New report urges UK EV industry to prioritise consumer ease of using public charging points

  • New report urges EV charging networks to collaborate so as to create a seamless consumer experience
  • Greater ‘interoperability’ would reduce the need for a wide range of apps, RFID cards, and membership accounts for those who wish to regularly use public chargers
  • Interoperability could also allow for advanced customer services such as live updates across networks
  • UK poised to lead on this issue in Europe by learning from the challenges faced by other markets
  • Greater collaboration between networks needed if UK is to achieve the Government’s goal of building one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world

A new report and position paper released today from the REA is making the case that greater ‘interoperability’ between EV charging networks in the UK should be an industry priority.

The REA is the UK’s largest trade association for renewable energy and clean tech, representing around 70 companies operating in the UK’s EV charging sector including energy suppliers, manufacturers, charge point installers and operators, and financiers.

At present consumers need multiple apps, cards, and sometimes membership accounts in order to travel across the country using public charging infrastructure. This can be a hassle and potential deterrent for future EV drivers. Meanwhile, the Government has outlined an ambition for the UK to have one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world.

Greater interoperability, which would entail EV charging network companies using similar communications systems, could facilitate a superior consumer experience in the UK. It could also set the stage for advanced functions, such as being able to see live status updates of chargers across different networks, to be able to be billed more simply, and even for the vehicle itself to manage the payment process.

Interoperability may also be key to supporting fleets to go electric, which is a key step towards building a mass market. It is also an important factor for landowners and managers who wish to see infrastructure deployed on their premises.

Other more established industries have experienced similar developments, for example the telecoms industry over the past 20 years has moved from regionalised, closed networks to consumers presently being able to ‘roam’ across networks in the EU on one mobile phone plan.

Specifically, the report outlines:

  • Interoperability is key to achieving the Government’s ambitions of ‘creating one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world’
  • That there is presently an opportunity for the UK to ‘leapfrog’ other nations in the development of their charging infrastructure by acting on lessons learnt elsewhere
  • That there is a need for an industry-led definition of interoperability that can be adopted by Government
  • The Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) should be investigated as to its possible suitability to be the UK industry standard roaming protocol
  • The ISO 15118 standard should be investigated to see if it’s adoption by charging companies can facilitate smarter charging and energy services by allowing vehicles to communicate with charge points and smart energy systems

Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of the REA said:

“Tackling the urgent issue of interoperability between charging networks has implications for consumers, for the energy system, and for the ability for a wide range of market actors to embrace electric vehicles.

“In the Road to Zero strategy the Government stated an ambition for the UK to have one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world. In our minds, and in the minds of our members, interoperability is crucial to delivering that vision.”

Daniel Brown, Policy Manager at the REA and report author commented:

“As the number of actors in the UK’s EV charging sector is quickly expanding, and the size of the public charging network poised to significantly grow, now is the time for the sector to come together and discuss industry-led solutions to interoperability that can be supported by Government.”

“If our members embraced similar communications protocols and standards, customers in the future could be able to access live data in their vehicle dashboards or phone apps on charge point status, they could charge through their vehicle without the need for an app or card, and their vehicles could more easily help manage strains on the electricity system.

“What we’ve done in this report is put forward a draft definition of interoperability, surveyed the market for views on particular systems such as OCPI and ISO 15118, and outlined that for a more interoperable system new independent organisations will need to emerge, such as a National Interoperability Register.

Clive Southwell, UK Manager at Allego and Chair of the REA’s EV Charging Interoperability Sub-Group

“I am pleased that the REA is taking forward this vital issue and is opening an industry conversation about how a more interoperable EV charging system can be achieved in the UK. The charging sector is evolving rapidly and now is the time for industry to work together to make charging effortless for the driver”.

Jonathan Hampson, General Manager, Zipcar UK said:

“Car sharing is at an all-time high and Zipcar UK, the UK’s leading car sharing network, has over 250,000 members and is growing rapidly. What’s more we are helping bring EV driving into the mainstream with over 300 electric cars in our fleet, and half a million zero emission miles driven since launching EV’s last summer.

“It’s our vision to be fully electric by 2025, but to do this we need a ubiquitous EV charging network. We need a network that allows our members to move as freely across the capital and between charging stations as easily as they can petrol stations. To build confidence in the system it’s essential that we have easy and clear access to online billing too, but critically availability.”

The report was informed by numerous structured interviews with market actors including automotive manufacturers, domestic and international charging companies, mobility service providers, and technology developers. The positions reflect those of the REA’s EV sector group, which is made up of more than 70 companies who finance, develop, install, manufacture, supply and operate charging infrastructure in the UK.

The report is launched following the Government taking powers to intervene in charge point communications and payments as part of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, during the discussions of the Government’s EV Energy Taskforce, and ahead of the second reading of the ‘Wiggin Bill’ in Parliament on the 8th March.


Notes to editors

Image available for public use, please credit ‘Matthew Trevaskis, EcoDrive’

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Hayley Allen
External Affairs Officer
+44 (0)20 7981 0862
[email protected]

About the Renewable Energy Association (REA)

The REA is the UK’s largest trade association for renewable energy and clean technologies with around 550 members operating across heat, transport, and power. The REA is a not-for-profit organisation that represents renewable energy and clean technology companies operating in over fourteen sectors, ranging from biogas and renewable fuels to solar and electric vehicle charging. Membership ranges from major multinationals to sole traders.

The REA’s EV sector group is comprised of around 70 members delivering the critical infrastructure needed to deliver the transition to a zero emission car and van future. The REA additionally serves as secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electric and Automated Vehicles.

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