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Call for funding rethink on public chargepoints

Date: 16 December 2015   |   Author:

Electric vehicle charging point expert Chargemaster is calling on the Government to overhaul the way the public charging network is set up currently, with managing director David Martell accusing decision-makers of "hurting and preventing the establishment of a public network".

Speaking at the Chargemaster Forum, a round-table event consisting of EV stakeholders from across the industry, Martell claimed that although the UK has got off to a better start than the majority of countries, most public authorities don't want charging points on their patch. "They are not interested because they have to pay to support them. We have a big issue in the UK with no one maintaining charging points," he said. "You've got to do it where people will find value, and therefore pay to charge their car."

Martell called on the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to "encourage the establishment of a sustainable competitive model", claiming that it is a mindset the UK does not currently employ.

"Why not say there is a pot of money where any commercial partner can take 25% of the cost of the infrastructure and therefore they have a stake in the game?" he continued. "That way Government gets the infrastructure four or five times faster and for a very low cost of investment. The industry is being held back by the lack of certainty."

Chargemaster's boss also said he had "given up" putting the argument for workplace charging, due to the need for an exemption to European state aid rules to give grants to businesses.

"You can give a grant when it goes direct to the consumer, but the issue with workplace parking is that the grant will go to the company," explained Michael Hurwitz, director, energy, technology & international at the Department for Transport. "We recognise it's a barrier. We know we have more to do with workplace parking in Government."

Hurwitz said there is the opportunity to appeal for a workplace charging grant to be exempt, but it is a long-winded process that would need to prove social and environmental benefits, but suggested it is an issue that could be revisited depending on the funding available in the wake of the Government's Spending Review.

Hurwitz also predicted that the Volkswagen scandal could signal a big change in the way legislators look at the automotive industry. "Things are going to fundamentally change," he said. "I don't think we fully know how yet, but we have known for years about what we always presumed would be legally acceptable ways to get performance on a test. Everyone revises for a test; not everyone takes in a cheat sheet.

"It will change things. We have had assurances from all manufacturers that they don't do this, but it has changed the level of trust between manufacturers and authorities," he continued. "We need to know the procedures are robust and can conform. We need to know how vehicles are performing in the real world."