Picture the scene: you own a petrol or diesel car and need to refuel. In this parallel world, though, you can only fill up at an Esso station if you previously registered with Esso. Likewise at BP if you registered with BP, and so on. Instead of some 8,000 fuel stations to choose from, therefore, you might be limited to just 1,200.
That’s where we are, in early 2020, with electric car charging points. When you register with just a single provider – and there are many of them – you are restricted to only their charging points. In order to access a decent range of public charging points, you need to spend hours setting up accounts with multiple providers.
Clearly, this makes no sense. Independent companies have been encouraged to set up their own networks, and develop their own charging arrangements.
What the UK really needs is the ability to charge electric cars with the swipe of a credit card. Simply turn up, plug in and charge it to MasterCard, Visa or American Express. Why is that so difficult?
Do EV charging points take credit cards?
Charging points do sometimes take credit cards – but not how we’d like. You usually have to register with the charging provider for an access card first. You can then pay via credit card.
However, most providers prefer you to set up a debit account, so they take the money as and when you spend it.
The good news is that the government has knocked all this nonsense on the head. It rightly sees that the current system discourages people from adopting electric cars.
From later in 2020, all new electric car charge points will have to take credit cards in the same way automated petrol pumps do.
What could possibly go wrong?
Two things could go wrong. Firstly, there’s no indication when the existing network of charging points will switch to the full credit card access. Remember, for some years these will remain the majority in the UK.
Secondly, we wouldn’t put it past the charge point operators to run a two-tier system with the newer points, charging those who haven’t pre-registered more when they pay with a credit card.
A card-free future for electric cars
Two developments are likely to supersede the credit card question entirely. One is that charging via an app on your phone will become commonplace.
The other is that new electric cars will have in-built authentication data. You will simply connect to the charging station for payment to be made automatically.