Although London has by far the largest number of electric car charging points in the UK, it was assembled so poorly and is being managed so haphazardly that it is in danger of falling apart. The network has more than 1,400 charging points but a number of them are out of service and will not be repaired in the near future. This is in spite of the fact that the network was sold off recently and is supposedly going to undergo expansion.
In some localities, there are more charging stations out of operation than in working order. At any one time there is likely to be at least one area in London where every charger is out of order. In Camden, they are finding it impossible to have more than 70% of points operating at once. Source London is responsible for repairing the points but is failing miserably at its job.
Toyota Electric Car Charging in London. Source: Google UK
Transport for London (TfL) set up Source London to manage the network of charging points and was sold for £1 million to a French company called IER. Source London blames the fact it has 66 scheme partners and half a dozen charger designs for the problems. According to a spokesman for the organisation, it may be necessary to replace some of the ‘obsolete’ charging points.
One of the big problems is that site ownership is split between a number of bodies including commercial property landlords, equipment manufacturers and London boroughs. As a result raising funds and deciding on who is responsible for fixing points are dual issues. According to Source London, it doesn’t have jurisdiction to fix points because the manufacturers of the chargers are responsible for their repair. Yet this is disputed by Pod Point and Chargemaster, two of these manufacturers.
Passing The Buck
Erik Fairbairn of Pod said that by acquiring Source London, IER made a commitment to pay for maintenance of the points yet there is no evidence of this happening at present. TfL may have sold the network but it is not coming to the fore to clear up this mess. Indeed, it has passed the buck by claiming members of the consortium are responsible for fixing the charging points.
While Pod Point claims funds are not used in the appropriate manner, Source London is blaming the boroughs for restricting access to the broken points. It says an agreement must be made to allow it to work on the infrastructure or replace obsolete points. IER is part of the Bollore Group in France which is a manufacturer of charging points; this makes it a direct rival of Chargemaster and Pod Point.
Unsurprisingly, it would appear as if money is the real issue. At present electric car owners only need to pay a £5 annual membership fee and can then charge their vehicles for free. Yet this small fee doesn’t cover the running cost, replacement cost and maintenance cost of the network. Each point costs from £2,500 to £10,000 to install and has a service life of 5-7 years.
Yet money should not be a problem in the long-term as Bollore is planning to increase the number of charging points. In 2018, there could be 5,000 points in London; this plan is supposed to support an electric car-share scheme which is already in operation in four French cities. Yet Bollore needs to sort out the short-term mess and ensure the existing charging points are running smoothly for EV drivers in the city. London needs a better charging point system to help it clean up the air.