electric car charging

UK carmakers call for electric vehicle watchdog to ensure speedy charger rollout

The UK’s car industry has called on the government to create an independent body that would oversee the installation of new electric vehicle chargepoints and set car charging prices.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called for mandated targets for infrastructure rollout that would be backed by the independent regulator.

The UK currently faces vast regional discrepancies on charging points across the country, with 102 public charging devices per 100,000 people in London compared to just 24 charging devices per 100,000 people in the North West.

Since 2011, government, local authorities and the charging infrastructure sector have delivered a 3,000 per cent increase in the number of standard public chargepoints, but as demand for electric vehicles has surged – accounting for more than one in six new cars in 2021 – standard public charging infrastructure has struggled to keep pace.

The number of plug-in cars on the road grew by over 280 per cent between 2019 and 2021, but standard chargepoints increased by just 70 per cent in the same period, SMMT said.

Although most current plug-in car users charge at home, public chargers remain critical to consumer confidence and are still relied upon by many commercial fleets, as well as the third of British households that do not have designated off-street parking.

The SMMT wants to give chargepoint operators and local authorities certainty to install the right number of the right chargers in the right places ahead of need, across every part of the UK.

This would be regulated by a new body dubbed ‘Ofcharge’ (the Office of Charging), which would bear the responsibility of monitoring the market, including charging price levels and affordability, and to enforce regulated minimum standards.

With carmakers having already invested billions of pounds to bring more than 140 models of plug-in car to market in the UK and 55 more to be launched this year, a guarantee on infrastructure provision “will give consumers the confidence to make the switch in even greater numbers”, SMMT said.

The body chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “The automotive industry is up for the challenge of a zero-emission new car and van market by 2035. Delivering this ambition – an ambition that would put the UK ahead of every major market in the world – needs more than automotive investment. It needs the commensurate commitment of all other stakeholders, especially the charging industry as surveys show that range anxiety has been replaced by charging anxiety.

“Our plan puts the consumer at the heart of this transition, assuring them of the best possible experience backed by an independent regulator.

“With clear, equivalent targets and support for operators and local authorities that match consumer needs, government can ensure the UK has a chargepoint network that makes electric mobility a reality for all, cutting emissions, driving growth and supporting consumers across the UK.”

Last week, a study found that Europe’s electricity grid could be capable of supporting over 100 million electric vehicles with proper infrastructure planning.

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