Domestic electric vehicle charge point installers claim late government grant payments are threatening small businesses
Installers of electric vehicle home charging systems have voiced their frustration over late payments of government grants aimed at encouraging take-up of the technology in the UK.
And, it is also unclear whether the government will continue the £9 million Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme beyond March 31 2015, when the scheme is currently set to come to an end, leaving uncertainty for EV installers planning their future budgets.
Launched in September 2014, the scheme enables householders who own, lease or have primary use of an eligible electric vehicle to receive up to 75% off – capped at £900 – the costs of a domestic charge point and associated installation costs.
This followed the previous Homecharge Scheme, which ran from February 2013 to June 2014 (see airqualitynews.com story). This had a budget of £13.5 million with support capped at £1,000.
It is part of the Department for Transport (DfT)’s drive to boost electric and plug-in vehicle uptake and infrastructure, because – as well as producing lower carbon dioxide emissions – electric and other ultra-low emission vehicles can reduce air pollution due to emitting low to zero tailpipe emissions on the road.
According to the government, transferring emissions to power stations from roads and heavily populated areas “helps communities breathe easier whilst making it easier to put in emission control measures at single locationsâ€?.
The Electric Vehicle Homecharge grant is claimed on behalf of householders by the charge point supplier and installer, with all outstanding grant claims to be submitted to the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) – part of the DfT – by May 8 2015.
OLEV then aims to pay installers within 30 working days, but terms of the scheme state: ‘Please note that 30 working days is only a guideline for payment as you are applying for a grant and both DVLA and OLEV need to be satisfied that all of the necessary terms and conditions of the scheme are fulfilled.’
However, electric car charge point installation firm EV Charging Solutions claim the scheme is in a “woeful stateâ€? with OLEV regularly failing to pay the firm within the 30-day guideline, adding that the paperwork required for the grant is a “minefieldâ€?.
On January 23, the company was still chasing payments of more than £12,000 from OLEV that were claimed in November 2014, as well as another £900 it first claimed in October. The money has since been paid, but it came more than 35 days after the 30-day guideline.
Chris Everitt, director of EV Charging Solutions, told airqualitynews.com: “They were pretty much driving us to bankruptcy because OLEV are not giving out the funding in time – they don’t understand the impact of not giving funding to an SME [small to medium enterprise].
“Whatever we make goes straight back into the business, so for us it is a massive frustration.â€?
He added: “They seem to think the 30-day payment term is flexible. It is not a way you can really run a business. If we don’t get paid, then that part of our business disappears.
“What is actually a good scheme with decent guys trying to build a business – it is just falling apart. All OLEV do is authorise the payment, so I cannot understand why they are having difficulties with it.â€?
Another small installation firm – Solway Renewable Energy Ltd – said it had suffered similar problems, claiming to still be owed around £7,000 by OLEV in grant payments claimed in November.
Based in Cumbria, the firm is run and staffed by director Suzanne Burgess and her husband Lawrence alone, so far installing around 250 chargepoints across the region.
Mrs Burgess told airqualitynews.com: “When it is a government payment you think it is going to come at some point, because you expect the money to be there.
“Anything to do with central government like this – they just do not understand how business works. Tell me anyone who can work like this? It is ridiculous.â€?
During the previous Homecharge Scheme last year, she said that she waited four months for OLEV grant payments worth around £25,000, despite there being “nothing wrong with the paperworkâ€?.
Mrs Burgess said: “I’m very careful with money, but I was down to my last £400 in the bank. I called OLEV everyday. I do not like operating like that.
“It is horrendous. We are living and working on less than the minimum wage because of the inefficiencies of OLEV.â€?
She added: “It is not set up for SMEs and microbusinesses like ours, which is where the passion is.â€?
OLEV blamed the popularity of the grant scheme for difficulties with its payment processes, but said that there should be no more outstanding payments due for 2014 claims where paperwork has been completed correctly.
A spokesman for OLEV told airqualitynews.com: “OLEV endeavour to pay within 30 days of the invoice. The grant scheme has been exceptionally popular so there have been slight delays in payments.
“However, the backlog from 2014 has now been cleared and there should be no outstanding payments. Any claims outstanding from 2014 have been where the installer has not met terms of the grant.â€?
The spokesman added: “If there have been occasions where it has not been proven that the terms have been met, then OLEV is working with these installers to ensure that they are.â€?
It follows OLEV’s announcement last week (February 13) that a separate grant scheme for the purchase of plug-in car and plug in vans will be continued up to 2020, with the discount raised to 35%, as ultra-low emission vehicle numbers in the UK neared the 25,000 mark (see airqualitynews.com story).
Vehicles eligible under the plug-in car and plug-in van grant scheme are also eligible to receive money off domestic charging system installation under the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme.