In December 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a market study of the Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Market to consider how competition is developing and emerging issues. The CMA is presently engaging with these stakeholders, together with its respective authorities in Europe. Stakeholders include Local Authorities, Chargepoint Operators and manufacturers, EV manufacturers, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), motorway service area operators consumer and trade bodies, as well as regulators and government departments.
The CMA has identified emerging themes and challenges in the following areas:
- Competition and investment
- Customer engagement and protection
Competition and Investment
Although demand for EV charging is currently low, it is increasing and significantly more chargepoints will be required. As a consequence, charging infrastructure (such as smart charging and vehicle to grid) will also need to be enabled to meet the increasing demands on network capacity.
The Government will play a critical role, particularly in areas where the commercial case is limited (e.g., rural areas). Regrettably, there is mixed expertise and interest at local authority level, with a lack of clarity over their role and a lack of co-ordination between local authorities and other stakeholders, in particular DNOs and businesses, surrounding charging infrastructure which will have impact on the provision of kerbside charging.
Charging technology continues to develop and generally there is a strong appetite for investment, although the high cost of network upgrades required for rapid and ultra-rapid chargepoints, particularly in motorway service areas, are barriers to entry and expansion. However, less concerns were raised about the ability for businesses to offer and compete for other forms of charging such as at destinations, workplace or home charging.
Customer Engagement and Protection
Customers are primarily concerned about reliability and ease of access, with issues as to complexity and insufficient data on pricing, payment methods and availability. The support for new EV drivers to navigate these issues remains relatively limited. There were also issues raised about interoperability between cars and chargepoints, particularly why the Tesla network was not accessible to all. There were also broader concerns as to fairness and equality of access, including limited choice of providers, provision for rural and vulnerable customers and disparity between affordability of home charging (which is dependent on off-street parking availability) and public charging.
The CMA will now analyse the information received from stakeholders with a view to considering the potential measures necessary to address the issues raised, reporting further and engaging again with stakeholders this Spring. The final report is scheduled for Autumn 2021.
By David Summerhayes
David Summerhayes is Director of Legal Services for Northern Gas and Power. He has extensive knowledge in commercial law, having represented multinational corporations, FTSE 100 companies, and fast-growing SMEs, occupying senior positions at global and national law firms, including Partner with Sintons LLP