Opinion: Why allowing EV owners to ‘roam’ could drive take-up
Ability to top up at any public charging point under just one service would be game-changing and a big help in popularising EVs
Imagine how frustrating it would be if every petrol company used a different type of fuel pump system, requiring you to only be able to stop at one type of filling station or sign up to multiple different accounts.
It would make the simple act of refuelling a combustion-engined car much more complicated – but it’s a situation that will be familiar to electric car drivers who use public charging stations. Keeping an EV charged on the go can require carrying multiple cables and signing up to a host of different providers.
It’s incredibly irritating, and – as we’ve found on numerous occasions – can really damage the experience of driving the latest breed of incredible EVs.
So it probably didn’t take a taskforce gathering input from more than 350 related companies and bodies to highlight the fact that something needs to change in order to help drive the mass adoption of EVs. You could simply have asked a handful of EV owners.
But the calls for ‘interoperability’ made by the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce should be welcomed nonetheless, simply because it highlights a simple, easy way of making recharging an EV easier.
Imagine how much easier it would be if you could sign up to one service and plug in at any public charging point – no matter which company runs it, how fast it is or where it is in the UK or, potentially, Europe.
Think of how your phone can ‘roam’ when abroad, working with a different network without needing a different account. That’s how EV interoperability would work, along with clear, standard labelling allowing you to clearly see the price of using any given charging point.
It would be a huge boost to EV owners and would massively simplify the process of recharging – which remains a barrier to buying an EV for many.
Will it happen? Technically, it’s quite simple, as bosses from ABB, a major EV charging point producer, told me earlier this year. The challenges lie in agreeing a standard and persuading companies to share the data necessary to make the process work.
That’s a harder task; in the modern world, data is a hugely valuable commodity, while charging firms that have exclusive rights to key locations will be reluctant to, in effect, allow rival firms to use them.
And that’s where this report will surely help. It may have no legislative power, but it is a series of 21 common-sense proposals (it also covers areas such as smart charging and promoting EVs) made with the backing of governments, regulators, energy companies and car firms.
The solution is simple and obvious, but getting there will require the impetus and commitment of all those bodies to agree and implement a set of common standards. Doing so, though, will make charging an EV simpler and easier for drivers.