An article from back in October 2016:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/gove ... astructure
Plans to make electric vehicle chargepoints more widely available and convenient for motorists were put forward by government today (October 24 2016).
Our ambition is for nearly all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2040, and we are taking real steps to achieve this in the Modern Transport Bill. We now want to hear the views of businesses and the wider public.
If their hope is now to have nearly all new cars sold be zero emissions by 2040, what was their plan before charging infrastructure improvements were brought forward ?
Is it just me or does a target of 23 years from now seem overly pessimistic ? And I assume they are going to try to achieve this via legislation such as bumping up VED on all but zero emissions vehicles, (which they are now doing) banning Diesels in large cities (which is underway) and regulating and standardising the charger infrastructure. (no sign on any movement on this front since October)
It's my opinion that while Dieselgate and threats of Diesels being banned in large cities like London may in hindsight be the tipping point for mass adoption, it won't be legislation that encourages people over to EV's "before 2040", it will be technological improvements in the cars themselves that make them meet the needs of consumers and make sense economically.
Issues to be addressed in EV's for mass adoption are range per charge, purchase cost, battery longevity and public charger infrastructure, probably in that order of importance. Of those legislation can only have an impact on the public charger infrastructure.
In nearly every other way EV's are already superior to ICE cars today - zero pollution, (on the street at least) quiet, easy and smooth to drive, potentially very high performance whilst still maintaining excellent efficiency per mile (Tesla definitely showing the way here with high performance) very low ongoing maintenance costs, with the "drive train" (motor, stepdown gearbox, diff, driveshafts, and drive inverter) potentially being maintenance free for the life of the car other than very infrequent coolant changes. (The service schedule for the Ion says that the coolant for the motor and inverter, which includes a tiny radiator should be level checked every 3 years and changed every 20 years - yes, that is not a misprint!
Of course there are plenty of things that could still fail unexpectedly and need repairing - there is a small radiator and coolant pump, but it is not subject to anything like the stresses of the radiator in an ICE due to the high efficiency of the motor and thus low waste heat. (On the Ion it only runs intermittently when you work it hard) There are numerous pumps and motors for things like heating, A/C, vacuum pump for brakes, electric power steering, wiper motors, window winders and so on - so the car repair industry will not go out of business, but none of these secondary items are any more complicated or unusual than what you find in an ICE car, and are all perfectly DIY'able repairs when the cars get to a certain age when those things might start to fail.
The main drive train itself though, the heart of the car, which replaces the engine and gearbox in an ICE car should be very reliable, although only history will prove or disprove that of course. That really only leaves batteries as the sticking point for EV's both from the point of energy density (range and weight) charging time, reliability (in terms of random cell failure, which is already very rare) and longevity of the battery. This also remains to be seen, and new battery chemistry like Sodium Solid state could revolutionise the EV battery - we'll see. There is certainly a strong impetus for the research to be done on batteries now as there is a real demand and need for them.
Public charger infrastructure is one where I do believe the government needs to step in to both regulate and standardise. In a way, the Scottish government has already done so by creating Charge Place Scotland as a single umbrella entity for Scottish drivers to access public chargers using a single RFID or identity on a phone app. Currently this service is contracted out to Charge your Car, a UK wide company, and in turn Charge your Car provides back-end authentication for the individual chargers which are generally owned and maintained by local councils.
From an end users point of view in Scotland you have a single swipe card which will access 90% of the chargers in Scotland, with currently all of them being free. (I don't expect them to remain free forever though) I've used them a few times now and so far it has been straight forward and painless. Plug the car in, swipe the RFID card, press go, then come back later when finished. Swipe the card again before it will release your cable from the charger so thugs can't steal your charging cable. (Or on Rapid chargers the cable is tethered to the charging machine)
Some of the other operators like Ecotricity, Podpoint, Polar, Chargemaster etc have a token presence in Scotland, but might as well not be there as they have so few charging points.
Things are not so rosy in England and Wales however. There is no government run equivalent to Charge Place Scotland, instead there are about 10 different competing companies each with their own disparate charging points, all of which look and operate differently, require different RFID cards, different phone apps, and have wildly different tariffs. About 30% of the points in England and Wales are free to use, the rest have either monthly membership fees of a few pounds a month, (stupid) charge by time not by Electricity used like Ecotricity with their ridiculous £6 for 30 minutes of charging regardless of what speed you can charge at, (very stupid) or have free charging but with a connection fee like £1 per use (Charge your Car network, outside of Scotland) and so on.
To be able to even find a charging point across multiple networks its currently necessary to use a community operated 3rd party solution like https://www.zap-map.com/
which will allow you to find nearby charging points, figure out what charging network they are on, what the tariffs might be, how you can access it (RFID card, phone app or both) and so on. If you have to drive well out of your normal area you may find that the company whose charge points populate your area and for which you have an RFID card for may not have any coverage in a neighbouring county, so you need to access a different network! (At the moment there is little if any cross network roaming)
In short, outside of Scotland it's a real mess, and I'm sure that this must be hindering EV adoption in parts of the UK. It's just too complicated and confusing, and unnecessarily so.
A second issue with chargers is their reliability and who has the responsibility of maintaining them. For some networks like Charge your Car, they don't actually own or maintain the charge points that they provide access to - they are basically a back end authentication service and helpdesk and not much more. This means that when a physical fault with a charger is reported like a broken plug they pass the report on to the owner of the charger (usually a local council) but after that there is not much they can do.
There are cases where chargers can be broken or out of service for days or weeks, a good example recently was the rapid charger in Pitlochry which was down for at least 2 weeks - and it is only one of two possible routes to the top of Scotland for EV's with <80 miles of range, so it was a major inconvenience for drivers. If you arrived there and found the charger not working you're literally screwed. If you're lucky you might be able to hobble to a nearby town for a slow charge that could take hours, but chances are you'd be flat-bedded. There is either no urgency or no funding in some parts of the country for chargers to be repaired in a timely fashion.
Apps like zap map and plugshare do allow people to report chargers as broken so that other drivers can see which chargers are faulty BEFORE they leave on a journey, but of course this kind of information is constantly in flux, and somebody has to be the first at a broken charger to report it for others...
As well as physical or electrical faults another issue that can happen with chargers is loss of comms. The chargers all communicate back to their head offices, typically via 3G sim card to allow authentication for users. If that link goes down your RFID card can't authenticate or a phone app cannot send a message back to the machine to tell it to start charging. So the charger may be working perfectly and have power but be unable to charge for you because it can't phone home...
Some network's chargers (such as Ecotricity) will automatically fall back to "free vend" if they lose comms, where drivers basically get free charging. Other networks chargers simply won't let you charge. (Charge your Car/Charge Place Scotland for example)
The UK government really needs to step in and legislate these aspects of the public charging network to encourage EV adoption:
1) Tariffs are all over the place with all kinds of arcane charging models that make no sense. It literally looks like network operators threw some spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick, and so far nothing has stuck. I don't expect charging to be free, but I don't see why I should pay for a monthly membership that I might never use, a £1 connection fee for even the shortest 10-15 minute charge (when a 100% charge at home would only cost me £2.60) or pay for time (£6 for 30 minutes) rather than kWh.
If you make it free or too cheap, some people will go and hog their local rapid charger instead of charging at home just to save a few ££ so that is not sustainable, as the people that really need to charge on the go will not be able to get at a charger. However if you make it ridiculously expensive EV adoption won't happen, because public charging would cost you more than Diesel or Petrol when travelling long distances.
It seems pretty clear to me that the correct pricing model for rapid charging points that are not free to use is to simply to charge per kWh at a rate that is say 50% above the normal average residential tariff. So lets say the typical price is 13p/kWh, charge it at 20p/kWh. It's enough of a bump in price that there is no incentive for people that don't need to public charge to go hog a charger because its cheaper than at home, but still cheap enough so that you haven't lost the cost advantage of an EV on long trips. The 50% should be enough to cover the cost of machines, authentication and phone support.
For Rapid chargers, they probably also need a small but significant overstaying fee - most rapid chargers you're only allowed to stay at for 30 minutes or an hour, add say a few pound fee if you overstay to prevent people from plugging in to charge and then wandering off for hours. People will soon learn to move their car when it is charged.
Some sort of sensible tariff structure needs to be regulated by the UK government. After all you don't see Shell charging for minutes that you use the pump while BP charges for litres dispensed do you ?
2) There needs to be some sort of roaming agreement between charge point providers so that drivers don't need a wallet full of RFID cards or a screen full of phone apps. A roaming agreement means that networks are incentivised to increase their coverage because every one of their customers who uses a competitors charge point with their card costs them money. Either this or let some government run front end (a bit like Charge Place Scotland) deal with the end users and then contract out the charging infrastructure to the individual companies. But the key thing is that from a drivers point of view you want ONE RFID card and/or ONE smart phone app that will work at all charge points. Your debit card works at all service stations to buy petrol, you don't need a separate card for every different service station company!
3) There needs to be some level of service for repairs and upkeep of charging points. Currently users report a fault with a charger which typically gets passed on to a local council where something might or might not happen for some time. Some chargers might be fixed within a few days, some can go for weeks without being repaired. (I've heard of months in a few locations) This is unacceptable. The government should be mandating a certain level of service and response time to getting chargers repaired, especially a critical charger with no backup in the area. The government needs to work with local councils on this for council owned charging points as there may be cases where they just don't have the funding to perform the upkeep at the moment.
4) All providers should be legally mandated to provide "free vend" with comms faults. It's unacceptable that a driver can arrive at a charger at a remote location and be unable to charge simply because the 3G card in the machine lost contact with the central office. The machine is otherwise working, there is power at the site, but it just can't authenticate the card. The result of this could be that the driver has to be flat-bedded to another charger. Free vend on comms fault would give drivers more confidence that they won't be caught out by intermittent comms faults in the machines, and more importantly it gives motivation for the provider to fix their charger ASAP.
If a fault just causes drivers not to be able to charge the company won't really care and aren't strongly motivated to fix it quickly. However if every minute that there is a comms fault drivers can charge for free at the machine, that is a motivation for the company to fix the problem!
5) There needs to be a central registry of charge points with their location, tariff, online status (broken, working) use status (in use, free to use) which can be accessed by the public. Currently there are multiple registries with no requirement for a network to make that information available to others. Individual apps, such as the Charge your Car app can show whether a charging point is in use at a certain location on their network, but that information is not available to others in many cases. Zap Map and plugshare both try to fill this role but they are 3rd party systems that pull information 2nd hand from multiple sources and rely a lot from end user submissions, especially when listing faulty chargers.
So yes, the government has a lot of work to do to make the UK public charger infrastructure robust. We do actually have a lot of charging points per capita so are doing well on that metric, but they are fragmented among multiple networks, many have byzantine tariffs, its too confusing for end users with multiple cards and accounts, and charge point owners are far too slow to get faulty machines fixed and back in action, causing what I would call "public charger anxiety".