Government mulls overhaul of motorway and workplace charge points
New powers that could see current exclusive arrangements on motorway charge points ended and local authorities and workplace carpark owners required to plan for infrastructure are under consideration by the Government.
They’re part of a new Future of Transport consultation opened yesterday (28 September) by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) to “consider groundbreaking technologies that will transform how we travel over the next decade”.
Alongside proposals on maritime autonomy and the future of aviation, the plans include new proposals on EV charging for a “robust and expansive charge point network that will allow everyone to make the switch to electric”, supporting the 2030 ICE ban.
The EV charging consultation invites views on four areas:
- A statutory obligation to plan for and provide charging infrastructure
- Requirements to install charge points in non-residential car parks
- New powers to support the delivery of the Rapid Charging Fund
- Requirements to improve the experience for electric vehicle consumers
If enacted, the new rules and powers could significantly revamp the face of UK charging, including for motorways under the third bullet.
Currently, the majority of motorway service areas (MSAs) in England have an exclusive provider of open access charge point services but this could be ended and MSA operators and large fuel retailers instead required to tender charge point service contracts openly and have a minimum of two different charge point operators at any particular site.
It’s intended to create more competition between charge point service providers at these sites – a study by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) published in July 2021 found ‘very limited competition among motorways’ and identified the Gridserve Electric Highway as having an 80% share at MSAs. The CMA decided to open an investigation into these existing agreements at three of the major motorway service operators and the outcome of this investigation is still due to be released.
It’s not just competition that could be an issue though, and OZEV also said having exclusive providers of MSA charge point services could bring a legal risk to its new £950m Rapid Charging Fund, confirmed in the 2020 Spending Review and intended to future-proof charging capacity at motorway and major A road service areas in England. The new fund will be administered by a delivery body and, by having exclusive providers of charging at MSAs, OZEV said this could lead to any funding being challenged on state subsidy or other grounds.
Furthermore, to ensure there is sufficient charge point availability at MSAs, the Government , is considering further extending its powers to mandate that service area operators and large fuel retailers must meet minimum charge point numbers at specific sites, and increasing levels over a period of time.
New requirements on local charging provision
The regulatory review for zero emission vehicles also explores introducing a statutory duty for local authorities (LAs) in England and Wales to plan for EV infrastructure – or for responsibility to pass to charge point firms or energy companies.
Currently, local charging infrastructure provision is installed at the discretion of local authorities – mostly in areas where private charge point operators are not expected to invest because of current low demand and a lack of commercial viability, such as on-street locations.
However, roll-out varies wildly and as demand for EVs rises, it’s expected that there will be increasing viability for charge point operators to deliver at these locations.
One option is to place the requirement to the LAs in England and Wales, but the consultation also looks at passing the duty on to charge point operators themselves, or energy companies.
In a recent interview with Fleet World, charging specialist Connected Kerb said that many local authorities are struggling with the time and resources to get to grips with what’s required of them for charge point deployment – exacerbated by the extra pressures being heaped on them in the pandemic – and that the Government needs to support them with helping them get up to speed.
Charge points in non-residential car parks
The new consultation also explores powers to require landowners in England to provide a minimum level of EV charging infrastructure in non-residential car parks – from supermarkets and retail parks to workplaces with car parks. This would again helping to tackle problems for drivers without off-street parking and helping create certainty that they will be able to charge at their destination.
These new powers would apply to all existing non-residential car parks and new non-residential car parks, not associated with a building. This would build on proposals consulted on in 2019 to require new residential and non-residential buildings with car parks to have EV charging infrastructure.
The Government is proposing that the duty to provide EV charge points will fall on the landowners of the car park, who would work in collaboration with leaseholders, car park operators, developers and other bodies to install and manage the EV infrastructure.
Improving the experience for electric vehicle drivers
The final area under zero-emission vehicles explores views on proposals to improve EV consumers’ experience and ensure there are appropriate consumer protections for users of public charging infrastructure.
This follows a previous OZEV consultation and would build on new regulations already being introduced to improve reliability and ease of payment on the public charging network.
The new primary powers would ensure that inclusively designed public charge points are available for all, consumers feel safe when charging on-route and consumers have rights to redress if something goes wrong.
- The Future of Transport consultation will run until 11:45pm on 22 November 2021. To access the survey online, click here, or for more details, visit the OZEV consultation page.