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UK’s automotive industry calls for new regulator to oversee EV charging

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The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has called for a new regulator to oversee EV charging in the UK, with the group noting that standards should be set to ensure every driver can benefit from the move to electric vehicles. 

In a seven-point plan, the UK automotive industry called for the creation of Ofcharge, which it said would monitor the market, including charging price levels and affordability, and enforce regulated minimum standards. 

The creation of this regulatory body would keep the consumer at the heart of infrastructure planning and rollout to ensure every region of the UK is in readiness for the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, according to the SMMT. 

But what standards would this new regulator uphold? Well, the SMMT has some ideas: 

  1. Embed consumer-centricity in policy and a national plan on charging infrastructure
  2. Develop and implement a nationally coordinated but locally delivered infrastructure plan
  3. Invest significantly to uplift all types of charging infrastructure, particularly public chargers, ahead of need
  4. Set binding targets to ensure adequate public chargepoint provision and social equity
  5. Enact proportionate regulation to deliver the best outcomes for consumer experience and expansion of provision
  6. Provide adequate enabling support to incentivise and facilitate delivery of charging infrastructure
  7. Ensure electricity networks are future-proofed and fit for purpose for zero emission mobility

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, commented, “The automotive industry is up for the challenge of a zero emission new car and van market by 2035. Delivering this ambition – an ambition that would put the UK ahead of every major market in the world – needs more than automotive investment. It needs the commensurate commitment of all other stakeholders, especially the charging industry as surveys show that range anxiety has been replaced by charging anxiety.

“Our plan puts the consumer at the heart of this transition, assuring them of the best possible experience backed by an independent regulator. With clear, equivalent targets and support for operators and local authorities that match consumer needs, the government can ensure the UK has a chargepoint network that makes electric mobility a reality for all, cutting emissions, driving growth and supporting consumers across the UK.”

Interestingly, while the SMMT represents a large portion of the UK automotive industry, there is one notable EV manufacturer that it doesn’t represent – Tesla. That’s most interesting in this instance because unlike other manufacturers, Tesla has a large network of electric vehicle chargers that it has built and operates – leading to the company having one of the most reliable networks on the road. 

However, there is an issue with Tesla’s network – one that will likely irk many members of the SMMT. That issue is that it’s currently exclusive to Tesla vehicles, and thus not available to those who drive Ford, Volkswagen or any other electric vehicles. 

Of course, the manufacturers of these other electric vehicles are more than welcome to roll out their own public charging network, which is what many of these companies are already doing in  the US as part of Electrify America, and on a small-scale in Europe as part of IONITY. That said, the SMMT is right. The UK Government likely needs to play a more active role in the rollout of electric vehicle chargers. There is a significant regional disparity in the number of EV chargers planned, which could leave many behind. Plus, the reliability of some of the public charging networks has been universally panned by many of their users – so it could be nice to finally set some standards.

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