All new public charging points should offer contactless payment via credit or debit card by spring next year, the government has said, as it seeks to address a key issue surrounding electric-vehicle usage.
While the requirement is not mandatory, the government announced today that it “expects industry to develop a roaming solution across the charging network, allowing electric vehicle drivers to use any public charge point through a single payment method without needing multiple smartphone apps or membership cards”.
It added that if the market is too slow to deliver improvements across the [charging point] network, it is “prepared to intervene to ensure a good deal for consumers by using powers in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act”.
With more than 50 charging point providers in the UK, the variety of payment methods required to use a range of charging points has become a major source of frustration for EV drivers.
The announcement comes as BP Chargemaster, operator of one of the UK’s largest public charging networks, published plans to introduce contactless card payment to all new 50kW and 150kW chargers. It will also retrofit existing rapid chargers over the next 12 months.
However, the firm stated that contactless payment would be for “occasional users” to its charging points, and added that it will “continue to lead with its Polar Plus subscription” service.
A BP Chargemaster spokesman told Autocar: “The benefit of contactless payment will mostly be realised by those charging infrequently, who may not have used our network before. Today, the majority of usage on our network is from subscribers, and that market will grow with higher utilisation from fleets and businesses, particularly with the introduction of the BP Fuel & Charge card - the UK’s first combined fuel card for liquid fuels and EV charging.”
When asked about the comparative costs of contactless payment versus a subscription, he said: “The Polar Plus subscription costs £7.85 per month (with three months free for new users), with the benefits being a usage tariff that is half the price of using contactless, as well as RFID card access, which remains the quickest way to activate a charge point on our network.”
The government’s announcement did not mention pricing or its expectations regarding contactless payments costing the same as existing offerings.
Future of mobility minister, Michael Ellis, commented: “It is crucial there are easy payment methods available to improve electric vehicle drivers’ experiences and give drivers choice. This will help even more people enjoy the benefits electric vehicles bring and speed up our journey to a zero-emission future.”
Mike Hawes, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) chief executive, said: "Industry’s ambition is to deliver zero emission transport, giving consumers confidence and convenience to encourage the widespread take up of electric and other zero emission vehicles. Today’s announcements regarding simplified payment at public charge points is very welcome, and will help drive greater demand.
"There is no time to waste, however. We need the right conditions to encourage businesses to invest in electrified vehicle production in the UK and for car buyers to invest in these vehicles. We are in a global race and remaining competitive is essential. We must secure significant giga-scale battery production here combined with a long-term commitment to infrastructural and supply chain investment and consumer incentives."