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Mitsubishi calls for EV infrastructure plan

Date: 25 August 2016   |   Author: Debbie Wood

A clearer plan is needed if the electric vehicle charging infrastructure is to cope with the rising popularity of plug-in hybrids, Mitsubishi has declared, one which also prevents charging companies from gaining a monopoly and introducing "poorly thought-out pricing".

The firm's Outlander PHEV is the UK's best-selling plug-in hybrid, with 10,037 sold in the last fiscal year, and today it accounts for almost a third of all electric-powered cars on UK roads.

But this upsurge in sales has left the charging network struggling to cope with demand and was a key contributor to charge point operator Ecotricity's change in pricing last month, imposing a £6 per half hour charge at its motorway rapid charging points.    

Mitsubishi UK managing director Lance Bradley believes the way Ecotricity is trying to control supply and demand is wrong and plug-in hybrids should be seen as a positive stepping stone into electric technology.

"If we let individual companies do their own thing you end up with a pricing programme so poorly thought out that it could potentially effect the sales of electric vehicles," he told BusinessCar. "Most people won't go from a petrol or diesel straight into an EV because it's too compromised and the cars are too expensive. Our Outlander PHEV is a stepping stone and that's a good thing and something that shouldn't be discouraged."

Although it is generally accepted that rapid charging could not have remained free in the long term, Bradley believes leaving the charging infrastructure to individual companies, especially when they have a monopoly, is counter-productive.

"We're getting to the point now where the charging network cannot cope. The question that we've been asking ourselves is if there's a clear enough plan for a future charging infrastructure and we're not sure that there is," Bradley said.

"When you get a situation like Ecotricity where they're talking about excluding the Outlander, the best-selling electric car in the UK at the moment, that doesn't help in the Government's ambition to get more electric cars on the road. There's a very clear desire to make sure electric cars work and grow quickly and this kind of action undermines it - we cannot let that happen."

Mitsubishi believes a more coordinated effort between car manufacturers and charging companies is needed to come up with what the charging infrastructure should look like in five years' time. Although universal pricing seems unlikely, Bradley is hoping it'll more closely mirror how petrol stations currently operate. 

"I think as a group of manufacturers we need to talk to people who understand about charging and where the market needs to be. I don't think we can get universal pricing, but we should mirror the way fuel stations currently operate."