Consumer advisor Which calls for cheaper EV charging and simplified payments

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Consumer advice organisation Which? is calling for lower prices and simplified payment systems for electric vehicle customers who are reliant on public charging networks.

The organisation wants to see payment by bank card replacing the current mish-mash of apps and stand-alone RFID cards, and it is calling on networks to offer charging prices comparable to home charging to encourage those who have no access to a home charging facility to switch to electric.

In a new report: ‘Building an Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure that is Fit for the Future’, Which? makes the case for major developments in the public charging infrastructure.

The survey highlights low usage of the public charging networks, but stresses that improving the access to these networks, as well as the experience of using them, is vital to accommodate the predicted growth in EV use. Which? reports that only 15% of electric vehicle charging and 5% of plug-in hybrid charging currently takes place at public charge points.

In particular, improvements to EV infrastructure would give drivers who travel long distances – or who don’t have access to charging at home – the confidence to switch to an EV.

Three of the five most significant barriers to consumers buying an EV related to anxiety about charging, Which? claims. A third (33%) of those surveyed pointed to the lack of availability of charge points on long journeys and 29% raised concerns about a lack of charge points close to their home.

Which? said the current availability of public charge points was inadequate in some areas and the expansion of the charging network was happening too slowly. There are also significant national and regional disparities, with four times as many public chargers per 100,000 people in London as in the north-west of England; while in Scotland there are 52 public charge points per 100,000 people, against just 18 in Northern Ireland.

Which? research shows that the vast majority (93%) of EV and PHEV owners are currently able to charge at home, but the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimates that more than 8 million households will not be able to charge an EV at home due to limited access to off-street parking.

As the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars after 2030 approaches and more drivers switch to electric, the number of people who will soon be completely reliant on public charging is set to rise sharply.

“Those who are unable to charge from home face having to pay higher prices on the public network, and all EV drivers face challenges including multiple payment systems and poor charge point reliability,” Which? said.

Development of EV infrastructure is a devolved power and the UK and devolved national governments have taken different approaches. Which? is calling for a significant increase in the number of charge points both on-street and at service stations – particularly in areas where they are scarce – as well as requiring charge points that are currently restricted to specific brands to be available to all EVs.

“Action is also needed to simplify a system that currently has around 60 different charging networks, many of which need a specific app or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card,” Which? said in its report.

Which? believes that drivers using charge points should be able to pay with their bank card where possible, or use a single app/RFID card that is accepted by all networks.

Public charge points can also be expensive with some costing nearly 80% more than charging at home. Which? believes those who have no choice but to use the public charging network should be able to charge at a comparable rate to charging at home.

Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy, said: “Our research shows that few electric vehicle owners currently rely on the public charging network, but this will have to change if millions of people are going to switch from petrol and diesel vehicles in the next decade.”

“Improving the UK’s flawed charging infrastructure will support more motorists to make the switch to a zero-emission vehicle. The current confusing and complex system needs to be quickly overhauled if the network is going to be ready for the ban on new fossil fuel cars in 2030.”