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Competition for EV charging at motorway services after CMA investigation

Ecotricity charging Nissan Leaf

Fleets and company car drivers will benefit from competition on pricing for electric vehicle charging at motorway services after exclusive agreements were ruled out as part of Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation.

Gridserve, which acquired the Electric Highway from Ecotricity in June, has offered legally-binding assurances, known as commitments, to the CMA.

It says that it will not enforce exclusive rights in contracts with Extra, MOTO or Roadchef, after 2026, which currently cover around two-thirds of motorway service stations.

In doing so, Gridserve has committed to reducing the length of the exclusive rights in the current contracts with MOTO by around two years and Roadchef by around four years (the contract with the third operator, Extra, is due to end in 2026).

Furthermore it says it will not enforce exclusive rights at any Extra, MOTO or Roadchef sites that have been granted funding under the UK government’s Rapid Charging Fund (RCF).

This means that, where funding has been granted, competitor charge point operators will be able to install charge points regardless of the exclusive element of the Electric Highway’s contracts.

Each of the motorway service station operators – Extra, MOTO and Roadchef – and Gridserve have also offered commitments not to take any action that would undermine the above commitments.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “One of the biggest stumbling blocks to getting people to switch to electric cars is the fear that they won’t be able to travel from A to B without running out of charge.

“Millions of people make a pitstop for fuel at motorway service stations every day, so it’s crucial that people can trust that electric charge points will do the same job.

“Healthy competition is key to ensuring that drivers have a greater choice of charge points where they need them, and for a fair price.”

The CMA believes that opening up competition on motorways, while ensuring the sector has greater investment, is the right direction of travel – and good news for current drivers of electric cars and for people thinking of buying one.

“We’d now like to hear from businesses and drivers themselves on these proposed commitments,” added Coscelli.

In July, the CMA launched a competition investigation into the Electric Highway’s contracts with MOTO, Roadchef and Extra, alongside publishing the findings of its market study into the electric vehicle charging sector.

The CMA’s investigation examined the Electric Highway’s long-term, exclusive contracts with Extra, MOTO and Roadchef for the motorway service stations they operate.

In particular, it was concerned that provisions in those contracts granting exclusivity to the Electric Highway may be: preventing competitor charge point operators from operating at motorway service areas; could impede the successful roll-out of the Government’s anticipated RCF; and may result in drivers losing out on competitive prices and reliable charge points as a result of a lack of competition at motorway service areas.

The CMA believes that the commitments offered by Gridserve will address its competition concerns and open up competition in the market ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.

Significant new investments are due to be made by Gridserve ahead of expected demand between 2021 and 2025.

The CMA is now inviting views on the proposed commitments to be submitted to the CMA by December 2.

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