UK Government announces new Regulations for the public EV charging network

United Kingdom

On 11 July 2023, the draft Public Charge Point Regulations 2023 (“Regulations”) were laid before Parliament. The Regulations are the product of the UK Government’s response to the UK Office for Zero Emission Vehicles’ 2021 consultation on the consumer experience at public CPs (the “Consultation”), which was published in March 2022 (the “Consultation Response”) (our Law-Now on the Consultation Response can be found here).

In introducing the Regulations, the Government’s aim is to encourage the switch to EVs by ensuring that public EV charging is as simple and hassle-free as possible by seeking to address the widely reported frustrations over accessibility and quality of public EV charge points (“CPs”). The new measures impose obligations on EV charge point operators (“CPOs”) to ensure a better public charging experience for EV drivers.

Key changes

We have set out below the key changes introduced by the Regulations.

1. Increased Reliability and support

As proposed in the Consultation, the Government has introduced regulatory measures aimed at bolstering EV drivers’ confidence in the reliability of public charging infrastructure.  Within one year of the date that the Regulations come into force, CPOs must meet the ‘reliability requirement’ set out in Regulation 7 which requires them to ensure that their CP network is on average reliable for 99% of each calendar year (or against such other time period where the CP is only accessible during specific hours). Details as to how reliability is measured is also set out within the Regulation. The CPO’s compliance with this requirement must be published on their website. Where CPOs are found to be in breach of Regulation 7, they face fines of up to £10,000 for each breach per network. Additionally, drivers will have the benefit of guaranteed support at unmanned CPs pursuant to Regulation 9, which requires CPOs to provide a staffed free-of-charge telephone helpline that is available 24 hours per day for users seeking assistance regarding the functionality of the CP.

These new requirements demonstrate a positive step forward by the Government and will significantly boost EV drivers’ confidence in public charging by providing a dependable charging experience. However, CPOs must now prepare for the increased regulatory burden and network costs associated with operating at 99% reliability and reporting in line with Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI) data standards. 

2. Contactless Methods of Payment

The Consultation Response recognised that the absence of a standardised payment method across CP networks was a key factor in the frustrations faced by consumers.

The Regulations now provide that within one year of the date that the Regulations come into force, CPOs must ensure that drivers are able to pay to charge an EV by contactless payment without the need to enter into a pre-existing payment arrangement with the CPO. This requirement applies to existing rapid CPs (50kW and above), as well as new and existing CPs above 8kW which are made available to the public after these Regulations come into force. Whilst the 8kW threshold for contactless payments means users relying on chargers with power below this would  be inconvenienced, this measure seeks to balance the consumer frustration arising  from the lack of a simple and common payment method with practical considerations.

3. Payment Roaming

As a step towards accelerating the electrification of vehicle fleets, moving away from the industry-led approach originally proposed by CPOs, the introduction of Regulation 6 requires CPOs to align their services with a third-party roaming provider. This alignment facilitates simplified payment solution through mobile apps or radio frequency identification (RFID) cards. This will allow consumers to take advantage of different payment platforms and subscriptions across the majority of networks. CPOs must ensure that, within two years of the enforcement date of the Regulations, drivers are able to pay to charge an EV using a payment service provided through an app by a third-party roaming provider and will be required to report the use of such payment services to the Secretary of State (“SoS”) within 28 days of the Regulations coming into force.

Although a move in the right direction, users may have to use multiple apps for charging their vehicles, depending on how CPOs align themselves with payment providers, This may defeat the purpose of streamlining the payment process. Whilst allowing users the choice, it may have been better to utilise a sole payment provider, and single app, to enhance the convenience of the charging process. Additionally, access to payment services through apps will be dependent on the quality of the mobile signal across the charging network, which highlights the need for such infrastructure to be reinforced at the same pace.

4. Open data

A key takeaway from the Consultation Response was that EV drivers should be able to locate available and working CPs easily to allow for an efficient charging experience. Under the Regulations CPOs will now be required to adopt the OCPI data standards and make data openly and freely available to the public including data relating to a CPs availability status (whether it is available, charging or reserved and unavailability hours), the location, connector type, payment methods and pricing in pence/kWh. The data held by CPOs will need to be accurate, updated to real-time (within 30 seconds in the case of the operational status of a charger) and provided to the SoS, distribution network operators, transmission owners and electricity system operators on request. CPOs will have one year from the date that the Regulations come into force to implement these data arrangements. Overall, by mandating the requirement for transparent and accessible data, EV drivers and fleet managers will now be able to easily locate available and functioning CPs, which should increase the efficacy of their charging experience and reduce range anxiety.  

5. Pricing Transparency

To provide consumers with the option of comparing pricing across charging networks, CPOs are required to clearly display the total price for charging an EV in pence/kWh. Whilst the exact method of display may vary based on the operator’s discretion, Regulation 11 requires such pricing to be clearly communicated to consumers via a display at or near the CP. For added fairness, the price cannot be increased once charging has commenced. This change effectively allows users the option to choose their CP provider based on pricing, which mitigates the uncertainty of price variations as a barrier to consumer assurance in EVs.

Industry benefits and next steps

The Regulations grant various enforcement powers including investigatory powers and the ability to issue civil sanctions. These sanctions include compliance notices and penalties ranging from up to £250,000 for any obstruction of the enforcement authority and the giving of false statements); up to £10,000 per network for breaches related to reliability requirements under Regulation 7; and £10,000 per CP for each breach of the requirements relating to payment roaming and displays, contactless payment, regular reporting, helpline support and data. These powers are currently granted to the SoS, however it is not yet known whether an approach similar to the Electric Vehicle (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021 and Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017 may be adopted, with such powers being  delegated to the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

The new measures, particularly the requirements for increased reliability, transparency and payment convenience provide reassurance to EV drivers and  represents a positive step forward by the Government to improve the public charging network and consumer experience. This is crucial in the UK’s transition to EVs as we head towards the current 2030 deadline to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles.  However, the new measures also increase the regulatory and compliance burdens imposed on CPOs significantly, and therefore the detailed implementation and enforcement of the Regulations will be closely monitored by the EV industry. 

The Regulations come into force on the 22nd day after the date on which they are made secondary legislation. It is expected that the Regulations will be implemented by the end of September 2023 at the latest.