Electric Vehicles (Standardised Recharging)

– in the House of Commons at 2:31 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Selection Committee 2:33 pm, 20th November 2018

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about standardised requirements for electric vehicle charge points;
and for connected purposes.

I am delighted to see my neighbour, the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend Jesse Norman, sitting in his place listening to this, because I bought an excellent Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle—lovingly know as a PHEV—from Fownhope Mitsubishi in Hereford as part of my personal commitment to a better environment and a more practical and cleaner way of travelling. However, we need to do much more to encourage the general population to invest in electric vehicles, whether fully electric or hybrid. There are some admirable policies, such as the zero rate of car tax, and some local authorities implement free parking for electric vehicles while charging, but there remain serious practical impediments to running an electric car.

The main problem is the charging points. Our goal must be for every car to be able to recharge at every charging point. If we can achieve this, we will allow more people to switch to electric vehicles. The first problem with the charging points is that there are various different connectors to attach an electric vehicle to the charging points. The two main connectors are the type 1 five-pin connector and the type 2 seven-pin connector. The combined charging system used in the rest of Europe is not currently in widespread use in the UK.

Charging points are often tethered, which means they already have cables attached to them, and that is great if someone does not have the right sort of cable, but it is no use if they have the wrong sort of card to pay with. Even when charging points are untethered, car owners have to go to great lengths and significant expense to be able to charge their car publicly. Herefordshire Council, for example, has implemented a policy of free parking for electric vehicle users while they are charging their cars. This is an excellent idea, but in order to use the charge points, people must first purchase a £400 connector lead. Many electric vehicles come fitted only with a three-pin plug for home charging, and not with the five-pin or seven-pin versions for public charging. This only adds to the confusion.

I believe it would be sensible to follow the approach that computer manufacturers took some time ago, and to create a universal standard for connectors to electric vehicles. Mobile phones, cameras and all manner of computer accessories have individualised ports on the devices themselves, but they all connect to a USB port at the power end. We should apply this to electric vehicles and create a universal standard for car chargers. Car manufacturers should conform to industry standards regarding the power-side connector not just in the UK but throughout Europe. This would mean that all cars would be able to connect to all charging points.

The power to create uniformity has already been enacted into law in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, which states

“Regulations may impose requirements on operators of public charging or refuelling points…in connection with the components of public charging or refuelling points that provide the means by which vehicles connect to such points”.

I believe that this power must now be used by the Secretary of State to create uniformity among charging points, and so make the lives of electric vehicle users easier. I hope that my Bill will form the basis of an amendment to the Act to ensure the creation of an industry standard, not merely to permit it.

The second problem with charging points is the disparate and patchy network available across the country. Each charging point is owned by a particular company, and each requires a particular card or key fob to operate it. This may be linked to a membership with a monthly or annual fee. Electric vehicle users in the UK are currently disadvantaged compared with our European neighbours due to our lack of an interoperable payment system for EV charging. EV drivers in the Netherlands, for example, are able to charge their cars using a common payment card system. I believe that we could make the current British model more effective and efficient by introducing a similar scheme here.

In some parts of the country, EV drivers who wish to make any significant journey may need up to three different charging cables and three different charging company memberships just to get to the other end of their trip. Of course, they cannot just go halfway; once they have a flat battery, it’s all over! An obvious solution, with the advent of contactless and mobile payment technology, is to ensure that each charging point has a pay-as-you-go option that does not require a membership or key fob. This would ensure that users who frequently use a certain charging point could still take advantage of the preferential rates that membership might bring, while users who wished to use the service as a one-off would be able to do so.

The goal is not to nationalise our network of charge points but simply to ensure that the free market is working for consumers. That is the job of Government in our society, and in this instance the local monopolies on charge points are not working for consumers. That is why the Government must use my Bill to force the implementation of pay as you go. The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017 state:

“An infrastructure operator must provide to any person ad-hoc access to—

(a) all recharging points deployed after 17th November 2017;
and

(b) all recharging points deployed on or before 17th November 2017, no later than 18th November 2018.”

As the House can see, this Bill is extremely timely as it falls just two days after the point at which every charging point in the country should theoretically provide ad hoc access to all users.

The Government have stated that they will ban the sale of non-electric cars from 2040. Existing incentives to drive electric vehicles, such as the congestion charge exemption, have shown that electric vehicle use is due to rise. If we are truly to be a nation of electric vehicle users, we must provide the appropriate infrastructure for their use. Car drivers must not and will not be forced to switch to electric unless there is evidence that it is not only cleaner, but equally as efficient and practical. The Bill is intended to create uniformity of charging point connectors, to compel charging point operators to offer a pay-as-you-go option, and to impose penalties on those who do not follow the rules.

I am extremely grateful to have the support of over 25 right hon. and hon. Members—I see some of them here—but I regret that I cannot add all of them as sponsors of the Bill. I hope that the Bill raises questions at the Department for Transport and that the show of support from across the House will lead to a meaningful change in the regulations that will futureproof the use of electric vehicles.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Bill Wiggin, Michael Tomlinson, Helen Goodman, Mr Philip Dunne, Eddie Hughes, Dr Andrew Murrison, Scott Mann, Maria Caulfield, Maggie Throup, Sir Bernard Jenkin, Sir Graham Brady and Rebecca Pow present the Bill.

Bill Wiggin accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 8 March 2019, and to be printed (Bill 291).