The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has urged electric vehicle (EV) charging companies to work together to develop or adopt common communications standards to allow their networks to become interoperable.

In a new report, the trade body says enabling drivers to switch seamlessly between networks will alleviate concerns over access to charging and accelerate the mass uptake of EVs.

According to the paper, the last two years have seen a proliferation of new charging companies, with the National Chargepoint Registry putting the latest tally at 36.

In line with a new EU directive that came into full effect in November, all now offer some form of pay-as-you-go charging. The report describes this a “positive step” but says more can be done to improve the experience for customers.

Only a few companies have roaming agreements with others and the proprietary nature of their back-office systems means most networks are not interoperable. As a result, many EV drivers typically have multiple membership accounts, each with their own cards and apps.

The REA says the UK is in a strong position to “leapfrog the mistakes of, and to incorporate the lessons learnt from” other counties with more advanced charging infrastructure.

The report implores the industry, with the support of government, to develop or adopt common standards for communication between EVs and chargers as well as the back-office systems of different networks. It says an independent body, such as a central interoperability register, may be required to facilitate the change.

REA policy manager and report author Daniel Brown said: “It is extremely important that the UK’s EV charging industry begins a discussion about what collaboration between charging networks could deliver for consumers, landowners, fleets, and others in the wider EV ecosystem.

“It’s also vital to begin a discussion about how interoperability between networks can be of benefit to the networks themselves. Allowing customers to roam between networks, both by embracing ad hoc payments and going beyond it, is a key step towards achieving mass-market uptake.”

Clive Southwell, the UK manager for the Dutch charging firm Allego and chair of the REA’s EV interoperability sub-group, said: “Having watched the EV charging industry evolve in Europe over the last decade into the open interoperable network that now spans the entire EU and beyond, I have been baffled as to why this cannot extend to the UK.

“The technology and will exists to advance this conversation, and now is the time for industry to work together to deliver progress on this crucial issue.”

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