Public EV charging changes puts business at risk

Monday February 20th 2023


This View has been written by Marek Soltysiak, White Eagle Repair.

The company I represent deals with the repair of household appliances in Midlothian, West Lothian and Fife.

Two years ago, we leased one electric van to see if all our cars could be replaced by EVs. After two years of testing, in the conditions that prevailed at that time, it turned out that it is profitable for the company, good for the environment and our employees. So we replaced all 5 vans with electric ones, but unfortunately, the conditions of use of public chargers have changed recently and problems have arisen that put a question mark over the viability of our bold transformation and of the future of small businesses in Scotland. In the light of the changes in use of public chargers our decision to replace our whole fleet with EVs puts our business at risk.

The investment in green transport cost our company over £100K

The main problem for small businesses that use EV recently is the charging time limit introduced on chargers operated by Charge Place Scotland. We understand the intention of this restriction: that it was introduced so that users would not block access to other cars when there are a limited number of chargers. However it seems to us that this was introduced with private users of electric cars in mind. and that the charger operator does not understand the different situation faced by private users compared companies that have EV vans.

Company vans, unlike private cars, must be profitable, so they cannot be too expensive. Therefore, van manufacturers produce cheaper versions, which means that most of them have slow chargers up to 7KW, so our vans charge in about 5-6 hours, which is a problem when public charger operators introduced a limit of 3h charging time. One van needs to drive about 50 miles a day , and for that you need 4 hours of charging – especially in winter, when the ranges of cars are reduced.

The problem is that small companies are not able to build car parks with their own chargers as large companies like DPD, NHS or the Police do. Each of the employees is obliged to take responsibility for charging the van. There is no problem when the employee has a house with a driveway -the company can install a charger for employee and bill for the electricity used, but what if the employee lives in an apartment block, rented house or in a house without access to a driveway? The company must face a choice – either replace the car with a diesel engine, or look for an employee who can install a charger in his home. Sounds ridiculous? But our company has faced such dilemmas.

Another problem is that when an employee has access to chargers that have a 12-hour limit on a 7KW charger, he must plug in the car at 9pm in order to leave for work at 9am. Does an employer have the right to require this from its employee? Our company’s employees are very keen on green energy, so they will do this, but for how long? Will electric cars become a bigger problem for the company than during the 2-year tests we conducted?

Small companies in Scotland, if they want to replace their cars with EV, do not load on public chargers because it is more convenient or cheaper for them, but only because they do not have and will never have another option.. This problem affects all small businesses in Scotland such as electricians, cleaning companies and painters. If Scotland wants companies to replace a total of thousands of vans, now is the time to start discussing it, otherwise we will face a mass exclusion of specialists who will not be able to take up work.

The solution to the problem may be, for example, lifting the 3-hour charging limit between 6pm and 6am, i.e. at a time when private users do not actually charge their cars anyway, and this will ensure that small businesses with EV can work and will not hinder the fight against blocking chargers during the day.

If Scotland wants to be innovative, it must solve this problem sooner or later, the more so that the solution proposed does not involve any additional costs, it only means changing the rules. The number of available and efficient chargers is no longer even enough for the private sector. Suddenly, it turns out that not only is the infrastructure insufficient, but even sudden decisions of individual councils are incomprehensible and block the development of EVs in Scotland.

If you want to talk more about the above problem, I will be happy to meet you at any time and place that suits you.

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