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Those that have traveled to the UK in their EV have probably used an Ecotricity rapid charger at a motorway service station. Almost a year ago Ecotricity introduced 'charging for charging’ on their Electric Highway, after being free to use for five years.

When charging was introduced in the summer of 2016 they chose to go a £6 fee for 30 minutes. A 'one size fits all' approach. This was welcomed by some as it would reduce the likelihood of drivers hogging the charge points or using them if they didn't really need to. Due to the increase in EV numbers in the UK these rapid chargers can often be very busy. Others were angry  as the pricing didn't charge by the Kwh but by time. On a slower charging vehicle, or depending on other factors that affect charge rates, the cost could be calculated at more that running an ICE vehicle. To say the introduction of the charging model divided opinion is an understatement, but it had been free for 5 years while the network grew and it is a commercial charging network that needs to pay for itself.

The £6 for 30 minutes was always a temporary solution and Ecotricity did say they would monitor usage and update their systems so a more sophisticated and flexible charging system could be introduced. The main issue they have to deal with is fixed time period charging and the different amounts of energy that various vehicles can use in that time. The pricing model also needs to reflect the cost of installing and running the infrastructure, not just the cost of energy. They have tried to separate the cost of energy from the cost of providing the service.

From the 26th June 2017 there will be a £3 connection fee for all sessions and energy will be charged at 17p per Kwh (unit), similar to what many people pay on-peak at home and similar to the cost here on the Isle of Man. Ecotricity customers won't pay the connection fee but that obviously doesn't apply to Isle of Man residents.

Ecotricity state that the new model will typically be lower for all makes and models of EV and will reflect the amount of energy used better. They have also increased the maximum charge time to 45 minutes.

Remember that to use the chargers you will need to download the Electric Highway smart phone app (available for Android and iPhone). For more information see EVIOM's Useful Links page. To contact Ecotricity email fortheroad@ecotricity.co.uk or call 01453 761455.

Here's a quick update on Ecotricity and thier rapid chargers at IKEA stores accross the UK. From today (14/11/16) they will no longer be free and will have the same £6 for 30 minute fee as the rest of thier network. IKEA are offering a £6 discount in store by showing your email receipt that same day.

Email from Ecotricity below:

We just wanted to remind you that, from today, our pumps at IKEA stores are no longer free to use.

We’re updating the pumps throughout the morning, after which they’ll be in line with the rest of the network – at £6 for a 30 minute charge.

In order to continue encouraging customers to use sustainable modes of transport, IKEA will be running a promotion for their customers who charge at one of their stores. From today, you can receive a £6 discount on your in store purchase made on the same day as your charge by simply showing your email payment receipt at the IKEA checkout, subject to IKEA terms and conditions.

For more information about this, please visit the IKEA website.

If you’ve any questions, just give us a call on 01453 761455 or simply reply to this email.

Thanks for being with us.

The Electric Highway Team

Source: Ecotricity customer email and http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/ikea/electric-vehicle-charging/

electric-highway-app_largeSome EVIOM readers and subscribers may have in their EVs glove box an Ecotricity RFID card. Since 2011 this card gave you access to Ecotricity's Electric Highway, a network of rapid chargers or "Electricity Pumps" on Britain's motorway network, Ikea car parks and expanding on to A roads. Since 2011 these "pumps" have been free to use as long as you have their RFID which was also posted out to you for free! Not only this but Ecotricity only generate electricity from renewable sources.

This all sounds too good to be true for anyone moving from an expensive and dirty horseless carriage powered by prehistoric hydrocarbons. (Sorry, I'm getting off the point). Ecotricity have built up an impressive network of rapid chargers and I, along with thousands of others, have enjoyed many miles for free driving smug in the knowledge that whatever I've put into my car has been generated without burning any fossil fuels. As EVs and PHEVs gained popularity the charge points became very much in demand and reports of other drivers "ICEing" or EV/PHEV owners leaving their vehicles unattended and blocking others from using them. Early adopters happily created and adhered to an etiquette of not overstaying your welcome, not using the rapid charger if you didn't need to or if someone else's need was greater than yours. It's safe to say that plug-in vehicles have progressed beyond those early adopters and enthusiasts into the mainstream.

The free system is great but it couldn't continue forever and last week Ecotricity emailed Electric Highway card holders to inform them that from Monday 11th July they will begin to upgrade their "pumps" enabling them to begin to charge for a charge. They expect to have the role-out completed by the 5th August.

Although we knew this was coming we didn't know what the cost would be or how it would be charged. The price Ecotricity has decided upon is £5 for a 20 minute charge. Their reasoning for both the price and time limit are detailed in their Charging FAQ. The main points seem to focus around people not monopolising the charge points and pricing to match the cost of petrol/diesel. In my opinion I'm not sure they have struck the right balance. Different EVs charge at different rates and as the battery becomes "full" the charge rate drops off. Charging per KWh would seem a fairer approach but I agree that a time limit does need to be imposed to stop those  charge point hogs. Twenty minutes, however, may not be enough for most people who need as much as possible to get to the next charger or their destination, thirty minutes would seem more appropriate. If we began charging our 24KWh Nissan Leaf when it only has 10% left I think we'd struggle to get passed 60% in 20 minutes, realistically giving us another 40 to 50 miles of motorway driving. The extra 10 minutes would take us to 80% meaning fewer stops. Above 80% a slow charger is as effective as a rapid.

You do have the option of starting another 20 minutes session but this would cost you another £5 and take your total time charging to 40 minutes. I don't know about you  but I had paid for the extra 20 minutes I wouldn't be cutting it short even if there was a queue. Remember that that last 20% will be much slower that the first 80%.

Those that switch their home energy supplier to Ecotricity will continue to get rapid charging for free. This, of course, isn't an option for Isle of Man residents or anyone else visiting the UK. Another issue potentially being a problem for visitors from the Isle of Man is that the new system relies on an app on your smartphone. So you'll need an Apple or Android phone (no Windows phone app), data roaming or a UK SIM.

The Electric Highway is still a great service if you're traveling on the UK's motorways and is slowly expanding into the rest of the roads and I'm sure that as subsidies from the UK government and the EU dry up the network needs to start paying for itself. The increase of plug-in cars on the roads also means the network needs to expand at existing locations and grow to plug (no pun intended) those gaps in the country that are difficult to get to for EV drivers. I just feel the pricing structure is wrong. With the range of modern EVs it does take longer to drive long distances than a petrol or diesel car, if it costs the same too I fear many people will be put off the switch to electric. Longer range cars and faster charging rates are just around the corner but it leaves those drivers with cars manufactured in the last 5 years paying more and stopping more frequently than owners of cars bought in the next two years or so.

Update:
Interview on BBC's You & Yours covering this subject with Ecotricty Electric Highway's Dale Vince: http://bbc.in/29b6Efn. He confirms a change of £6 for a 30 minute charge.

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