Government takes charge to simplify EV usership

BIK, EVs, Government, ULEVs

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Last month the government announced plans to make it compulsory for every new home in England to come with a home charging point, and by spring 2020 all-new rapid charge points must be required to take payment by contactless debit or credit card – something so simple, but rarely possible with the current infrastructure.

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It comes with news that as of spring 2019 there were approximately 220,000 electric cars on UK roads (approx. 0.7% share), but as BBC’s Money Box presenter Paul Lewis (pictured) and reporter Dan Whitworth discovered, EV charge accessibility isn’t as easy as the ‘electric’ buzz leads you to believe.

Government ev charge bbc paul lewis

Traditionally fast?

For traditional diesel and petrol car users, filling up your vehicle has been a simple process of pulling up, filling your car in a matter of minutes and then paying by cash or card from anywhere with no need to hand over any personal data through sign-ups before you use.

However, for battery electric vehicle (BEV) drivers, there are at least twenty charging companies on the market all offering a variety of different (some complex) methods to charge, such as app downloads, club cards, registrations, memberships, and subscription. Some of which offer incentive schemes, but all requiring access to your personal data in order to sign you up to their service  – and that’s before you find your nearest charge point location.

Sluggishly modern?

Currently, BEV drivers can expect to use around three to four different apps to ensure they get a charge when on the go, but it’s proving frustrating to many BEV drivers, who have to sit for lengthy periods of time to generate enough charge to move them onwards. At least for the moment gone are the days of simply pulling up and filling a tank in a matter of minutes, before setting off for another 350+ miles.

BBC’s Money Box interviewed an everyday BEV driver Gary Smith from Swindon who said:

“Simplicity is the key…I don’t want any messing around accessing an app”.

Users want services that are comparable to those that exist already with fuelling petrol or diesel cars – which is generally the sentiment being felt by many BEV users and still one of the main factors putting off early adopters.

If electrification is the future, and all the BEVs being built are the answer to cleaner air zones, then how did we manage to get it so wrong by overcomplicating the process of paying for electricity?

A problem we experience today is that businesses want to access to your personal data. The 21st century has seen an explosion from technology giants who seek access to our personal data in exchange for service use, as seen from the growth of the Google’s and Facebook’s of the world. Undoubtedly, these companies have given us many benefits, but today companies are realising the potential and value that data gives them. From exploiting influence and customer control to protecting their own business model – which is fine, but if we want to change the world, by encouraging people to adopt BEVs, then this current practice isn’t helping consumers move to BEVs or freedom of charge accessibility.

Switched on subscription


The drive for control by the energy providers may be contributing to a negative impact of the pace in which consumers are adopting electric vehicles. The current requirements for electric charge, by process of registration, is counterproductive and it’s creating a burden on consumers – just one of the theories why electric vehicle take-up has been slow.

In June 2018, BP who run 1200 petrol forecourts bought out Chargemaster, making it the largest provider of EV charging in the UK. The company offers two current methods of payment, pay as you go (PAYG) contactless and subscription for around £8 per month. However, the downside to these methods means users are only able to charge up at BP Chargemaster locations with their payment methods, discouraging the use of other providers, making the task inconvenient compared to the current model of turning up anywhere and paying with cash or card.

Dave Newton Chief Executive at BP Chargemaster champions their subscription model adding:

consumers like it, different users have different needs and we have many thousands of subscribers who use the network very frequently and get the benefits and savings”.

Typically, if subscribers were to use the BP Chargemaster subscription model 2-3 times a month, it would provide a cheaper alternative to BP Chargemasters PAYG service, which works out around 30 pence per hour, double the cost of what users would expect to pay should they charge their vehicles at home overnight.

Government takes charge

So how did we manage to drive backwards when we were all looking forward to an electric future?

Mr Newton admitted that “investment into infrastructure was required” to help improve convivence and provide effective solutions.

But has the government been too slow to act and influence uptake?

It’s positive news that the government will be enforcing contactless payment through charge station distributors, but users will have to wait until spring 2020 to see the benefits of this introduction rolled out. Some 10 years on since the low voltage surge for electric vehicle started here in the UK, raising the question ‘why is it taking so long?’

For now as much as the electric buzz movement would like you to believe, BEV charging infrastructure in the UK doesn’t offer practical solutions for our traditional culture of mobility, however from Spring 2020 we should get a better idea of how powerful the charge towards battery electric vehicles will be, with many new electric vehicles expected to hit the market offering faster charge and better mileage range.

BBC Money Box

Listen to the full interview with BP Chargemaster Chief Executive here

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