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Britain’s Electric Car Charging Network is in Need of an Overhaul

Ross Kelly

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Electric Vehicle Charging

A consumer rights watchdog has called for an overhaul of the UK’s ‘fragmented’ electric vehicle charging network.

An investigation by Which? highlighted serious failings across Britain’s public electric vehicle charging networks, which the organisation said could harm the adoption of electric vehicles.

The study found that many motorists “cannot easily use” charging networks, many of which are operated by a host of different providers.

Additionally, the consumer rights group found that motorists are forced to contend with a “bewildering array of sub-standard” apps and payment methods, with many drivers facing unnecessarily expensive charges.

More than 30 providers currently operate across the UK’s public charging network. However, the investigation revealed that “almost all” require drivers to download specific apps or sign up for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards to use a charge point.

The consumer group warned this has created a confusing system for many motorists as drivers taking longer journeys would have to plan routes to accommodate for specific providers.

“With around 12 million electric cars expected to be on UK roads by 2030, according to the Climate Change Committee, Which? believes the public charging network as it stands is not fit for purpose for the millions of people who will soon depend on it,” the watchdog said in a statement.


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Previously, the UK Government has advised that all rapid charging points should allow payments by card from spring 2020.

However, the investigation noted that this was issued as an advisory to operators and not in the form of legislation. Subsequently, not all companies have installed card payment machines.

Research from Zap-Map found that fewer than one-in-ten UK charge points offer rapid chargers and allow users to pay via card.

Some operators that do accept card payments charge more, which means drivers face additional costs for services.

One of Britain’s biggest providers, BP Pulse, accepts contactless payments but charges 25p per kWh for those who pay via its website or app, and 30p per kWh for card payments.

Using a Volkswagen id.3 as an example, Which? said this five pence difference could mean owners paying by card will be charged an additional £140 each year.

Although the consumer watchdog said this practice amounts to charging customers more for using bank cards, BP Pulse insisted that “those who choose to sign up for a free membership receive a discount on their charging costs”.


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Which? called for urgent reforms to the country’s public charging network and suggested that government and industry should “consider making public chargers universal” so that motorists require one app, RFID card or account to access all networks.

“While creating a universal infrastructure will have its challenges, Which? believes it is essential to create a simple and appealing network,” the consumer champion said.

“It should also consider implementing a pence per kWh pricing structure as opposed to charging per minute to ensure drivers are not overcharged and can easily compare costs across different providers,” Which? added.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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