With little to no progress being made on repairing the hundreds of faulty charging points in London, the Financial Times has revealed that BluePoint are seeking a new agreement with local authorities after months of being in a stalemate.
The proposed agreement would allow BluePoint London, a subsidiary of the French Bolloré group, to take full control of charge point maintenance and “set up round-the-clock support for the network”.
Source London, the capital’s main network of charging points, has been the subject of intense criticism from the electric vehicle (EV) community since Transport for London decided to sell it to the private sector last year.
It is hard to argue that this criticism is not fully deserved, with over a third of London’s 1300 charging points are out of action this poses a huge inconvenience to current EV drivers and a equally large deterrent to those considering ‘going green’.
“London has not got its act together on electric vehicles,” said Mark Walker, UK managing director of Zipcar, one of the world’s leading car-sharing networks. “There’s a real lack of clarity at the moment as to what London wants to achieve with EVs and what infrastructure you need to provide to make that happen.”
Source London’s reputation is at an all time low, which explains why nearly two-thirds of London’s charging points are going unused.
However, BluePoint have made a move that could redefine Source London and dictate the course of London’s charging point infrastructure over the next decade.
Currently, BluePoint are under contract to pay £500 a year per station to charge point owners, i.e the boroughs, to pay for maintenance. Yet, Christopher Arnaud, director of Bluepoint, has revealed that councils are not invoicing the company as the cost for repairs is often much more than £500.
In light of this, BluePoint is attempting to reach a deal whereby they take full control of the network. This would ultimately see investment into improving the state of the network, which is undoubtedly what every EV driver wants to see. However, it could also give BluePoint free reign on deciding what fees to charge for use of the points.
Currently, it costs just £5 a year to become a member of Source London. Membership comes with an RFID card that gives drivers access to free parking and free charging at all of the networks charging points. BluePoint has said that it plans to introduce a charge of as much as £5 an hour to park and charge in central London.
Considering many of these charging points are not rapid points, and can take as much as 4 hours to fully charge an EV on a 7kW unit, this pricing seems high. It also undermines one of the key reasons for going electric; driving on electric power saves money on fuel.
It is also not clear whether Bolloré will continue to fully support the interests of London EV drivers once fully in control of Source London, or use its position to disproportionately promote the planned EV rental scheme similar to the Autolib scheme it set up in Paris.
Despite this sceptical perspective, a large investment in London’s charging infrastructure is exactly what is now required to ensure that London becomes the EV capital as trailed by the Mayor Boris Johnson; money that the local authorities no longer have.
Along with the wider EV community, we at Zap-Map hope that BluePoint London can deliver the vision inspired by London’s Mayor.