A leading charge point operator has called for greater collaboration across the automotive industry if it wants to build a sustainable business around electric cars.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) recently highlighted that 100 new charge points are needed a day to hit the government’s minimum target of 300,000 by 2030, with the current run rate of 23 a day.
Responding to the criticism, Tom Hurst, UK Country Manager for charging firm Fastned, which plans to install 1000 high-speed stations across Europe by that date, and which has 15 fast-charging sites in the UK at present, said: “What we need if we want to build long-term businesses is collaboration; manufacturers need to sell these cars, we need to charge them, so we need to work together.
“The SMMT has highlighted an interesting line, but it doesn’t reflect the level of investment going in or the issues we have in getting sites connected to the grid and up and running. It’s fair to say the charging industry as a whole hasn’t been organised enough to defend itself - but the reality is that we are accelerating our rollout and that some of the barriers to us connecting to the grid are the biggest issue; not our commitment or capability.”
Illustrating his point, Hurst highlighted the delays to opening sites as a result of it taking too long to get them connected to the grid by the Distribution Network Operators that operate around the country. He said: “Today, we’ve got three sites ready to open bar their grid connection; that’s frustrating. We’re doing a dance with the lawyers who are doing a dance with the grid operators - it can make you bang your head against the wall it’s so ludicrous.
“The biggest barrier we face almost always come from the way that the distribution network operators are set up you. It’s not a very sexy subject, but the infrastructure and management of getting power from a big power station into a location just isn’t set up for charge point operators. A big housing development might have similar needs, but having the transformer operational on a certain day isn’t critical when you are on a three-year schedule, so long as it’s operational when you open.
“We, in contrast, build around a three-month schedule, and can’t do anything until that connection is on; we literally can't sell a single kilowatt hour of electricity without it. That connection, and the legal arrangements associated with it, erode any value in a site until they are complete. In some cases, the process is more complex than it needs to be. Some are pragmatic, but others are the polar opposite of pragmatic.”
The UK’s energy minister, Graham Stuart MP, recently admitted that speeding up grid connections is “possibly it’s the biggest challenge facing the [Energy Security and Net Zero] department”.