John Sunyer:

Does it work? On a recent weekday morning, I walked to the nearest charging point to my home in Camberwell, southeast London, but it was out of service. So was the next one I visited, around half a mile away. This shouldn’t have been surprising. A survey of the live online network map would have revealed those that were available, already in use, or out of service. In some areas, the number of broken points outnumbers those working. It is not uncommon for around 40 per cent of London’s charging stations to be out of service at any one time.

“The network isn’t in perfect shape. The electric car industry, still relatively new to London, is years and years away from that. But we are heading in the right direction,” said Erik Fairbairn, the 38-year-old chief executive of POD Point, which manufactures and installs, at a cost of £1,000 each, some of London’s public charging stations. The company was founded in 2009 and, according to Fairbairn, achieved 136 per cent growth in terms of turnover from last year. “Still,” he added, “the challenge of cracking London is one of immense complexity.”

Fairbairn was referring to the piecemeal manner in which the electric vehicle charging network has been assembled and managed. Transport for London set it up at the instruction of Boris Johnson, mayor of London, in May 2011. But the scheme never really took off. It was marred by uncertainty and disagreements between various interested parties — among them the operator of the service, 27 London boroughs and 39 private partners, including charge point manufacturers and car park operators — over who was responsible for maintaining the network.