As part of last week’s Queen’s Speech, the government announced the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. The bill could have significant implications for the future of electric and self-driving vehicles, as well as for the UK’s position as what the government terms a “world leader in new industries.”

The draft legislation states that Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points must be made available at all large fuel retailers and motorway services. For some consumers, issues with how the existing infrastructure is run mean that such a change can’t come soon enough. Ecotricity, the company created by entrepreneur Dale Vince, has a near monopoly on rapid-charging points at the UK’s motorway services. It has recently increased the cost of using them, causing consternation among some of its customers.

Consumers crying foul

Gone are the company’s halcyon days of offering free charging to encourage consumer uptake of EVs. Gone too is the subsequent rollout of a £6 flat fee for 20 minutes of charge. Now, pricing has been hiked again, with a new £3 connection fee plus 17p per electricity unit thereafter. It means that charging a Nissan Leaf will rise to £7.08, according to the online charging point consumer guide, ZapMap.

In fact the RAC Foundation claims that as a whole, the cost of running a Nissan Leaf is now on-par with that of running an efficient petrol-powered car. This has serious implications for the technology’s future. Steve Gooding, the RAC Foundation’s director, comments,

“For people buying new cars, price dominates: the price of the vehicle and the price you pay to keep it on the road. Relatively small changes to either could badly stunt the fledgling industry’s growth.”

Ecotricity claims that the new tariff reflects the “cost of installing and operating the equipment from the cost of the energy – to provide greater transparency and flexibility to our members,” and that “it’s always going to be more expensive to charge on the open road because the infrastructure must be built and maintained.”

#DoKeepUp, Mrs May

It is clear that Ecotricity’s Dale Vince isn’t convinced by the government’s plans for the compulsory installation of charging points at motorway services. Hashtagging with #DoKeepUp, he wrote,

“Promising to do something that’s already been done, by somebody else, several years ago – bit bizarre really. Motorway services will be required to install electric charge points, under plans outlined in the Queen’s Speech. There aren’t actually any motorway services that don’t already have charging facilities for EVs.”

While Ecotricity faces off against consumer criticism and a potential competitive threat from the state, the hope for consumers is that if the right funding and rollout strategy is put in place for the charging points, then more competition could be introduced. As successive governments have drummed into us over the years, competition should mean lower prices for the consumer. That can only be a good thing for those wanting to make the move from petrol power to electricity in the future.

Do you believe the Government’s plan for mandatory charging points at petrol stations and motorway services is the right policy? Let us know your opinions below.

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