London charging network in a muddle as stakeholders squabble

ChargeMaster

The city of London has ambitions to be an EV capital. Under the leadership of Mayor Boris Johnson, a proponent of electromobility, the capital of Cool Britannia is sponsoring trials of electric buses and cabs, and began building a public charging network in 2011.

Public charging is especially important in London, as three quarters of drivers have no driveways or garages, and must park on the street. However, the city’s charging network isn’t quite the thing, and EV drivers are ever so cross, as a recent Financial Times article highlighted.

“London has not got its act together on electric vehicles,” said Mark Walker, UK Managing Director of the car-sharing service Zipcar. “There’s a real lack of clarity at the moment as to what London wants to achieve with EVs and what infrastructure you need to provide to make that happen.”

The city has some 1,300 public charging points, but a recent survey showed that more than 40 percent of the stations in central London were out of service. The FT article includes a horror story from an i3 owner, who has found it a nightmare to try and find a working charger. A complex web of owners, operators and other participants is squabbling over who’s responsible for sorting things out.

The public transit authority Transport for London sold the network, known as Source London, to Bluepoint London, a subsidiary of the French Bolloré group, in September. According to David Martell, CEO of Chargemaster, which installed the chargers, Bluepoint has not been paying an agreed-upon fee to station owners to cover maintenance. “It’s very complex and very messy and the people that are suffering from this are the electric vehicle motorists in London,” said Martell.

Bluepoint, however, says that it is only responsible for reimbursing owners, many of whom are local councils, for repairs. Christophe Arnaud, Director of Bluepoint, said the network is in “exactly the state we found it in when we took over.” He added that councils are not invoicing the company for repairs, because the cost is often well in excess of the contractual £500 cap.

Drivers pay just £5 a year to Source London for unlimited parking and charging. Bluepoint is pushing for a revised agreement under which it would take control of maintenance and set up round-the-clock support, and would be allowed to charge as much as £5 an hour at central London sites.

 

Source: Financial Times