On street electric vehicle charging

Easier charging is the key to boosting EV adoption

Image credit: Viorel Dudau/Dreamstime

Governments need to invest heavily in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and collaborate more closely with the private sector if they’re going to hit their targets for public uptake of electric vehicles.

Climate change is taking a greater toll on our planet more rapidly than many of us would have imagined, and we are all looking at ways we can help. This is one of the reasons the electric vehicle (EV) market has started to grow apace, and governments around the world are doing their bit too. The UK and EU governments are phasing out petrol and diesel vehicle sales from 2030, with hybrid models to stop being sold by 2035.

This should create a perfect environment for drivers to leap into the EV future more quickly, but high vehicle costs, a lack of charging point infrastructure across the UK, and limited payment options are currently acting as a handbrake on sales.

Despite this, the EV market is growing, with EVs, plug-in-hybrid (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles accounting for 10 per cent of total car sales in 2020 – a 180 per cent growth compared with the previous year. London has been a key adopter – especially with taxi drivers – thanks to the incentive of paying no congestion charge for battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from 25 October 2021.

By May 2021, nearly 260,000 pure-electric cars and 535,000 plug-in models, including PHEVs, were on the road, but there were a woefully inadequate 25,000 public charging points. The Competition and Markets Authority predicts we will need more than ten times that number by 2030 according to a report on EV charging.

Audi, Jaguar, Volkswagen and Volvo are all phasing out petrol and diesel car sales. Tesla, Volkswagen and Nissan have also developed their own private membership charging infrastructure, but they remain closed-loop and have no industry-wide compatibility, which is doing little to solve the EV charging issue.

However, that has not stopped fleet sales increasing, with the EV commercial fleet in the UK expected to grow from 2.3 million in 2020 to 9 million in 2025 as one in three fleet managers commit to having at least half of their fleet as EV vehicles.

Commercial vehicles have accounted for more than half of EV registrations in the past year. For example, parcel delivery company DPD is already delivering 100 million parcels by EV each year in 25 towns and cities. Its fleet increased from 149 in 2019 to 730 in 2020, and is due to hit 4,500 in 2025.

To deal with charging problems, DPD is expanding its depot charging infrastructure as many drivers are currently forced to charge their delivery vehicles at home. For those in urban or rural areas, or in rented accommodation, this is not viable.

While EV adopters are currently paying through the nose for the vehicle itself – the average price according to Autotrader is £49,377 – the fuel savings are staggering. Home-charging a car for up to 200 miles costs just £2.50 according to industry estimates, £27.50 less than a petrol car. Depending on the vehicles you are comparing, the pence per mile cost can drop from as high as 20p per mile for a petrol car to less than 5p per mile for an electric vehicle.

Given price hikes in the wake of the recent fuel crisis, the idea of the average EV driver paying just £310 per year on electricity to charge a car driving 10,000 miles at the UK’s average electricity price per kWh at home, according to a recent study by Uswitch, is highly appealing. But the charging network needs to expand in all areas and charging needs to take less than the current 30-40 minutes.

There is little choice at present how you pay for your EVC and facilities must be improved to allow contactless transactions as more of us are leaving the house with just a phone in our pockets to use to pay for goods and services. Better competition in pricing coupled with a smoother customer experience will also prompt customers to choose more flexible and cheaper providers and that competition should drive down prices even further.

Improving payment options has a double benefit for EV charging facility operators too, as they are able to aggregate data, get real-time guaranteed payments and improve payment mechanisms, platforms and reporting. But patchy smartphone connectivity across the UK can mean it is problematic to provide kiosk facilities.

Other areas, such as security, also need addressing, with the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and Open Banking required to be unified.

Once EV users have confidence in the charging infrastructure, it will be a major boost to adoption. But to achieve this governments must invest heavily, perhaps via a recalibration of tax policies, and public and private sectors need to collaborate effectively.

A choice of payment methods is also essential in today’s world, with payment technology providers working to increase choice, enable collaboration and remove friction in the market. It will save money for drivers and could help save the planet.

Anthony Wicks is key accounts manager, self-service GSV – parking and EVC at Worldline.

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