentivising of public charging because that’s the biggest blocker for the majority of people thinking about moving to an EV. The cars are available – albeit not cheap – and decent numbers are now finding their way onto the used market. But anyone not able to charge at home is at the mercy of the public charging infrastructure – not somewhere I’d want to be right now.

But a set of regulations that dictate charging points must be operational 99% of the time is a great start. From personal experience, I’d say that’s a steep target, but it will hopefully prompt providers to ensure more chargers are available, more of the time. The threat of a £10,000 fine per failing charging point should focus the mind.

It’s crazy that contactless payment has to be mandated, but at least it will stop the naysayers banging on about needing a wallet full of RFID cards, as was the case a few years ago. And things will be even easier within two years when roaming providers must be given access to charging points from multiple networks.

So rather than contactless payments, you can have a single account that will hopefully be cheaper, and also pull together all your public charging into one account. That’s handy for business drivers in particular. Anyone who has tried to pull together expenses for charging across different providers will be jumping for joy; at the moment, you have to email some charging companies to ask for a receipt, which is not exactly cutting-edge.

This whole set of regulations is the absolute definition of ‘better late than never’. Charging companies have had the chance to prove they didn’t need a headteacher to set out the rules for them and, although there are some excellent charging networks and sites out there, too many have been too slow to do the right thing.

The cars are increasingly available and ready for 2030, and at long last, there are signs that the infrastructure will be licked into shape to serve them. Now we just need more of it.

 

 

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