Fleet News

Pricing inconsistency makes fleets reluctant to commit to electric, says ACFO

Fleet representative body ACFO is calling for common standards across the UK’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure which will help boost plug-in vehicle adoption within fleets.

Caroline Sandall, ACFO deputy chairman, said: “One of the key inhibitors to take up has always been the lack of common standards in the charge network.”

She welcomed the Government’s plans to review electric vehicle charging as part of its Modern Transport Bill (MTB).

Consultation for the MTB closed on November 23 last year and the Department for Transport (DfT) has indicated that responses will be published early in 2017.

The DfT declined to comment further on its plans for electric vehicle charging ahead of the bill which will be published “in due course”. However, part of the suggestions within the MTB consultation guidance include making it possible to use any chargepoint in the UK without the need for multiple memberships, access to open source data on locations of chargepoints, transparent and comparable pricing information and minimum standards of design and functionality for chargepoints.

“The sooner we can achieve common standards the better,” said Sandall. “The easier we make it for people to charge at any point the greater the take up will be and we can continue to embrace this technology.”

Sandall believes chargepoints should be able to accept a variety of different payment types.

Erik Fairbairn, Pod Point chief executive, said the company supports the Government’s bid to make pricing more transparent, but he believed technical recommendations on how standards should be introduced should be left to the experts. He said it was unlikely the Government would step in to take control of pricing directly.

Some motorway chargepoints can cost up to £7.50 for a 30-minute charge but Fairbairn dismissed claims that the MTB was “a crackdown on rip-off charges for electric vehicles”.

He said: “It’s undeniable the cost of running an electric vehicle is more cost-effective than running a vehicle with a combustion engine when charging at home or at work.”

Pod Point’s statistics show 60% of EVs are charged at home, 30% are charged at work, 7% at the gym or a supermarket and 3% are at public stations. It removed RFID (radio-frequency identification) card activation from its network and moved payment to smartphone.

Fairbairn said: “Charging at a public point is such a small percentage of actual driver behaviour; it’s not a good enough representation to draw conclusions from. Ultimately if customers don’t like the price they are being charged at these locations they will vote with their feet.”

David Martell, Chargemaster chief executive, said charging at the workplace or at home is where EVs can be cost-effective for fleets.

Martell said: “The cost to travel 100 miles is approximately £3, compared to up to £15 in a combustion engine car. Fleets can also pay £7.85 per month for a Polar national membership card, which gives the driver the ability to charge at more than 5,000 public charging points, with over 80% completely free to use and the others charged at 9p kWh.”

Paul Tate, commodity manager at Siemens, is hoping Government intervention will bring a “joined up approach” to vehicle charging as he says it has not been easy to manage.

Siemens was an early adopter of plug-in hybrids with more than 200 units.

Tate said: “There should be a pricing platform where there is a consistent approach to compatibility and pricing to stop having to go on the road with a deck of cards to make sure you have the right one to access a charge station wherever you are in the UK.”

Steve Winter, British Gas head of fleet, has 113 electric vehicles on fleet. He said greater clarity on chargepoint pricing will be welcome generally, but it isn’t a burning issue for fleets when the majority will charge at home or at the workplace.

Winter said: “We would only be using a public charge point as a last resort.”

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