Consumer Experience at Public Chargepoints: Government publishes its response

United Kingdom

Introduction

On 25 March 2022, the UK Government published its response to the UK Office for Zero Emission Vehicles’ (“OZEV”) 2021 consultation on the consumer experience at public chargepoints (“CPs”) (the “Response”). The consultation set out OZEV’s policy ambitions across key areas such as streamlining the physical and digital payment methods offered to consumers, opening up CP data and ensuring a reliable charging network (our summary of the consultation can be found here).

The Response draws on feedback from over 1500 electric vehicle (“EV”) drivers and 13 chargepoint operators (“CPOs”) and sets out Government’s final policies following the consultation.

This article summarises the new regulatory measures to be introduced, the timings and impact of such measures.

Government’s final policies

The policies set out in the Response apply only to public CPs and will be given effect via amendments to Part 2 of the Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 and the Prices Act 1974.

1. Method of payment

The Response notes that while simple payment solutions have emerged, there remains no common method of access across CP networks, resulting in a more complicated consumer experience. Almost all private individuals who responded to the consultation requested contactless payment, with cash, text or phone payments identified as not preferred. However, most CPOs argued that any such requirement should be for rapid CPs only, with the cost of implementation too high for slower CPs.

In light of the responses, new CPs above 7.1kW and existing rapid CPs (50kW and above) will be required to have a non-proprietary method of payment that does not require a payee’s mobile or internet connection. The payment method must also be compliant with the Alternative Fuels and Infrastructure Regulations 2017 (“AFIR”) ad hoc requirement which ensures a consumer can use a CP without having to enter into a pre-existing contract.

This requirement will come into force immediately once amendments to the legislation have come into effect, and existing rapid CPs will need to be retrofitted to accommodate these changes within 12 months of such time. The Response also notes that, Government will carry out a further consultation on extending the minimum payment method to new chargepoints below 7.1kW.

2. Payment roaming

The Response notes that there is currently no payment solution which allows consumers to take advantage of different payment platforms and subscriptions across the majority of networks. This is especially important for fleet vehicles who cannot rely on ad hoc payment. Almost all respondents supported some action to support roaming, however, there were split views on how to achieve this. Options included the Government developing a platform to enforce cooperation between chargepoint operators and third parties with the development of supporting standards.

CPOs in particular were against government intervention and proposed an industry-led approach. However, the Response pointed that progress needs to be made much quicker in this area, particularly to support accelerated electrification of vehicle fleets.

As a result, Government has mandated that all CPOs must align their services with a roaming provider (one who offers a payment app across multiple charging networks) within 24 months after the amended legislation is passed. In the interim, Government will provide technical guidance to CPOs on accredited roaming providers to enable them to prepare their infrastructure appropriately.

It should be noted that the legislation will also include provisions to allow Government to designate approved providers if the industry does not demonstrate significant progress within the 24 month period.

3. Open data

A key takeaway from the 2021 consultation was that EV drivers should be able to locate available and working CPs easily to allow for an efficient charging experience. Government have identified “must have” data sets in order to achieve this, such as static data (i.e. information which does not change such as location, CP speed etc) and certain dynamic data (i.e. information which will change over time such as availability and state of repair).

Nearly all respondents wanted open static data and live dynamic data (such as marking charging bays as unavailable on a live network map and identifying CPs as broken or in use). CPOs were largely against the open dynamic data provision due to commercial concerns regarding competition at well-utilised sites, however, the Response notes that Government were not persuaded by these arguments as open dynamic data supports the consumer to locate the right available CP for their needs while they travel across the UK.

As a result, within 12 months of legislation taking effect, CPOs will be required to adopt Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) data standards and to make static and some dynamic data openly available. Government are currently working with industry and stakeholders through an open data workstream to develop a platform for making such data available; the expectation is that a solution will be operational by the end of 2022.

4. Pricing transparency

Pricing disparity and variation at CPs is also a key barrier to consumer confidence in the public charging network. The Response notes that consumers should be able to understand and compare pricing across the UK charging network to select the best available price.

Effective immediately from when the legislation is passed, CPOs will be required to display their pricing in p/kWh. The precise method of display will be at the operator’s discretion but must be clear to consumers and the price cannot increase once charging has commenced.

The Response also notes that the due to lack of standards, Government will not be proposing to change regulations on MIR (Measuring Instrument Regulations 2016) compliant meters but will update guidance this year to clarify current legislation.

5. Reliability

In order to boost EV drivers’ confidence in the reliability of public charging infrastructure, 99% reliability will be required for the UK’s rapid charging network (including along the Strategic Road Network, at trunk roads and Motorway Service Areas) within 12 months of legislation being passed. Within the same timeframe, CPOs will be obliged to provide a 24/7 helpline to offer consumer support at all CPs.

There will be no exemptions for factors such as poor weather and reliability will be measured using open data. The Response notes that Government will develop the reliability metrics with industry in the next year and this will be outlined in guidance documents.

Nearly all responses agreed with the 99% reliability requirement, with most of the CPOs also agreeing. Government will monitor reliability data (which CPOs will be obliged to publish in line with OCPI standards) and publicly list those CPOs who do not maintain a reliable network. Government will also enforce self-reporting until open data has been mandated.

The Response states that if sufficient improvements are not noted by the end of 2023, Government will take the power to mandate 99% reliable charging across charging points of all speeds.

Enforcement

The Response also notes that an appropriate body will be appointed to enforce these regulations and an enforcement regime (similar to that under AFIR) will be introduced whereby the enforcement body has the powers to inspect, test and remove hard and software situated on both public and private land. It may well be that the OPSS fulfils this responsibility under the AFIRs.

Emerging Policy Areas

To protect lower-income households, during 2022 Government (in partnership with Ofgem) will publish a policy statement advising the most cost-effective charging times and locations for consumers.

Government have also commenced work with the British Standards Institution to draw up standards (to be finalised in summer 2022) addressing factors such as kerb height and charge socket height that ensure disabled drivers’ and pedestrians’ requirements are catered for. It is noted that uniform signage is already recommended by the Traffic Signs Manual: the Response suggests this guidance is not being closely adhered to and Government will liaise with local authorities to ensure this is addressed. The Department for Transport (DfT) reserves the right to update signage guidance if progress is not forthcoming.

In relation to shelter and lighting, Government are working on an EV Infrastructure Guide (due to be published in early 2022) with the Institute of Engineering and Technology. In the interim DfT will encourage local authorities to provide adequate lighting, CCTV and weather coverings. There will be no requirement for CPOs to provide these.

Next Steps

Legislation will be laid before parliament in 2022 (parliamentary business permitting) and will take effect either immediately, after 12 months or after 24 months. It is expected that all legislation will be effective by the end of 2024.

A summary of the key legislative measures and lead times for implementation set out in the response are as follows:

 Consumer Experience table 1

 Consumer Experience table 2jpg