ManEVesto 2024: EV charging policy for new UK government


UK elections prompt calls for a more productive EV charging policy. By Julian Skidmore

The UK faces an uncertain future regarding its electric vehicle (EV) charging policy amidst a general election, where potential shifts in legislation could redefine the country’s approach to EVs. Recent data indicates a slowdown in EV sales not only in the UK but also across Western markets, prompting concerns over the effectiveness of current incentives and infrastructure. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has consistently highlighted the need for stronger incentives to accelerate the EV transition, advocating notably for a reduction in VAT on public charging points. Concurrently, initiatives such as the Stop Burning Stuff campaign by The Fully Charged Show, supported by figures like Quentin Willson, emphasise dispelling EV myths and promoting equitable charging practices through initiatives like the Charging Charter and Fair Charge.

The UK’s developments in EV regulations, mandates and standards are highly relevant to other markets like the US and Europe as the UK often acts as a global trendsetter in environmental regulations. So, whichever party becomes the new UK government, it needs a dedicated ManEVesto, including key policies aimed at addressing current deficiencies and facilitating a smooth transition to EVs that bolsters the economy, improves accessibility and instils public confidence.

The following are key components for a more productive EV charging policy:

  1. Strategic investment in a nationwide network of EV charging stations, with fast and rapid chargers to ease concerns about running out of power while travelling on public roads.
  2. Subsidising the installation of EV charging points at residences and workplaces, ensuring the convenience of overnight and workplace charging to enhance EV adoption.
  3. Adopting universal charging protocols and connectors for interoperability for seamless user experiences, whatever their EV model or charging network might be.
  4. Introducing financial incentives such as reduced electricity rates for EV charging, tax credits for EV purchases, and discounted parking fees for EVs to significantly enhance affordability and attractiveness.
  5. Regulating EV charging prices to ensure fairness, transparency and competitiveness to foster consumer trust in the charging infrastructure.
  6. Incorporating EV charging infrastructure with public transport hubs to promote several different transportation options. This could also help to reduce vehicle emissions.
  7. Focusing funding for research and development of advanced EV charging technologies such as wireless charging and battery swapping to enhance charging capabilities to benefit EV users and grow the national economy.

Payment and pricing

The current landscape features numerous charging networks, each with proprietary apps, inconveniencing EV users who must navigate multiple apps and payment systems. To address this, the UK government needs to propose the creation of a Universal EV Charging Payment app (UVCP). This initiative aims to consolidate development costs among networks, ensuring consistency and accessibility, particularly in locations with poor network coverage. Specialised features could be integrated via plug-ins, directing charging sessions to the appropriate provider.

BPpulse
The bp pulse app is just one of many available to EV users

Furthermore, expanding UVCP across the EU could leverage economies of scale, benefiting from a potential customer base of 500 million individuals. This expansion not only strengthens ties with Europe but also aligns with common sustainability goals.

To ensure fairness in pricing, it is important to implement pricing regulations for public EV charging, given that we also regulate fossil fuel prices. This includes reducing VAT on public charging to 5%, aligning with calls from Fair Charge and SMMT. Additionally, public charging costs should not exceed 60% of the cost of fossil fuels, reflecting the lower cost of wholesale and domestic electricity compared to traditional fuels.

Maintenance and customer support

Maintaining public charging points poses unique challenges compared to traditional fuel stations. With most charging points unmanned, detecting and responding to faults is more difficult. The industry’s rapid technical advances also present software maintenance challenges, compounded by unintuitive user-interfaces or manufacturing faults like water ingress. The new UK government could ease maintenance burdens by facilitating easier access for companies and local authorities to maintain Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). This approach contrasts with current punitive measures like hefty fines for minor failures, and aims to optimise resources and operational efficiency.

Then there is the issue of customer support. Introducing a national equivalent of the AA or RAC dedicated to EV charger support is a crucial aspect of any proposed EV charging policy. This centralised support network would streamline assistance for all EV users, minimising the duplication of helplines and ensuring comprehensive 24/7 support. Call support staff would be equipped with tailored scripts corresponding to charger providers, enhancing efficiency and user satisfaction.

Accessability

Approximately 40% of UK households (9.5 million) have no off-street parking, which poses a significant barrier to EV adoption. Any accessible charging programme must address this disparity through two main initiatives: street-level and communal charging solutions.

The On-Street Residential Chargepoint Schemes under this programme would involve installing charging infrastructure such as gullies, lamp-post chargers and conventional street-installed units. Initiatives like Connected Kerb, offering kerb-based and rising charging points, further augment these accessibility efforts.

For apartment blocks and shared parking facilities, we need to incentivise the installation of smart communal charging points. These initiatives not only accelerate easier management of charging infrastructure but also enhance property attractiveness and potentially generate additional revenue streams.

Connected Kerb
The Connected Kerb chargers in Lambeth will provide a 7kW fast charge, designed for habitual on-street charging where residents are parked for a predictable amount of time each day

Future prospects

Innovative solutions such as energy/parking stations, which combine parking facilities with charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid capabilities should be explored. Although costly to implement, these stations offer benefits like reduced parking congestion and enhanced energy resilience, aligning with sustainable urban planning objectives.

Attention also needs to be paid to the second-user EV market by facilitating fleet purchases and incentivising fleet owners through schemes like Salary Sacrifice. The facilitation of accelerated market penetration of second-user EVs would only support broader adoption and economic growth.

More widely, addressing affordability remains critical to broadening EV adoption. Leveraging mechanisms similar to affordable home ownership schemes would make EVs more accessible across all income brackets. This includes shared ownership models, loans, and Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) options tailored to lower-income drivers and second-user vehicles.

The insurance side of things also needs to be considered. Current data indicates that EVs are involved in fewer accidents and are more reliable than combustion vehicles but insurance, especially for new drivers, remains more expensive due to the market’s immaturity. To address this, providing incentives to support younger drivers—who surveys indicate are more open to EVs—would be a great way to encourage EV adoption.

The foundation for sustainability and growth

The idea is that this ManEVesto would help lay a foundation for future sustainability and economic growth, not just in the UK but across the world. By prioritising infrastructure expansion, standardisation and affordability, these proposed policies could accelerate the transition to EVs, which will foster a cleaner, more sustainable transport sector, globally. As the UK navigates its path towards a net-zero future, robust EV policies like those above are crucial for achieving both long-term environmental and economic goals.


About the author: Julian Skidmore is EV Industry Analyst at Versinetic



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