We talk to Ian Johnston, CEO of Osprey Charging Network, to hear what’s happening with charging networks in the UK – and why the next 18 months is set to bring big improvements.
What’s going on in charging right now, Ian?
Well, just a few years ago the UK’s charging infrastructure wasn’t good enough. But in the last two years there’s been a massive shift away from problems with reliability and coverage. There are now established, reliable and reputable charging networks installing the latest technology at new hubs every week.
The great thing for electric car drivers is the hyper-competitive market of charging networks drives improvements across the charging experience, so it’s a very exciting time.
The leading networks, such as Osprey, are really pushing to make things simpler and more accessible for customers at charge points. Contactless payments, for example, make it so easy just to tap and go. The litmus test for us is, “Would my grandparent be able to charge here?”
What big changes are we going to see?
Over the next 18 months we’re going to see lots of large charging hubs installed. There are three critical areas where we’ll see much-needed improvement in charging infrastructure:
- Retail parks
- Motorway service stations
- Local authority locations, for example town centre car parks
The roll out at retail parks is well under way. And the Government has plans to tackle infrastructure issues at motorway service stations.
Local authority town centre car parks charging means getting the land opened up. They need a different kind of support from central government, not financial but the human resources and expertise to help them run complex, specialist tenders. It’s just not fair to expect each town council to do it on their own.
Image of Ian Johnston
And what’s on the minds of charging network companies?
One of the biggest movements charging networks are involved in is access for all. As a charging company, we’re not always in control of the environment where our chargers are hosted, so in some cases that’s not ideal for all drivers. We’re all working to support new accessibility regulations sponsored by the Office for Zero Emissions (OZEV) and Motability. There are going to be new rules for basics that you need to have in place if you want to host electric car chargers, and I think that’s critical.
The second factor is about education and communication. Lots of people thinking about going electric don’t have a clue about things like charging rates, charger power and vehicle range.
Can you tell us where we’re likely to be in 18 months’ time?
We’re looking at a gigantic rollout around the UK of large charging hubs, from reliable charging networks. It’s a hyper-competitive market and contracts are being issued by retail landlords for this roll out right now. At Osprey, for example, we’re in the process of building 150 hubs.
With the roll outs that are underway, the charging infrastructure won’t be a barrier to electric car adoption. There’s more work to do, in the areas of motorway service areas and town centre car parks, but the direction of travel and change in pace is positive.
Ian Johnston started his career with the Volkswagen Group, where he spent ten years before moving into renewable energy with Temporis Capital. In 2018, the two sides of his career came together when he became CEO of Osprey Charging Network, where he’s now instrumental in fundamentally changing the UK’s charging landscape for the better.