Which? is calling for urgent improvements to the UK’s charging infrastructure to allow drivers to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) with confidence, as new research reveals significant flaws with the networks have resulted in three-quarters (74%) of EV owners reporting that they are dissatisfied with the current infrastructure.
The consumer champion believes the UK government needs to move quickly to address issues with the UK’s charging infrastructure, including poor reliability and confusing payment options, as well as doing more to ensure charge points are available where drivers need them, in order for more people to make the switch to electric vehicles.
The survey of almost 1,500 Which? members who own an EV or plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) highlights current difficulties with finding a charger that works. Half (48%) of EV drivers who use the public charging infrastructure find it a challenge simply to find a charging point in good working condition. Meanwhile, four in ten (40%) reported that they have experienced a non-working charger and four in ten (43%) have faced ‘technical issues’ with charging points.
Which?’s research also exposed difficulties around payment at public charge points – with six in ten (61%) having experienced an issue making payments.
Respondents also reported that there are not enough options when paying for electric charging. One in six EV drivers (18%) who no longer use public chargers were put off by the lack of convenient payment options, while eight in ten (84%) who currently use public chargers want to be able to pay via contactless bank card to avoid the hassle of paying via multiple apps. Currently, only a limited number of charge points offer payment by bank card.
The survey also revealed that around half of those using the public charging networks believe they do not have adequate access to charge points close to their homes (48%) and nearly half (45%) felt this was the case while on journeys.
Which? asked EV drivers to estimate how far the nearest public on-street charging point was from their homes and nearly half (45%) estimated that the nearest was more than a 20-minute walk away. This is an issue for drivers that do not have off street parking and are unable to charge at home, but are faced with a long walk to and from their car while charging takes place.
Meanwhile, one in five (20%) EV owners who no longer use the public charging infrastructure were put off by a lack of adequate charge points, while one in five (21%) drivers who have never used the public networks have been put off for the same reason.
Similarly, in a separate survey of 2,000 car owners, when asked why they might not consider an EV, four in ten (39%) car owners said that the top reason was there not being enough charging points, while 36 per cent cited range anxiety – concern over how far the car will travel on a single charge. Only the upfront cost of an EV (44%) was a greater concern. Meanwhile, three in 10 (29%) car owners said they would not consider an EV because it is ‘too much of a hassle’.
Despite the issues raised, Which? found that more than a third (34%) who plan on buying a new car in the next two years would consider getting an EV.
Which? believes many of the proposals the government has made to improve the consumer experience at public charge points are positive and wants them to be implemented swiftly.
The consumer champion is also calling on the government to extend the planned reliability standard for rapid charge points to cover all public charge points, to drive improvements across the entire infrastructure. This ‘reliability standard’ means that charge point networks have to be in working order for an average of 99 per cent of the time.
Which? is also urging the government to ensure its proposals for ‘payment roaming’ will mean consumers no longer need to navigate multiple apps and cards to pay for charging. Which? believes drivers should be able to pay via bank card wherever possible, or via a single app or payment card that is accepted by all networks. The government should build on the good examples that are already out there.
The UK government’s recent announcement of pilot schemes that will see more charge points being installed across local areas is a positive step, and Which? is calling for the UK and devolved governments, charge point operators and local authorities to work together to ensure that on-street public charging is readily available for those who need it.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy, said:
“Our research shows that the public EV charging infrastructure is falling short as many drivers struggle to find reliable charging points in good working order, have to navigate confusing payment systems, or are unable to rely on adequate charging points close to their homes or to get them through a long journey.
“The government must move quickly to implement its plans to improve the consumer experience of using the public charging networks by extending reliability standards across the full network and ensuring proposals for payment roaming make paying to charge much simpler.
“Charging must be easy, reliable and seamless to support people making the move to an electric car.”
Notes to editors
Michael, a property developer living in Cheltenham, has been an EV owner since 2016. His first car was a Nissan Leaf. Over the years, Michael has experienced various problems with public charging networks including faulty charge points and long wait times.
He told Which?: “As more people started to use EVs it became a pain to find a charger that wasn’t in use, so the half-hour recharge stop could be an hour while you wait for a charger to become available. There was some friendly camaraderie, where people would stop charging early when they saw cars waiting, but you couldn’t rely on that. Because of the tiresome nature of public charging, I now have a Hyundai Kona with a 300-mile range. I almost never go more than 300 miles on a single trip.”
Extra verbatims from Which?’s survey
- “I was unable to pay and charge without having to have the app or pre-pay the app. I just want to arrive, swipe my card and charge.”
- “Too many [payment issues] to list. The charge point not working, the app not responding, the charge point being bashed into by a car, or the charge point not accepting my contactless card. Issues are generally resolved by phoning the number on the charger, but not always – and it can take ages to get through.”
- “Many public chargers are incompatible or run by a different network, not well maintained, or are out-of-order when I try to use them. After experiencing one major disaster I had to spend the night away from home, stranded, without access to a public charging point.”
- “There are places we have thought of visiting, but chargers are so few and far between that we have given up the idea. Local chargers are regularly out of order, which puts us off going out of range, unless we know of a reliable charger to use.”
Further survey information
- In June 2022 Which? conducted a survey with 1,452 of its members who own an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.
- In June 2022 Which? conducted a survey with 2,050 UK car owners.
- Of the 1,452 Which? members surveyed who own an EV or plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), 799 said that they use public charging.
- By ‘reliability standard’, Which? refers to government plans to require every rapid chargepoint operator’s network to be 99% reliable, which has previously been described as an ‘availability standard’, where a network has to be in working order and available to be used for 99% of the time.
- ‘Payment roaming’ is described by the government as ‘the ability to use a payment app across multiple chargepoint networks, with all public charge point networks covered by at least one roaming provider.’
- A key motivator for car owners wanting to switch to an EV was lower running costs. However, increases in the cost of energy means that charging from home, as well as on public networks, is becoming more expensive.
- The UK government also plans to require charge points to offer payment via an easy mechanism that does not require downloading an app, a phone or a consumer’s mobile signal, at some types of charge point, and Which? wants it to move ahead with this.
- Currently, there are some operators who are offering simple payment methods such as contactless.
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