The latest draft of the proposed Public Charge Point Regulations 2023 were laid before parliament on 11 July, with a motion by the Secretary of State for Transport that the regulations be approved as drafted.
Public Charge Point
The Regulations are intended to apply to public charge points, which begs the question: What exactly is a public charge point (… according to the Regulations at least)?
Whilst it might seem like there’s an obvious answer to this question, which is to say: a charge point which is intended for use primarily by members of the general public; the reality is slightly more nuanced.
The Regulations are currently drafted so as not to apply to charge points which are intended solely for the use of employees, contractors and visitors (other than customers) at a workplace. The Regulations also propose that charge points which are restricted for the exclusive use by a vehicle produced by a specific manufacturer will fall outside of the scope of the Regulations. This has the potential to put Tesla’s network of Superchargers outside the reach of the Regulations – Tesla’s Superchargers have historically only been available to drivers of Tesla vehicles, and whilst Tesla has more recently opened its Supercharger network to other manufacturers’ EVs, Tesla could reach the conclusion that being subject to the Regulations outweighs the benefits of allowing other manufacturers’ EVs to use the Tesla Supercharger network.
Payment and Pricing Requirements
One of the key requirements of the Regulations will be to ensure that consumers are not beholden to sign up to an app or membership which is exclusive to each individual Charge Point Operator (CPO) in order to be able to use that CPO’s public charge point. To this end any new public charge point with a power rating of at least 8kW, as well as any existing public charge point with a power rating of at least 50kW, must be made capable of taking a contactless card payment.
In addition to contactless card payments, CPOs will also be required to ensure that anyone using any of the CPOs’ charge points is able to pay for charging using a payment service provided by a third party roaming provider which provides a payment service in respect of different networks of public charge points. This does of course run the risk that small clusters of CPOs will group with singular third party roaming providers, meaning that it would still be necessary for the consumer to sign-up to multiple third party roaming providers’ membership or app in order to get good charge point coverage.
In a move aimed to improve transparency of pricing, the Regulations will also require all CPOs to display the price for charging EVs at a public charge point in pence per kilowatt (p/kW), without requiring the consumer to have a pre-existing contract with the CPO.
Reliability and Open Data
One criticism of public charge points, bearing in mind their current relative scarcity in contrast with the omnipresent petrol forecourt, is when a consumer arrives at a charge point only to find that it is out of service. To address this, the Regulations employ a couple of tools with the aim of promoting not only the reliability of the charge points, but also the availability of data about the status of charge points.
The Regulations mandate that a CPO’s network of charge points must be “reliable” for an average of no less than 99% of the time over the course of each calendar year. Note that charge points rated to provide less than 50kW fall outside the scope of this requirement. The Regulations define what is meant by “reliable”, as being available, charging or reserved. However, the term “reliable” also encompasses instances where the status of a charge point is unknown or blocked, meaning if that a charge point is not functioning but the data link between the charge point and the CPO’s central systems is also not functioning, then it the charge point can still be considered “reliable” since its status would be unknown.
It is also worth highlighting that under the Regulations a charge point could be considered to the “reliable” even if the contactless card payment device is not functioning, since “reliability” is linked to the ability of the charge point equipment to deliver a charge rather than to the payment system.
Going hand-in hand with reliability of the charge points, is a requirement for CPOs to make publically available standardised data about their charge points to include: their location, connector type, available payment method, the price per kilowatt, and the charge point’s live availability status. The CPOs will also need to make information about the charge points available to their DNO and iDNO on request,
Of course, the Regulations would have limited bite without enforcement powers. Consequently the Regulations are given some teeth in the form of investigatory powers and powers to impose penalties. The Regulations give these powers to an “Enforcement Authority”, which currently only refers to the Secretary of State, although it paves the way for the creation of an authority body.
The Regulations are clearly aimed at ensuring that consumers can expect a more standardised and consistent service, and consequently will affect the CPOs more than any other group. However the CPOs are not the only entities who could be affected by the Regulations: this is because the Regulations give a broad power for the Enforcing Authority to enter any premises (other than those used mainly as a private dwelling) in order to ascertain whether the Regulations are being complied with.
This is relevant because, whilst the preferred model of procurement of public charge points is tending towards leasing the land to be used for public charge points to a CPO, other models do exist through which a landowner may retain ownership of the land (and perhaps also the charge point itself) and procure a CPO simply to operate the charge point. Where this is the case, the enforcement action of the Enforcement Authority can apply to the landowner as well as the CPO. Indeed, even where a landowner has leased land to a CPO for the installation of public charge points, the landowner must not do anything that would interfere with the Enforcement Authority’s investigatory powers.
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