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UK Government vows to open up motorway EV charging stations to competition

Jordan O'Brien

Jordan O'Brien

Contributing Editor
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Motorway EV charging stations

A common complaint of the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is that many of the charging points along the country’s major motorways are run by the same company, in essence, a monopoly. The Government has now assured consumers that it will be acting to break that monopoly and offer competition on major routes. 

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean revealed the Government’s commitment to breaking the monopoly in an exclusive interview with Electrifying.com, where she revealed that the motorway service stations will soon offer reliable charging points that can be accessed by anyone through a contactless card. 

Most motorway service stations in the UK have charging points provided by Ecotricity, typically rated as one of the worst providers in the UK due to an ageing charging network. That is starting to change, with Ionity and Tesla chargers now offered at more motorway service stations than ever, but the Government wants to produce legislation that will secure reliable charging at all motorway services across the UK. 

As part of the Government’s commitment, Maclean told Electrifying.com that new chargers will be introduced at motorway service stations before 2023, with at least six at each service area. The Government will also be enforcing its reliability rules with new legal powers to ensure that drivers can easily access the chargers and have no problem using them. 

The Government is setting aside £1 billion to upgrade the charging stations at motorway services, with the chargers set to offer a minimum charging speed of 150kW. While that’s not as impressive as Ionity’s 350kW charging speeds, it will still enable most consumers to gain over a hundred miles in the time it takes to grab a coffee and have a toilet break. 

Tesla won’t be booted out from service stations under this deal, however. Despite not being accessible to all car owners, as well as not providing a contactless payment option, Tesla will be able to continue running its charging network at motorway services. This is unexpected, as Tesla is often highly rated for the reliability of its network. 

Who will run the new service station chargers?

With Ecotricity’s monopoly looking like it’s about to come to an end, the question becomes who will run these new chargers at motorway services. Well, the Government wouldn’t say, but it did say that it will enforce service level agreements with the operators to ensure that the points were working for at least 99% of the time, while also offering 24/7 customer care and clear pricing information. 

While the goal is to have a minimum of six chargers at each service area, the Government has confirmed that larger sites will offer up to 12 new charging points with speeds of up to 350kW. The expansion is not due to stop there, however, with the hope that there will be 6,000 rapid charging points along the UK’s major road network by 2030. 

How the UK’s charging network needs to evolve

The UK’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure is in desperate need of a levelling up. While there are already more EV chargers than there are petrol stations in the UK, there are still considerable gaps. 

It was revealed last year that there were significantly more chargers in the South of England than there were in other parts of the UK, with Londoners enjoying ample charging compared to those in Northern Ireland.

The UK Government wants to address those issues too, with it making more money available to councils to actually install new chargers. Despite this, research from Centrica suggests that councils aren’t that busy at installing new chargers, with the pace of installation currently slow

With the 2030 deadline for the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, the UK will need to whip its charging network into shape. Thankfully, the Government is working hard to improve our charging infrastructure, although whether it’ll be enough only time will tell.

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