By Lars Cornax, Director, Netherlands Measurement Institute (NMi).

Next time you stop to fill up your car, you might complain to yourself about the price of the fuel, but as you watch the numbers tick higher on the gauge, at least you can be confident you are being charged for what you are pumping into your tank. However, for the growing army of electric vehicle drivers, this level of certainty is not guaranteed.

This is because the accuracy of fast-charging DC stations – which are dramatically growing in number across Europe – is being called into question. A lack of suitable regulation in most European countries means that there is no consistent legal framework and price conformity to ensure EV drivers always get the electricity they pay for. 

It’s no surprise that EV drivers find using a fast DC charger more convenient, but special care needs to be taken for possible energy losses which could be introduced between the meter and the delivery point. If manufacturers of EV chargers do not account for such energy losses and the measurement methodology is not properly certified, consumers could end up paying significantly more. And in the absence of specific regulations, consumers have no certainty that they will be compensated for the shortfall.

As a result, EV drivers cannot know for certain that they receive the electricity they pay for. Furthermore, if there is any doubt, there is no opportunity for redress. Effectively, they are left in the dark.

This inconsistency stems from governments struggling to keep pace with the rapidly evolving EV market, driven by the ambitious goals of the global energy transition. 

Some European countries make-do with existing legislation to protect EV consumers, but – except in Germany – nothing has been specifically designed for the EV charging market. For example, the Netherlands uses the European MID Directive, which was originally designed to standardise devices such as electricity meters. However, this only works up to a point and this legislation currently only applies to AC meters – not to fast-charging DC meters which continues to grow exponentially.

To protect consumers and ensure consistent, trusted products on the market, something must be done. European-wide legislation, tailor-made to address the EV charging market, would be the best solution, but that could take a while. In the meantime, new national legislation in member states would be a first step to protect consumers using DC charging stations. 

This is important not only to protect consumers’ wallets, but also to ensure public trust in the EV infrastructure now taking shape on Europe’s roads. The race is on to build EV charging infrastructure across the continent, with the EU working towards an ambitious Green Deal target of 1 million charging points by 2025. To make the switch away from petrol and diesel vehicles – a critical pillar of the energy transition – drivers need confidence that an EV infrastructure exists to support them. This doesn’t just mean an adequate number of charging points, but also harmonised payment systems, transparent billing details and consistent measurement.

National legislation will, literally, only get EV drivers so far. To help them truly take to the open road across Europe – and accelerate us towards our climate goals – a more harmonised roadmap for electro mobility is needed, including specific EU-wide regulations for fast-charging.