Electric charging stations: it’s expensive but will it work?

There are three main challenges to increasing competition in the availability of enroute charging stations, especially at motorway service area (MSA) sites, and the common theme is cost.

The main challenges are:

  • High costs for connecting to the electricity network, which acts as a key barrier to charge point operators (CPOs) investing at MSA sites.
  • Limited competition at MSA sites, which is linked to the high costs for connecting to the electricity network.
  • The need for targeted government intervention in areas at risk of market failure, such as remote areas where private investment in electric vehicle (EV) charging may be limited.

These challenges were identified by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in a response to a consultation organised by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), a UK government organisation. The CMA's main recommendation is that OZEV rolls-out funding – the Rapid Charging Fund (RCF) - as quickly as possible and attaches conditions to RCF funding to help open-up competition between CPOs at MSA sites.

The CMA, through an open letter, limited the market forces (exclusivity) that existed for EV charge point building, particularly at MSA sites. It can be questioned whether it is preferable to try to create the desired outcomes of more charge points and more competition by government grants, rather than market forces.

Even though the OZEV was launched in 2022, of the announced £950 million RCF, only a small amount has been granted pursuant to a pilot programme. A recent report identified that in January 2024 there were 55,301 EV charging stations in the UK. This compares with over 80k in each of France and Germany. The UK government has forecast the need for 300k EV charge points in the UK by 2030, meaning the UK needs to build 3,400 new EV charge points a month up to 2030.  A recent estimate is that the UK is building 1,625 new EV charge points each month.

There is a clear need to place the customer, whether in an EV or electric commercial vehicle, at the heart of the transition. Cost, choice, availability and transparency are key factors that contribute to a positive experience, and, as areas of high visibility, MSAs are something of a bellwether for the UK’s progress on infrastructure deployment. We look forward to seeing rapid progress over the next 18 months.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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