Plans to force motorway services and large petrol retailers to install electric charge and hydrogen refueling points under a new Bill being introduced in Parliament, could cost the industry millions, depending on the definition of ‘large’, according to Mark Frostick, senior associate in the Automotive and Roadside team at Rapleys.

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill – which received its first reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday October 18 - will give the government powers to make it compulsory for ‘public charging points’ (charging for battery driven electric cars or hydrogen refuelling points for fuel cell electric vehicles) to be installed at the sites of ‘large fuel retailers’ and ‘service area operators’.

However, the definition of ‘large retailers’ is not explained in the Bill.

“While the definition of ‘large’ fuel retailers has yet to be confirmed, if it is by the size of the operator, rather than the size of the group, the cost for the industry could be staggering,” said Frostick.

“ If we assume that ‘large’ includes the oil companies, supermarkets and the largest independent groups, the proposed new rules could include more than 4,000 sites.”

Frostick said a report from UK Power Networks Ltd found that the price for installing a rapid charger, which takes 30 minutes to refuel an electric car, would cost a minimum of £60,000 and could, depending on the location, be up to £2 million.

“Even if we assume the lowest installation cost, we are likely looking at a total north of £250m for the industry to upgrade all eligible sites,” he said.

“Of course, some sites will already have charging points, and others will not have sufficient space, but this could be a major cost for the industry.

“Looking further ahead, reports suggest that by 2050 90% of the new cars in the UK will be electric; fuel and infrastructure providers are therefore faced with downward pressure from government and the need to ensure their facilities and portfolios are fit for the future, while also ensuring their businesses are optimised for today.”

Transport minister John Hayes said: “We want the UK to be the best place in the world to do business and a leading hub for modern transport technology, which is why we are introducing the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill in Parliament and investing more than £1.2 billion in the industry.

“This bill will aid the construction of greater infrastructure to support the growing demand for automated and electric vehicles as we embrace this technology and move into the future.”

The Bill will also require that drivers of electric vehicles will be able to easily locate and charge at any chargepoint, using information from sat navs or mobile apps, regardless of the vehicle make or model. All chargepoints will have to be ‘smart’, meaning they can interact with the grid in order to manage demand for electricity across the country.