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The horse has gone so now the CMA has decided it wants to investigate Ecotricy/Electric Highway and the MSA groups


On 22 July 2021, the CMA launched an investigation into suspected breaches of competition law in respect of the supply of electric vehicle chargepoints on or near motorways.


The investigation relates to long-term exclusive arrangements entered into by the Electric Highway Company Limited (recently acquired by Gridserve EH Ltd) and Ecotricity Group Limited, and specifically each of the following three motorway service area operators: Moto Hospitality Limited, Roadchef Limited and Extra MSA Holdings (UK) Limited.


The investigation is under Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998. The Electric Highway Company Limited and Ecotricity Group Limited are also under investigation under Chapter II of the Competition Act 1998 in respect of such long-term exclusive arrangements.


The CMA and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) have concurrent functions to enforce competition law infringements in the energy sector. It has been agreed (pursuant to regulation 4 of the Competition Act 1998 (Concurrency) Regulations 2014) that the CMA will exercise those functions in relation to this investigation.


This seems strange timing. Rather than doing anything while the network was a complete mess they've waited until someone has stepped in to fix it. Or did the CMA step in and that's why it was sold and now that's out of the way they can go after Ecotricty and the MSA providers?

Not Welcome Break though as I assume they aren't on the hook as they allowed Tesla in after a fist fight with Ecotricity and a court case.
 

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Before the Gridserve takeover of the Electric Highway:
Extra have been hosting Ionity (e.g. Cobham, Beaconsfield)
Moto have some BP Chargemaster (e.g. still to be commissioned - Reading)
Welcome Break are hosting Instavolt and Tesla.
so the exclusivity isn't there for most of them any more, Roadchef, I'm not sure of.

The Ecotricity Electric Highway were first; and they probably wanted to make sure they had kit installed in every possible motorway service area, but I'm not sure that needs exclusivity, but were worried that some other charging network will secure exclusivity, in the same way that you don't get two different brands of filling stations at the same motorway services.
Nowadays with contactless payments, the difference between different networks is minimal. Would you care who makes or fitted the petrol pumps in a filling station? Pricing? Motorway services have never been a cheap place to fill a tank or eat.
 

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Somebody has complained. Tesla,Instavolt,BP ? Why now? I suspect that when Ecotricity started EH nobody cared and the attitude was best of luck with that it will never catch on especially free as it was in the early days. As time passes it became to late to complain but now the clock as been reset by the takeover.
 

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Complete waste of taxpayers money to do this now. People were complaining about EH and Ecotricity for years and government didn't listen. Now that it looks like the problem has pretty much gone away, and Ecotrictiy are effectively out of it, the government decide to have a look and waste some money doing so.

What do they hope to achieve? Whatever this waste of money concludes won't be worth a hill of beans to anyone.
 

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This seems to have been started off the back of the CMA’s Electric Vehicle Charging Market Study, of which the following was one of the recommendations:

UK Government rolls-out the Rapid Charging Fund as quickly as possible to increase capacity at motorway service stations and attaches conditions to this funding so that it opens up competition at these key sites (eg no exclusivity in future, open tendering, chargepoints interoperable with all EVs and open networks available to all brands of EV). We also have concerns about the long-term exclusivity in the contracts between the Electric Highway and motorway service operators (Roadchef, MOTO and Extra), and therefore we have launched a competition law investigation into these.
This in turn is underpinned by the following findings:

Very limited competition along motorways

10. Being able to recharge as quickly as possible on longer journeys (en-route charging) is crucial to persuade drivers to switch to EVs as it will alleviate concerns about ‘range anxiety’ (the fear of running out of charge). But on motorways there has been very limited competition to date. At most motorway services there is just one chargepoint operator – the Electric Highway – leaving little choice for drivers. Customer satisfaction has been very low, driven by concerns about poor reliability and limited chargepoints.

11. Many of these critical motorway services require costly increases in grid capacity before more chargepoints can be installed, which is a major barrier. The Government’s £950 million Rapid Charging Fund (RCF) has been set up to fund these grid upgrades in England - this provides a pivotal opportunity to open up and increase charging competition within motorway services, as well as increasing grid capacity. This will play a critical role in enabling there to be more than one chargepoint operator at service stations. Greater competition at services will help to deliver more choice, better reliability, low prices and continued innovation. But to achieve this, the RCF needs to be designed in the right way, otherwise there is a risk that if the funding primarily goes to the existing operators it could further entrench competition problems.

12. We also have concerns about the long-term exclusivity agreements between the Electric Highway and three motorway service operators (Roadchef, MOTO and Extra) which cover around two-thirds of service stations and last between 10-15 years since the contracts were entered into, with several years remaining on these. We are concerned that these arrangements increase barriers to entry for other chargepoint operators and, importantly, risk undermining the effectiveness of the RCF. While some period of exclusivity may have been necessary initially, the need for this increasingly looks far from clear, particularly given greater certainty over future EV demand and the introduction of the RCF. Several competitors told us they would look to enter and compete at motorway services but are prevented by these agreements.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Having read the whole report it basically says pretty much the same stuff as the previous reports. No consequences for the crap networks either.
 

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There are a variety of off-motorway locations where several rapid chargepoint providers are really close by (within 1 mile of each other). It's handy as it offers price competition and (even more importantly) redundancy / backup if your first choice is unavailable. It would be great to see this on motorways, especially if some providers prove better in different respects than others. For example, Chademo and AC drivers would probably welcome a provider of dual or triple-head rapids rather than allowing a CCS-only provider (Ionity, Tesla) or a provider that allows CCS to dominate (Gridserve). The more the merrier.

Someone wrote on another thread a few days ago "range anxiety is over but charger anxiety is a real thing". Even 8-rapid sites (Banbury instavolt, the Dundee rapid hubs) can sometimes involve a queue at peak times. There will be no such thing as too many rapids at a motorway site over the next 20 years.

Let them compete on:
  • price
  • reliability
  • charger speed (22, 50, 150, 350kW +)
  • location within the services
  • disability access
  • ratio of parking spaces to units.
 

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Before GS took over the network most people on here were calling for EH to face competition at service stations or even be kicked off them, GS could turn out to be just as bad (probably not), would it be a bad thing for there to be a mix of network operators on the motorways?
Agree with this angle, no matter who owns the networks and commercial agreements with MSAs, it’s in our interests to have competition at them and not rely on another monopoly provider no matter how good they might be compared to the last lot.

I know there’s minor competition coming in at some sites, but it’s too little and taking too long.
 

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Someone wrote on another thread a few days ago "range anxiety is over but charger anxiety is a real thing". Even 8-rapid sites (Banbury instavolt, the Dundee rapid hubs) can sometimes involve a queue at peak times.
At the moment, large multi-charger sites are quite rare, and many EV drivers are wary of going to a small site and risking unavailability (whether faulty or in use) so they will gravitate to multi-charger sites. They all need to be multi charger.
There will be no such thing as too many rapids at a motorway site over the next 20 years.
Quite - think of the car park in a typical MSA now on a busy day. 20 years on, many of those cars will be electric, and most will want to be charging. It's going to be very different from now.
 

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As much as I'm delighted to see a Gridserve installation at an MSA, I wouldn't want them to be a monopoly. Thats bad for the consumer.

(And if there's no risk, they don't have anything to fear from the CMA; if there is, then they rightly do!)

I said as much in a response to their tweet, but they have deleted the original tweet, which they seem to have done several times today.

I think the MSAs would be better off divvied up into a handful of packages - each including some juicy, profitable sites in the SE, and some difficult, rural ones.
 

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The horse has gone so now the CMA has decided it wants to investigate Ecotricy/Electric Highway and the MSA groups
...
This seems strange timing. Rather than doing anything while the network was a complete mess they've waited until someone has stepped in to fix it. Or did the CMA step in and that's why it was sold and now that's out of the way they can go after Ecotricty and the MSA providers?
CMA kicked off their study of the whole EV charging market back in December 2020, which anyone (companies and individuals) could feed into, they released a progress update at the start of March 2021, with all the responses they'd received and could publish, and their progress update report which had comments around potential issues with motorway charging. Bit later in March 2021 Ecotricity announced their collaboration with Gridserve and then in June 2021, announced the sale of Electric Highway to Gridserve. So it appears the CMA work was begun before any changes to Electric Highway had been announced.

Study details here: Electric vehicle charging market study

Personally I think it can only be a good thing to open up the market and add competition. When I started researching on the forums here about EVs and using them for long distance travel around the country, I found thread after thread of dire tales of broken chargers, payment problems, needing multiple backup plans. Basically leaving the strong impression that EVs were fine for home charging, or some local fast charging but don't expect to rely on motorway rapid charging, which is of course a problem if you ever want to travel on business and need to get to a specific place at a specific time without multiple detours and plans. Its partly what pushed me towards a PHEV.
 

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I wouldn't be surprised that when the CMA produce their results of their investigation in about 18 months time, they'll require Gridserve to sell off alternate charging points along each motorway.
 

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I met a couple of guys who were upgrading the EcoT charger at Ikea in MK, we had a very interesting chat, I asked them why they were upgrading a charger that was going to be replaced by Gridserve anyway, apparently Gridserve don't have any installation or maintanance crews, they are all hired in as and when, nothing strage about that its JIT plain and simple.
Apparently the writing was on the wall for Dale Vince, he'd screwed everything out of the grants and free chargers he received to to set up the EH so he's sold it to his best mate Toddington, this isn't the end of the money making gravy train its just being taken to a whole new level, Dale Vince is all about green that is green backs, he couldn't give a jot about the motoring public as been so clearly demonstrated over the last 7 or 8 years, I'm not sure that Gridserve are going to be any better but at least they will ensure there is a CCS connector at EVERY MSA, unlike Dale Vince who lived in a world of denial.
 

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Somebody has complained. Tesla,Instavolt,BP ? Why now? I suspect that when Ecotricity started EH nobody cared and the attitude was best of luck with that it will never catch on especially free as it was in the early days. As time passes it became to late to complain but now the clock as been reset by the takeover.
Tom Callow of BP has been posting a few things about it - it wouldn’t surprise me if BP have at least helped to instigate it. There’s probably also an aspect of them not being as fussed whilst Ecotricity were running it into the ground, whilst most of the MSA chargers were completely knackered and whilst lots of drivers were diverting off the motorway to charge elsewhere (including at BP chargers). Now that Gridserve is practically fixing the existing MSA network overnight, and promising to create lots of HPC hubs, I can see why suddenly competitors might have woken up. They, rightly in my view, want a piece of the action too.
 
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