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CMA issues progress update on its study into electric vehicle charging sector

Posted on 16 March 2021

Since launching its market study into the UK's EV charging sector in December 2020, the CMA has received responses from almost 60 interested organisations and 49 EV drivers. In its recent progress update, the CMA outlines the key challenges raised by various stakeholders, including chargepoint operators and manufacturers, local authorities, motorway service area operators, and consumer and trade bodies.

Overall, the CMA's findings indicate a strong appetite for investment and a general recognition that demand for chargepoints will continue to grow. Responses have, however, highlighted a number of concerns and challenges within the market, arising in particular in relation to en-route rapid/ultra-rapid charging and on-street slow/fast local charging.

Challenges faced by interested organisations

A number of concerns were raised by respondents with regards to competition in the EV charging sector. In particular:

  • Barriers to entry/expansion in en route rapid/ultra-rapid charging (particularly on motorways): In addition to significant costs associated with entry, difficulties in accessing motorway service areas - despite interest in investing - were raised, including the issues posed by exclusive contracts that are currently in place. A lack of competition and choice was also commented on.
  • Numerous challenges surrounding the provision of on-street slow/fast kerbside charging: Respondents noted that this segment is heavily reliant on local authorities and concerns were raised over the attractiveness of investing in this segment. With regards to local charging in general, stakeholders raised concerns over the lack of consistency between different local authorities, with calls for national strategic oversight to enable better coordination between authorities, distribution network operators and businesses.

Another key challenge raised concerns the "significant capital investment required to enter and expand at scale". To overcome this, stakeholders are calling for government support by way of public funding, particularly in rural parts of the country where incentives for market entry remain low.

Challenges faced by consumers

For EV drivers, concerns include limited access to reliable chargepoints, insufficient real-time data on pricing and availability, and restrictions on interoperability, with respondents questioning why, for example, the Tesla charging network cannot be used by all EV models. Similar competition concerns have been raised over the barriers to consumers' abilities to shop around and switch their at-home chargepoints.

The idea of 'roaming' (between different charging networks) has received mixed feedback, with some respondents suggesting it may make the experience smoother and others fearful of additional fees.

Pricing in general remains an issue for EV drivers, in particular the disparity between at home and public charging, and the resulting lack of affordability for those without off-street parking.

Lastly, respondents have drawn attention to the lack of support available for new EV drivers, which presents a challenge to many, most notably vulnerable consumers such as the elderly, less 'tech savvy' and disabled drivers.

The CMA is working closely with the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), which has recently published a consultation on the consumer experience at public EV charge points, to consider potential measures to address the issues faced by EV drivers.

What happens next?

Discussions between the CMA and key stakeholders are set to continue through the Spring and we can expect a published report this Autumn, outlining the CMA's findings. Ahead of the publishing of its report, the CMA must also decide whether to refer the EV charging sector for a full market investigation by 1 June 2021.

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