New rules to make it easier to use public electric car chargers

Electric car drivers will only need one app to pay for public chargepoints operated by different companies, under legislation laid in Parliament.

Motorists are currently forced to use multiple smartphone apps or membership cards to access different charging networks.

Mandating so-called payment roaming is among new Department for Transport (DfT) regulations aimed at encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles by making it easier, cheaper and more convenient to charge them across the UK.

Operators will be required to accept contactless payments at newly installed chargepoints at eight kilowatts and above, and at existing rapid chargepoints.

A standardised pence per kilowatt hour price will be mandated to enable drivers to compare the cost of using different networks.

Rapid chargepoint networks will be required to function for 99% of the time during a calendar year, and a new helpline will be launched to support motorists when something goes wrong with electric vehicle charging.

Chargepoint data will also be opened up to make it easier for drivers to check their availability.

Transport minister Jesse Norman said: “As demand for electric vehicles continues to grow, the Government wants to make sure that drivers continue to have confidence in the UK’s charging network.

“The regulations that the Government has put forward today will improve the EV charging experience for millions, helping drivers find the right chargepoints for their needs, providing price transparency so that they can compare the cost of charging at different points, and updating payment methods so all new chargepoints have a contactless option.

“This will make the switch to electric easier than ever for motorists, help to grow the UK’s economy and drive net zero.”

AA president Edmund King said: “This is a welcome step and we are pleased that the Government has listened to our requests to create more confidence when charging away from home.

“A 99% reliability requirement and live chargepoint information will help show drivers in real-time the benefits of driving electric.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The focus on improving reliability, interoperability and pricing transparency is good news as they reflect the main issues people have when recharging.

“The next step should be enabling contactless credit or debit card payments at public chargers below 8kW, which would benefit drivers who rely on on-street and destination chargers.”

Many automotive experts believe the UK’s public charging network must be significantly improved before the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Whatever the downsides of petrol and diesel cars, the relative ease of refuelling is something that EVs have to match.

“A single app will help greatly. But this will still be dependent on drivers getting a signal on their mobile whenever and wherever they decide to ‘fill up’.

“Our research shows there are still big holes in the mobile phone network.

“It’s not just drivers who need access to the phone network. To work properly, chargers too need to be able to connect.

“Technology might offer a solution to a lot of problems but only when it is 100% available.”