On 23 July 2021 the CMA published the report of its market study into the electric vehicle (EV) charging sector, in which it sets out a range of measures in order to ensure that a comprehensive and competitive national network of EV charge points is in place ahead of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars.
The shift to EVs will require the development of an entirely new EV charging network with at least a ten-fold increase in the current number of charge points and a suitable mix of different types of charging across the UK. Whereas charging at destinations such as shopping centres, workplaces and people’s private parking (garages and driveways) are developing well, the report identifies challenges in rolling out charging:
- Along motorways, where competition at service stations is very limited
- In remote areas, where the commercial case for investment is weak
- In on-street charging, where roll-out is very slow and local monopolies could arise if the market is left unchecked
Building consumer trust in the sector is also essential for successful EV take-up, and using and paying for public charging should be as simple as filling up with petrol and diesel. In addition to the lack of charge points there are issues of poor reliability and difficulties in comparing prices and paying for charging.
The report concludes that market forces on their own will struggle to deliver the necessary EV charging infrastructure by 2030 and that active government involvement, both at national and local levels, will be necessary to promote and speed up the roll-out. The CMA therefore makes a number of recommendations to government aimed at unlocking greater investment, promoting competition and increasing trust in the sector. The recommendations include:
- An ambitious national strategy for the roll-out of EV charging between now and 2030, alongside strategies from each of the devolved administrations
- Ofgem and Uregni to speed up grid connections, invest strategically and lower connection costs to ensure that EV charging infrastructure is installed efficiently and quickly
- A Rapid Charging Fund to increase capacity at motorway service stations, with conditions imposed in order to ensure it opens up competition at these key sites
- Targeting funding at gaps in remote areas which may otherwise not be served
- Local authorities to take a more active role in planning and managing the roll-out of on-street charging
- Government to take action to properly equip and incentivise local authorities while also providing greater support and oversight
- Government to set open data and software standards for home charge points
- Government to task a public body with implementing and monitoring key principles to ensure charging is as simple as filling up with petrol or diesel
As a result of information gathered during the course of its market investigation, the CMA has also launched a separate Competition Act 1998 investigation into suspected breaches of competition law relating to long-term exclusivity in the supply of EV charge points on or near motorways. It is investigating exclusivity agreements between EV charging provider Electric Highway Company Limited and three motorway service area operators, over concerns that their long-term exclusivity arrangements may prevent competing charging providers from providing charge points at motorway service stations.
The CMA is not the only competition authority that is focusing on the EV charging sector. In July 2020 the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) also launched a sector inquiry into the provision and marketing of publicly accessible charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (see our blog post here). This inquiry is currently still ongoing. Comparable inquiries, such as that in the German motor fuel sector, took the FCO about three years to complete.