Manufacturers are beginning to offer access to multiple charging networks to make it even easier for buyers to choose an EV
The public charging infrastructure is increasingly being seen as the biggest stumbling block for drivers wanting to move to electric vehicles, with a survey by Arval finding that 59% of the fleets not yet considering implementing EVs named the charging infrastructure as their biggest barrier to adoption.
While much of the concern centres upon the number and location of charging points, it’s also a step into the unknown in terms of how the networks operate, and which memberships, RFID cards or apps a driver will need when they turn up to a public point.
A number of car manufacturers have begun to move to rectify the situation by launching their own subscription services, where drivers of cars from manufacturers including Audi, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, BMW/Mini and Volkswagen can use a single system to plan and pay for their charging across multiple public charge networks.
“People don’t have range anxiety any more, they have charging anxiety,” says BMW fleet boss Rob East, talking about how worries have moved on from the vehicle and its technology to the primary concern being an ability to find and use a charger when venturing farther from home than a full charge will permit. “This removes the stress of different apps or accounts. The shift for BMW and Mini customers is simple; charging is the bit that makes them really anxious.”
Audi is another brand ramping up its charging offering in line with the launch of new EVs. “For many who are experiencing an EV for the first time, it can be a bit daunting to try and charge on public chargers when there are so many providers, each with their different fees and payment methods,” Audi’s electric vehicle programmes manager, Anna Chudley, tells Company Car Today. “With the e-tron Charging Service, it helps reduce the anxiety knowing that they just need to register to the service and the card will work with over half the UK’s compatible public chargers, all under one single contract and monthly bill.”
Sister brands Hyundai and Kia were among the first to launch such a scheme earlier this year, and claimed it to be the largest access offered to public charging with a single card, Charge MyHyundai and Kia Charge respectively.
“One of the major barriers to ownership is this concern about all different charging networks and do I need a card for this and an app for that,” says Matthew Banks, dealer facilities and standards manager at Hyundai, who is the company’s spokesperson for the new Charge MyHyundai app. “I’ve slimmed down my wallet and removed the apps that I don’t need any more.”
Hyundai claims more than 15,000 UK charge points are available using its card, Kia puts its number at around 14,000, while BMW/Mini says it is at more than 12,000 charge points, Audi is at 11,255 but will jump to 17,000-plus with the addition of BP Pulse in August, and the Ford Pass network is at over 10,000.
“We see from surveys that there are worries about the infrastructure; the size of the infrastructure and the complexities in accessing infrastructure,” says Kia UK’s mobility, electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving manager, Jean-Baptiste Merkel. “So for us, it’s about the convenience of merging multiple networks into one. You’re not obliged to have multiple subscriptions, with a single solution you can travel around the UK and Europe with the same simplicity.”
The key role of the new development in bringing together charging networks under a single use is increasing confidence in making the step to an electric car. Manufacturers are taking differing approaches to the cost of their services, with Kia and Audi offering two levels of subscription, and Hyundai and BMW/Mini examples of those using a pay-as-you-go scheme. But they aren’t necessarily as cheap as using a single public charging company’s own app or subscription.
“I think there will be different solutions, which will be settled on by lots of different types of drivers. If you never required the destination charging network and you’ve got your own charger, then you wouldn’t worry about any of these things, and if you’re a someone who does one regular journey, and you always use the same charger, then arguably, yes, it would be more logical just to have membership of that network,” says Hyundai’s Banks. “But for the growing amounts of drivers who are considering the switch to EV, and who are spending a lot of time out on the road going to different destinations or are field based, then this is an enabler to get someone converted.”
Manufacturer charging networks: The details
The leading offerings from manufacturers differ slightly in terms of contract type and cost
AUDI E-TRON CHARGING SERVICES
City or Transit tariffs, with the former an indefinite contract at £4.91 per month with set prices according to networks. Transit drops Ionity charging from 70p per kWh to 28p, and is a 12-month contract at £16.81 per month. The BP Pulse network will be added to the system in mid-August.
BMW CHARGING/MINI CHARGING
The Flex tariff is free of charge, while rolling monthly packages are available to reduce the price of Ionity charging (£11.30 per month, cutting the cost to 26p per kWh) and BP Pulse (£7.85 per month; charge cost depends on speed of charge). New iX3, iX and i4 customers get the Ionity package free for 12 months, while Mini EV customers are given the BP Pulse pack for 12 months as part of the purchase.
Pay-as-you-go with no monthly fees, and Mustang Mach-e customers get a free 12-month subscription to Ionity’s ultra-fast charge network
Just one pay-as-you-go tariff with no monthly fees.
Easy and Plus tariffs. Easy is free of charge after a £1.99 activation fee, and bills a 49p session fee per charge. Plus is £2.99 per month and drops the session fee. Both packages have Ionity and BP Pulse bolt-ons; Ionity is £11.25 per month and drops the price from 69p per kWh to 23p, while the £7.85 BP Pulse package cuts prices depending on speed of charge.
VOLKSWAGEN WE CHARGE
Three tariffs: free, £5.99 or £13.99 on a 12-month contract. Free has a 25p fee per session on top of the operator’s cost, and Ionity charge points cost 69p per kWh. Go drops Ionity to 45p per kWh and removes the fee for other operators. Plus reduces Ionity to 25p per kWh.
Kia’s Merkel adds: “It varies between charge point operators; for some operators the cost will be exactly the same between Kia Charge and direct with the charge point operator, but there are different commercial arrangements. We want to be as close as possible to the direct pricing from the charge point operators, within technical feasibility limits as you have all sorts of intricacies – for example, surcharges or overnight rates.”
He likened the cost equation to the kind of driver that uses the most convenient filling station, rather than one slightly more out of the way that might be a penny or two per litre cheaper.
Hyundai also points to the issue of bringing on board the drivers less interested in what they drive, that will be choosing an EV for tax or choice list reasons and have no interest in immersing themselves in the world of EVs.
“When you’re adopting the 90% of customers that are like that, rather than the early EV adopters that are likely to be more economy-minded, and that’s where you will see the app’s value really start to ramp up,” adds Hyundai’s Banks.
“I’ve already been through that journey, I’ve got all the RFID cards and apps, but in the future there won’t be a need to do that,” he says.
“There will always be some who will look more closely at the wide selection of charge point operators, but the point about this is to try and make it easy.”
“Maybe people will use it once a month or a once-a-year trip abroad,” adds Kia’s Merkel. “There is a certain amount of repetition in the use of certain stations but it’s the exception that is maybe 10% of the charging where this solution makes sense.”
Hyundai also points to the convenience of having a set-up that works across Europe without needing to sign up to individual providers in each country.
BENEFIT TO DRIVER RATHER THAN FLEET MANAGER?
The brands involved admit the benefits are mainly for the driver rather than the fleet operator at this stage, although there are already advantages, and more may be introduced as use widens.
A big benefit for companies and drivers is the reduced administration attached to expensing recharge cost for businesses not relying on the Government’s 4p-per-mile reimbursement rate, a figure that doesn’t get close to covering the cost of public charging.
These offerings can bring together the charging over the course of a month into one single downloadable invoice, with some of the systems able to split by work and private mileage to simplify claims.
All of the manufacturers that have launched bespoke payment apps for their drivers have also declared that they will be looking to increase their coverage by adding new charge point providers through the year, while new points coming on stream within existing partner networks will also increase the number available.