UK trade group the Renewable Energy Association is calling for greater interoperability between EV charging networks as “an industry priority”, which it claims would deliver a “superior consumer experience”.

The REA said this week that currently, consumers need multiple apps, cards, and sometimes membership accounts in order to travel across the country using public charging infrastructure.

In a new report, it states: “This can be a hassle and a potential deterrent for future EV drivers. Meanwhile, the government has outlined an ambition for the UK to have one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world.

“Greater interoperability, which would entail EV charging network companies using similar communications systems, could facilitate a superior consumer experience in the UK. It could also set the stage for advanced functions, such as being able to see live status updates of chargers across different networks, to be able to be billed more simply, and even for the vehicle itself to manage the payment process.”

The REA also argues that interoperability may also be key to supporting fleets to go electric, which is a key step towards building a mass market. It is also an important factor for landowners and managers who wish to see infrastructure deployed on their premises. 

The report points out that other more established industries have experienced similar developments: for example the telecoms industry over the past 20 years has moved from regionalised, closed networks to consumers presently being able to ‘roam’ across networks in the EU on one mobile phone plan.

REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “Tackling the urgent issue of interoperability between charging networks has implications for consumers, for the energy system, and for the ability for a wide range of market actors to embrace electric vehicles.”

She said that interoperability is crucial to the government’s stated ambition for the UK to have one of the best charging infrastructure networks in the world.

Report author Daniel Brown said: “As the number of actors in the UK’s EV charging sector is quickly expanding, and the size of the public charging network poised to significantly grow, now is the time for the sector to come together and discuss industry-led solutions to interoperability that can be supported by government.”

“If our members embraced similar communications protocols and standards, customers in the future could be able to access live data in their vehicle dashboards or phone apps on charge point status, they could charge through their vehicle without the need for an app or card, and their vehicles could more easily help manage strains on the electricity system.”

The report has won support from players in the EV industry. Clive Southwell, UK Manager at EV charging solutions firm Allego, said he was “pleased that the REA is taking forward this vital issue and is opening an industry conversation about how a more interoperable EV charging system can be achieved in the UK. The charging sector is evolving rapidly and now is the time for industry to work together to make charging effortless for the driver.”

Jonathan Hampson, General Manager of car-sharing company Zipcar UK, which has 300 EVs in its fleet, said: “It’s our vision to be fully electric by 2025, but to do this we need a ubiquitous EV charging network. We need a network that allows our members to move as freely across the capital and between charging stations as easily as they can petrol stations. To build confidence in the system it’s essential that we have easy and clear access to online billing too, but critically availability.”