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Ubiquitous EV charging network could drive fleet EV sales

Developing an interoperable EV charging network for the UK could help accelerate EV sales, including among fleets.

Charging car

The report says interoperability on UK EV charging could help drive take-up by fleets

That’s the finding of a new report from the Renewable Energy Association (REA), which says that greater collaboration between networks is needed if the UK is to achieve the Government’s goal of building one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world, as outlined in the Road to Zero Strategy.

The REA, the trade association for renewable energy and clean tech, highlights that at present consumers need multiple apps, cards, and sometimes membership accounts in order to travel across the country using public charging infrastructure, potentially deterring future EV drivers and fleets.

It adds that greater interoperability, which would entail EV charging network companies using similar communications systems, could change all this while opening up more advanced functions, such as being able to see live status updates of chargers across different networks, to be able to be billed more simply, and even for the vehicle itself to manage the payment process.

And the REA also points to the example of the telecoms industry, which over the past 20 years has moved from regionalised, closed networks to consumers presently being able to ‘roam’ across networks in the EU on one mobile phone plan.

Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA, said: “In the Road to Zero strategy the Government stated an ambition for the UK to have one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world. In our minds, and in the minds of our members, interoperability is crucial to delivering that vision.”

The report outlines that there is a need for an industry-led definition of interoperability that can be adopted by the Government and says the Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) should be investigated as to its possible suitability to be the UK industry standard roaming protocol.

It also says the ISO 15118 standard should be investigated to see if its adoption by charging companies can facilitate smarter charging and energy services by allowing vehicles to communicate with charge points and smart energy systems

Daniel Brown, policy manager at the REA and report author, added: “If our members embraced similar communications protocols and standards, customers in the future could be able to access live data in their vehicle dashboards or phone apps on charge point status, they could charge through their vehicle without the need for an app or card, and their vehicles could more easily help manage strains on the electricity system.”

The research has been backed by car sharing network Zipcar UK. General manager Jonathan Hampson said: “Car sharing is at an all-time high and Zipcar UK has over 250,000 members and is growing rapidly. What’s more we are helping bring EV driving into the mainstream with over 300 electric cars in our fleet, and half a million zero emission miles driven since launching EV’s last summer.

“It’s our vision to be fully electric by 2025, but to do this we need a ubiquitous EV charging network. We need a network that allows our members to move as freely across the capital and between charging stations as easily as they can petrol stations. To build confidence in the system it’s essential that we have easy and clear access to online billing too, but critically availability.”

The report is launched following the Government taking powers to intervene in charge point communications and payments as part of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, during the discussions of the Government’s EV Energy Taskforce, and ahead of the second reading of the ‘Wiggin Bill’ in Parliament on 8 March.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.