Baroness Deech (CB)
My Lords, as an electric car owner of six years, I welcome the attention being paid to our usage. The regulations represent a first step forward in the right direction, but it is too little and there is a long way to go.
The incidence of range anxiety is well known. Celebrities have written about how they will never drive electric again, having been thwarted in their attempts to charge up as they go on long journeys. The lack of charging points is almost a national joke. It has taken about five years of pleading for Parliament to install two chargers; after some postponements, they are finally expected after the Conference Recess. These are the rules for payment—or at least one of them:
“Via the QR code, scan the QR Code using your mobile device and follow the on-screen instructions on your mobile device, add a payment card, and pay as you go for the energy charge”.
I can see what will happen. Even that is relatively simple compared with some others—I will come to that point.
I solved my own charging issues by exchanging, at considerable expense, my low-range electric car for a much longer-range one, but many cannot afford that and many more live in terraced houses and blocks of flats with no access to a charging point in their garage or driveway, at work or in the road. Even in the road, there is no guarantee that a charger will be free and working or that a non-electric vehicle will not have taken the space reserved for an electric one. I have known banks of six chargers where you find that two of them are Tesla only, two are broken, one does not fit your car and one is in use. I gather that Tesla is now making its dedicated charge points available to other makes, but one will need a special adapter to connect the car. That needs to be widely known. How can we persuade the public to take up electric vehicles when charging and infrastructure are so lacking and complicated?
The regulations require contactless. To the public, that means tapping one’s everyday credit or debit card. Thankfully, it seems that is what the regulations mandate, instead of the current need to carry a wallet full of payment cards issued by many different charging providers. But this requirement applies only to new public charge points—we have to wait another year for the old ones—and those with a power of 8 kilowatts or above.
Moreover, public charge points are defined in the regulations not to include workplace charge points, points for a specific car make—Tesla, for example—or those for use by a visitor to residential premises. They do not apply to micro-businesses or to blocks of flats, and they exclude slow charge points. Why? Within two years, users will be able to use a payment card provided by one provider for another’s charge point, but it seems as if a provider need link up with only one other. We need one card to be used at every charge point nationally.
We need lighting requirements. Too often, the charge point, its tiny print about how to use it and the socket are shrouded in dark, at night and in the rain. Currently, the need to have wifi and an app may be a major obstacle. Imagine if you were a petrol car driver who gets to a petrol filling station late at night, only to find that your car is not allowed to be filled from that brand of pump and that you have to drive on and find another, or that the wifi is not working but is required.
The 99% liability is spread too thinly because it applies to the entire network, not the individual charging points. All in all, these regulations go too far in avoiding excessive regulatory burdens on industry, as they put it. I prefer to express it as too weak a requirement on industry to make the charge points that it provides, and from which it profits, all work all the time. Charging points should be uniform and there needs to be an end to the multiple, confusing charging membership packages.
The provision of data mandated in the regulations is good. One needs to know in advance whether the charging point that one wants to rely on is actually free and in working order. I fear that the mandated 24-hour telephone helpline may turn out to be one more where one is left holding on in the dark—and the rain—while music plays and a recording says, “Your call is important to us”.
Although these regulations herald an improvement on the current situation, it is only seven years until 2030 and the phasing out of petrol cars. There is not enough here to persuade the worried consumer to trust electric vehicle charging, because there are too many exemptions and providers are being given too long to adjust, given that electric cars have been mass produced and used since at least 2010. The regulations need to apply to every charge point, wherever it is, whatever its strength and very soon.