Smart Transport

Government must fix EV charging ‘postcode lottery’, says CMA

Electric vehicle (EV) charging

Some parts of UK’s charging infrastructure are facing problems which could impact the Government's 2030 ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans, and its legal requirement to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has warned. 

The CMA, which has now published its market study, said that while parts of this new sector are developing relatively well – including charging at locations like shopping centres, workplaces and people’s private parking (garages and driveways) - others may "hinder" roll-out. 

It is particularly concerned about the choice and availability of chargepoints at motorway service stations, where competition is limited.

It has launched a competition law investigation into long-term exclusive arrangements between the Electric Highway – a charge point provider – and three motorway service operators – MOTO, Roadchef and Extra. Currently, the Electric Highway provides 80% of all chargepoints at motorway service stations (excluding Tesla chargepoints) and its long-term exclusive arrangements, which last between 10-15 years, cover around two-thirds of motorway service stations.

The CMA is concerned that these arrangements make it difficult for other operators to provide competing chargepoints at motorway service stations. This could result in drivers losing out on the benefits of competition such as greater provision, more choice, competitive prices and reliable, high-quality chargepoints, it said 

Roll-out is "too slow"

The CMA is also concerned that the roll-out of on-street charging by local authorities (which many drivers will rely on) is "too slow", and that rural areas" risk being left behind" with too few charge points due to lack of investment.

The UK has around 25,000 charge points currently and, while there is still uncertainty, forecasts suggest more than ten times this amount will be needed by 2030.

The CMA’s key recommendations are that:

  • UK Government sets out an ambitious National Strategy for rolling out EV charging between now and 2030. This must sit alongside strategies from the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Governments, building on the work already being undertaken by all governments. Energy regulators should also ensure that it’s quicker and cheaper to connect new chargepoints.
  • Governments support local authorities (LAs) to boost roll-out of on-street charging – including defining a clear role for LAs to manage the roll-out in their area and providing funding for the expertise needed for this to happen.
  • UK Government attaches conditions to its £950m Rapid Charging Fund – which it is planning to use for grid upgrades at motorway service stations – to open up competition so that drivers have a choice of charging provider at each service station.
  • UK Government creates an EV charging sector that people can trust and have confidence in, including tasking a public body with monitoring the sector as it develops to ensure charging is as simple as filling up at a petrol station

Charging should be "as simple as filling up with petrol or diesel"

Research shows that charging can sometimes be difficult and frustrating for drivers, which could stop people switching to EVs, the CMA said.  Concerns about the reliability of chargepoints, difficulties in comparing prices and paying for charging, risk reducing people’s confidence and trust.

The CMA has set out four principles to help ensure that using and paying for charging is "as simple as filing up with petrol and diesel":

  • Working chargepoints must be easy to find – e.g. providing up-to-date availability and working status information.
  • Charging must be simple and quick to pay for – e.g. people don’t need to sign up and contactless payments are widely available.
  • The cost of charging must be clear – e.g. standard way of pricing, such as per kilowatt of energy.
  • Charging must be accessible – e.g. all charge points can be used by any type of EV.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “Electric vehicles play a critical role in meeting net zero but the challenges with creating an entirely new charging network should not be underestimated. Some areas of the roll-out are going well and the UK’s network is growing – but it’s clear that other parts, like charging at motorway service stations and on-street, have much bigger hurdles to overcome.

“There needs to be action now to address the postcode lottery in electric vehicle charging as we approach the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

“Our recommendations will promote strong competition, encourage more investment, and build people’s trust, both now and in the future.

"The CMA has also opened a competition law investigation into EV charging along motorways and will continue to work with government and the industry to help ensure electric vehicle charging is a success.”

The Government’s transport decarbonisation plan promises an electric vehicle infrastructure strategy by the end of the year, which will set out the its vision for infrastructure roll out, and roles for the public and private sectors in achieving it.

By 2030, it expects to have 2,500 rapid charge points across the strategic road network, and 6,000 by 2035.

It is also working with Ofgem on the deployment of the Energy Networks Association’s £300 million Green Recovery Scheme, announced in May, to accelerate motorway service area and wider EV charging infrastructure investment.

The transport decarbonisation plan makes a commitment to support the private sector to deliver at least six rapid charge points at every motorway service area in England by 2023, by investing £950m to upgrade electricity connections at motorway service stations.

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry. Watch his presentation below:


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