What do the new EV charging laws mean for electrification?

What do the new EV charging laws mean for electrification?

By Dunstan Power, MD of EV charging consultancy Versinetic, looks at what the new UK EV charging laws mean for drivers and the UK’s overall electrification journey.

With UK EV sales growing slowly this year and the former Government postponing the ban on electric vehicles until 2035, consumers may be forgiven for thinking that the enthusiasm for the electrification of UK highways is waning.

However, positively, in October 2023, as part of the Government’s commitments under its Plan for Drivers, new legislation was passed to make EV easier, swifter and more reliable for motorists.

Due to take effect in November 2024, the new regulations aim to enhance and simplify the EV driving and charging experience for motorists. The onus to comply with these regulations will rest with charging point owners (CPOs).

As of the end of March 2024, there were more than a million fully electric cars on UK roads and a further 645,000 plug-in hybrids. The legislation would naturally benefit EV drivers as well as serving to allay common concerns among diesel and petrol motorists such as range anxiety and lack of availability of public charging posts, broken charging posts and the time taken to charge an EV.

From November this year, the new regulations will ensure that chargers over 8kW have contactless payments within the next year to enable drivers to access and make payment to charge their EVs without a pre-existing contract. Furthermore, CPOs must also enable drivers to pay through at least one roaming provider at their public charge point.

Charge point operators must be transparent and display the total cost of the charging session, including connection fees in pence per kilowatt-hour. CPOs must also ensure that all data records pertaining to their charge points and complying to their regulations are available to the government bodies and any other relevant parties, including electricity systems operators and distribution network operators, upon request.

In terms of reliability, chargers must ensure that rapid chargers (above 50kWh) are 99% available, ensuring continual access for EV drivers. Furthermore, charge points must have a 24/7 helpline in case of problems or queries.

While these legislative moves to remove the psychological and real concerns of motorists are positive and no doubt will persuade more drivers to switch over to EVs, will the other stumbling blocks to UK electrification undo their objectives?

Let’s look at charge post installations themselves. There has been an accelerated growth of charging posts, which have increased by 43% year on year, standing at 62,536 at the end of May 2024, another stepping stone towards pan-EV adoption in the UK. However, despite this, the UK government looks to have failed on its promise of at least six high-powered EV charge points at every motorway service station in England by the end of 2023. Where there are chargers on motorway forecourts, another obstacle seems to be sufficient charging capacity, resulting in some sites decommissioning their charging points because they were taking power from the main facilities.

A further issue would be incorrectly installed chargers, which, if pressure mounts for CPOs to meet targets for public charge points, could become more prevalent. My own first home charger, years ago, brought up an error light, prompting me to take a closer look. Upon inspecting the junction box, I realised that the installer had not earthed the unit at all. An easy fix, but a serious oversight, nonetheless. In another case I’ve seen, when handling the cabling, the installer had failed to use wire ferrules and had instead screwed straight into the copper. The neutral wire had burnt through completely and was hanging off.

Technology such as ours that now helps installers save time and troubleshoot in their installations will help mitigate situations like these. Even when charge points are installed correctly, technology can inevitably fail. While the new regulations will provide drivers with a 24/7 point of contact from November, the CPO will have to facilitate quick repair of the charging station. For this to happen, there needs to be sufficiently skilled engineers on hand.

There has been a steady growth in the EV-qualified workforce, however the IMI predicts that the sector will need more than 107,000 EV trained technicians by 2030, rising to 139,000 by 2032, and 185,000 by 2035. It is expected that a shortfall of 30,000 EV qualified technicians will exist by 2035 when the ICE vehicle sales ban comes into force.

The improvements in charging infrastructure are only one part of the equation and the initial total cost of ownership of an EV – another barrier to going electric – are another. However, if we are only focusing on the charging experience barriers addressed through the new regulations, there could be a tide change on how EVs are perceived in comparison to their ICE counterparts.

Added to that, if the UK can plug the EV skills gap and ensure the smooth installation of charge points so that there are enough of them and functioning correctly, coupled with the new charging regulations, plus new advances in battery technology that mean EVs can travel much further on a single charge, there is now a real opportunity to gain ground on the battle to electrify the UK’s highways.

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