Consultation finds “legal risk” with EV chargepoints at motorway services

Motorway service stations may have to end their exclusive partnerships with chargepoint operators, following a consultation into electric vehicles.

The open consultation titled ‘Future of transport regulatory review: zero emission vehicles’ was published by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles which sought views on areas of transport regulation that are outdated, a barrier to innovation or not designed with new technologies and business models in mind.

One area discussion was the new £950 million Rapid Charging Fund, which will aim to future-proof electrical capacity at motorway and major A road service areas to support the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars and vans.

The fund will look to support the cost of providing additional or upgraded electrical connections at motorway and major A road service areas.

However, the consultation highlighted a legal risk to the fund because the majority of motorway service areas in England have an exclusive provider of open access chargepoint services. The report stated that this “could lead to any funding being challenged on state subsidy or other grounds.”

The Competition & Markets Authority completed a study of the EV charging market in July 2021 and decided to open an investigation into these existing agreements at three of the major motorway service operators under the Competition Act 1998 we await the outcome of this investigation.

The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles has since decided it will need to act to reduce any potential risk to the fund in the future.

The report stated: “We are considering taking new powers to make the exclusive elements of existing chargepoint service arrangements void and unenforceable.

“To ensure long-term competition is maintained at these sites, we are considering requiring service area operators and large fuel retailers to: tender chargepoint service contracts openly; have a minimum of 2 – and at some sites more than 2 – different chargepoint operators at any particular site.

“The effect of this will be create more competition between chargepoint service providers at these sites for the benefit of consumers, and to reduce the legal risk to the fund.”

The Office is considering requiring existing providers of chargepoint services at motorway service areas to make their chargepoints open access rather than only open to an exclusive network or group of networks or manufacturers. This would also extend to existing agreements for such services, which would be rendered void and unenforceable if the network were not to be opened.

The report continued: “To ensure there is sufficient chargepoint availability at these strategically important sites on the network, we are considering further extending the powers of government to mandate that service area operators and large fuel retailers must meet minimum chargepoint numbers at specific sites, and at increasing levels over a period of time.”

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