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Nine EV charging firms come together under single subscription – but more needs to be done

If you're driving from the UK into Europe and up into the Nordic countries, charging your EV has just become a whole lot easier. Nine major providers across the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland will now allow drivers to use their charging infrastructure under a single subscription.

As well sharing a single subscription access, the nine firms – EVBox, Allego, NewMotion, Charge4Europe, Chargemap, ChargePoint, Engenie, Franklin Energy and Travelcard – have agreed to share data regarding the availability of their chargers and the price to fill up at each. The hope for the companies already involved is that the cooperation grows further, with more companies being encouraged to join.

This will make it much easier for EV drivers in the UK and Nordic countries to quickly and easily access a significant charging network. One of the main targets for the scheme has actually been business fleet drivers, who will benefit from single source receipts when submitting expenses. With fleets getting significant cost incentives to switch to EV and PHEV cars, and many already having made the switch, you can see the method in this thinking.

One of the big reasons behind this partnership is to help kick-start the UK and Nordic markets into drawing in line with the likes of France, Germany and the Netherlands, where there is already significant charger interoperability.

ChargePoint Managing Director, Christopher Burghardt, commented: “This agreement is a significant step in the expansion of access to public charging, improving the driver experience and helping to make the switch to e-mobility more seamless for UK drivers. Roaming agreements not only allow us to expand our global footprint; it's also another example of how collaboration across the industry is key to a greener, more sustainable electric future.”

This news comes off the back of other UK charging companies beginning to create partnerships to help improve EV owner experience. For example, NewMotion – part of Shell group and a member of the agreement above – has recently entered into a roaming agreement in the UK with Vattenfall, meaning that EV owners can access chargers from both companies through a subscription to either network. This has opened up over 400 charge points to subscribers in the UK alone, and in the case of NewMotion, 118,000 points cross Europe.

Obviously, these partnerships are fantastic news for EV owners in this country as at the moment, there are around 50 charging providers to choose from and get confused by. This disparate network is one of the biggest barriers to those looking to get into the EV game and one of the biggest complaint points to those already in it.

In fact, BBC's Rip Off Britain ran an entire segment on EV ownership on October 1. Whilst the gist of the piece was broadly positive in terms of how much people enjoyed driving EVs, by far the biggest complaint was with the infrastructure – too many subscriptions, chargers not working or simply not being compatible with particular EVs. Even those owners featured who had switched back to diesel had done so regretful that the charging network wasn't up to the job.

Helping document owners' experiences, charge point experts, Zap-Map, undertook a survey of more than 1600 charge point users to find out not only which networks were the best, but the reasons why a network might be viewed as particularly good. By far and away the biggest factor was reliability, followed by speed, then cost and associated facilities. Put simply, when an EV owner plugs their car in, they just want things to work.

Zap-Map has found that reliability is improving, however, with data from July 2018 showing that 8.5 per cent of chargers were not operational or partially operational, whilst in September 2019 this figure had improved to 5.8 per cent. Check out the results here.

Whilst we're talking about the confusion that public charging can cause, it's worthwhile mentioning that home charging isn't necessarily the easiest thing to get your head around. Most car dealers, leasing companies and even energy companies will be able help you navigate the confusing array of options, but if you want to take control for yourself, charge point installer, Smart Home Charge and charger manufacturer, Ohme, have gone into partnership.

Together, they are hoping to remove some of the complexity not only around the physical apparatus that EV owners require, but also in choosing the right energy tariffs. Smart Home Charge's website has a handy tool that enables you to enter your EV or PHEV make and model to find out what is available to you.

There is obviously still a mountain to climb in terms of bringing charging infrastructure – both public and home – into a place where it's easy to understand and use. A lot of this responsibility is on the shoulders of EV owners, and thus it will remain, but the fact is providers can – and should – do better and make things easier. It's in the interests of charging point suppliers to make it easier, too, as in countries where interoperability is more advanced, there are far more EVs on the road. But more to the point, as consumers, if better is available, we should demand it.

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