MPs demand end to EV charging ‘postcode lottery’ and excessive prices

Transport Committee calls for action to ensure fair access and strategy to protect Grid from spikes in demand

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 12:22 pm
MPs believe there are still disparities in EV charging provision around the country

The Government must act to address inequality in access and cost of electric car charging and introduce legislation to encourage more sales, according to a cross-party group of MPs

The Transport Committee has said that EV drivers face a postcode lottery when it comes to public charger access and warned that those without private parking are at risk of being overcharged simply because they have to use public infrastructure.

The group of MPs also warned that the National Grid needed to take action to avoid localised black-outs caused by charging demand as the country moves towards a ban on all new petrol and diesel cars.

On-street charging can be substantially more expensive that using a private charger

In a new report into zero-emission vehicles, the committee says that drivers in rural and remote areas, as well as those who live in flats, terraces and other properties without off-street parking risk being left behind by a lack of infrastructure and higher charging costs.

Committee chair Huw Merriman commented: “Putting guarantees in place on infrastructure is crucial but one report after another flags concerns to Government about the provision of electric car charging infrastructure. Let ours be the last: it’s time that ministers set out the route map to delivering a network of services for everyone across the UK.”

In its report, the committee demands that public charge provision is made a requirement of local development and calls for some of the £90 million local funding scheme to be ringfenced for hiring “charge point champions” in local authorities.

It also calls for the Government to step in and ensure infrastructure reaches remote areas where installation costs are higher and the business case is weak.

The committee called for payment methods to be simplified

Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of charging firm Connected Kerb supported the report’s recommendations. He said: “Without reliable, affordable and accessible public charging, households without off-street parking will be left behind. It’s crucial that we act now to ensure this doesn’t happen. This means ramping up the installation of on-street charging solutions across the board – from densely populated urban to remote rural areas. We have to ensure that where someone lives isn’t a barrier to driving electric.”

Mr Merriman added: “Charging electric vehicles should be convenient, straightforward and inexpensive and drivers must not be disadvantaged by where they live or how they charge their vehicles.”

The report calls for the Government to address the VAT difference on charging - the tax on home charging is five per cent while at public chargers it is 20 per cent. It also demands action to protect drivers from overcharging and to simplify access so drivers don’t need multiple accounts and payment methods.

To help boost sales of EVs ahead of 2030, the MPs also raised the suggestion of a “ZEV Mandate”. This would see companies that produce the fewest zero-emission vehicles forced to buy “credits” from the largest producers. The theory is that these payments would help drive down the purchase price of EVs as well as incentivising car makers to accelerate their EV strategies.

Tanya Sinclair, policy director for the UK and Irelands at charging provider ChargePoint backed the mandate proposal. She said: “Our global experience shows that ZEV mandates directly increase the numbers of EVs on the road, not only driving down transport emissions but giving much-needed confidence to the charging sector. We support the committee’s recommendation that a ZEV mandate should be introduced in the UK without delay.”

As well as urging the exploration of other zero-emission technology such as hydrogen fuel cells, the report said that charging prices should be used as a “lever” to reduce pressure on the National Grid. MPs called for steps that would persuade people to charge “little but often” rather than fill from empty to full every time and to encourage charging at times of lower demand, such as overnight.

Graeme Cooper, head of future markets at National Grid said the network operator was working to identify where grid capacity was needed and to future proof against rising demand.

The committee’s report comes just days after the Competition and Markets Authority also warned of a postcode lottery around EV charging.

The CMA said that steps need to be taken to ensure that all drivers had easy access to chargers without complicated sign up and payment methods and with clear pricing structures. It also said that all chargers should be compatible with all EVs and highlighted concerns around the current monopoly on charging at motorway services, currently held by Gridserve’s Electric Highway and Tesla.

The CMA’s chief executive Andrew Coscelli said: “Some areas of the roll-out are going well and the UK’s network is growing – but it’s clear that other parts, like charging at motorway service stations and on-street, have much bigger hurdles to overcome.

“There needs to be action now to address the postcode lottery in electric vehicle charging.”