EV Charging Should Be PAYG or Free

As stated in the strategy document on Low-Carbon Transport the government has stated that it will develop a National Chargepoint Register (NCR). This all made sense when it was announced but that was before the various Plugged in Places had launched their various subscription schemes each requiring a membership fee to be paid and each having their own RFID card.

First, let us consider this whole concept of subscription schemes and RFID cards. In my opinion this whole concept is radically flawed. EV drivers do not want, nor need, to be a member of a “charging scheme”. Petrol car drivers are not asked to join the “BP Petrol Scheme” or the “Shell Diesel Scheme” and be given a card to use for each one.

The whole idea of roaming between schemes, so that the RFID card of one scheme works on the charge points of another scheme, is a completely false concept born out of the fact that these different schemes exist in the first place.

EV charging should be based on a similar model to the current Petrol Station network. You turn up, you pay up and you charge up! Easy and simple. No memberships… no RFID cards and no need to have complicated back office systems that control access between the schemes. Payment should be possible at time of charging by SMS, credit/debit card or offered for free by a business and controlled through them. There is no need at all for membership schemes to exist!

This model is currently being very successfully rolled out by the charity Zero Carbon World. They supply simple charge point hardware free to qualifying businesses such as hotels, B&Bs, restaurants etc. EV owners can just turn up and charge when using the services of the business. Access to the charging point is generally free to customers and controlled by the business but where public access is required then payment by SMS or card could easily be implemented. There is no need, nor any benefit to the EV driver, to have schemes that require membership. This should be the case for ALL public charging infrastructure.

So, without membership schemes the concept of “roaming” disappears and without roaming there is no central whilelist. Suddenly, the need for any central whitelist disappears altogether! The NCR then becomes a resource primarily for the EV driver and this is how any national charge point register should be.

I want to make it clear that the CW & NCR project is just at the first consultation stages. I have no idea in which direction it will eventually go. I have made my opinions clear to the project and that is all I can do as a EV driver. If you would like your views to be heard then can I urge you to contact the CW & NCR project at Pod Point and/or OLEV.

I am also very concerned at the way the project was awarded to Pod Point. Pod Point are one of the commercial organisations operating a membership scheme and so there could be considered a significant conflict of interest. The project is funded by public money and I would like to have seen it put out to tender. Others, without any potential commercial conflict of interest such as Open Charge Map, could then have been given the chance to be involved. OCM is an open source project designed by EV drivers for EV drivers and so if anyone stands any chance of developing and operating a true NCR then it is them. What they have in talented individuals and enthusiasm they lack in financial support. If OCM was publicly funded, instead of public funds going to an organisation already operating commercially in this field, then a truly National Register could be developed with no potentially conflicting commercial interests involved.

I have now withdrawn from being involved in any way with the Central Whitelist (CW) and National Chargepoint Register (NCR) project. I urge all those involved in the CW & NCR project to look again at the entire concept of membership schemes and RFID cards. They have no place in the long term and as I have yet to see any compelling case for their existence, neither have I seen any viable business model once government funding ceases, so I expect they will all ultimately fail.

The governement should be doing what should have done from the start – installing charging infrastructure that is supported by business sponsorship or PAYG. Membership schemes have no place in EV charging. I urge all those involved in the installation of EV charging infrastructure to only consider either business supported or PAYG for ALL charge points everywhere. If a business can justify installation by incorporating it within its own business plan or if it is a public charge point that is paid for on a PAYG manner then both of these stand a good chance of surviving long term. Charging points that are installed and justified as part of a membership scheme will not survive long term as EV drivers will not join such schemes once PAYG or free charge points become available.

I see the future not a lot different to the current situation with fossil fuels… people turn up, pay up and charge up and I expect that eventually existing petrol stations will start to offer EV charging alongside petrol and diesel and at that point this whole discussion will come to a natual end. We will then have at least as many charge point locations as we have petrol stations today and there will be plenty enough so as to not need even an NCR – just as we don’t need a database of petrol stations today… we just turn up, pay up and fill up.

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