Following a market study into electric vehicle (EV) charging, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called for the government to intervene in the electric car charger market to prevent “charging deserts” and increase availability in locations outside London, which remain underserved. In a press release issued on 23 July 2021, they point out that the number of total public chargepoints per head in Yorkshire and the Humber is a quarter of those in London.
The CMA also outlines measures to ensure a national network of electric vehicle chargepoints is in place ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and that the charging sector works well now and in the future.
Chargepoint availability is a Postcode Lottery
The UK has around 25,000 chargepoints 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 can be difficult and frustrating for drivers
CMA research shows that charging can sometimes be difficult and frustrating for drivers, which could stop people switching to EVs. Concerns about the reliability of chargepoints, difficulties in comparing prices and paying for charging, risk reducing people’s confidence and trust. Charging should be as simple as filling up with petrol or diesel, they say.
The CMA has set out four principles to 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 chargepoints can be used by any type of EV.
Motorway service station chargers a cause for concern
The CMA have launched a competition enforcement action into long-term exclusive arrangements at motorway service stations. They have launched a competition law investigation into long-term exclusive arrangements between the Electric Highway – a chargepoint 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 which can only be used by Tesla vehicles) 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.