On the road to a national EV charging platform

The National Parking Platform could help the EV industry avoid the same potholes as the parking industry, says Paythru’s Keith Brown

Keith Brown
27 March 2024
Keith Brown
Keith Brown

With the ascendancy of digital-only parking solutions, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the challenges that have long plagued the parking sector are largely similar to those currently faced by the electric vehicle (EV) industry. But, by connecting to the apps and payment methods already used by drivers, the National Parking Platform (NPP) may potentially hold the promise of revolutionising the way we approach both parking and EV charging in an ever more digital world.

A beacon of hope

The transition to digital solutions has led to considerable confusion among drivers concerning payment for parking and EV charging. Car parks, parking spaces and EV chargepoints across the country are managed by various different operators, each of whom uses its own means of charging for its services – more and more of which are digital.

According to a recent Autocar survey, there are currently up to 30 different parking apps in use across the UK. Likewise, EV drivers face a multitude of apps, kiosks, and other payment methods. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the fragmentation of these services, with too many online and mobile applications vying for drivers’ attention, is creating a disjointed experience for customers.

The NPP, however, represents a beacon of hope by providing a multi-vendor framework that aims to streamline operations and offer a consistent experience for drivers. Drivers who use one app in their usual carpark are frustrated when they drive to the next county and find they have to download another. The NPP would solve this by letting customers use their preferred app, or integrated in-vehicle system, to find and pay for their parking at any participating location.

The NPP’s stated mission is to bring together parking operators of all sizes, along with the companies that help users pay for parking. And it’s a mission that could be extended to EV chargepoints as the adoption of electric vehicles becomes more widespread.

Consider the potential to integrate payment systems seamlessly into EV charging infrastructure within parking spaces, for instance. Not only will this simplify the payment process for EV owners but, by offering both parking and charging simultaneously, it will also optimise revenue generation opportunities for parking operators and charging service providers. 

Convenience and compliance

Perhaps most importantly, the NPP prioritises user experience and payment convenience. “Payment anxiety” is a recent phenomenon among EV drivers. Payments, accessibility, and roaming are all designed to help drivers, but paying for charging can still often be something of a challenge. A driver may have found the right charge point, in the right location, and at the right time for them but, without the right app, PIN or account card, they can find themselves unable to access it. 

By offering intuitive interfaces and flexible payment options, NPP can help ensure a hassle-free experience for drivers. Enabling standardisation across EV charging infrastructure, in the same way the NPP aims to standardise parking, will be crucial for interoperability and consistency between chargepoint operators, and will further enhance convenience for EV drivers.

To this end, there’s potential for the NPP to align with policies around EV roaming, the ability to pay to charge an EV across multiple charge point networks using a single app or RFID card. The UK government’s Public Charge Point Regulations 2023, for example, state that charge point operators must offer roaming at all their public chargepoints by connecting to at least one third-party roaming provider, something the NPP, through its integration and interoperability, can help facilitate.

Enforcement of regulations is another vital aspect of the NPP that could be extended into EV charging. In the NPP, information from all payment providers is consolidated into a single data stream which allows operators to enforce their respective conditions of use. Applying the same approach to data from a charge point operator’s payment providers and associated third parties will go a long way to promoting responsible use of EV charging infrastructure.

Combined expertise and resources

From a lack of consistency and interoperability to a need for greater regulatory compliance and enforcement, there are distinct similarities between the challenges faced by both the parking and the EV industries. The development of robust payment infrastructure within the NPP framework would, therefore, be highly advantageous for chargepoint operators and EV drivers.

Fortunately, the inclusion of EV charging is among the plans for the future development of the NPP, thereby offering the potential for a one-stop-shop for drivers to pay for parking, charging, and more, without the hassle of managing different apps and accounts each time. Achieving this will require collaboration between public entities, private sector stakeholders, and payment service providers, whose combined expertise and resources will help ensure the financial viability and scalability of the NPP as its scope extends beyond parking.

Ultimately, though, the success of the NPP hinges on putting the driver first. By prioritising user experience, standardisation, convenience, and collaboration, the NPP has the potential to pave the way for a more efficient, frictionless, and sustainable future for parking and EV charging alike.

Keith Brown is managing director at Paythru

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