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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.

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

After the problem with the Topaz rapid charger, we decided that the next day we would head into Dublin City Centre using the Luas (tram). Nearby was Red Cow Park & Ride which has 4 EV charging bays. You have to pay for parking but it was fairly cheap and we would have had to pay whether charging or not. After the now common circumnavigation of the car park looking for the chargers I pulled into the first space, the other three were also empty. Unfortunately this one was faulty and wouldn't recognise my cable so I moved the car to another bay. Scanning your ecars RFID card opens the flap allowing you to plug in, then after a few seconds it starts charging (remember to cancel the charge timer on the car).

This wasn't a rapid charger but as we would be parking all day before returning on the Luas the length of time it took to charge was irrelevant. I calculated that the car would be around full by the time we returned. It was a simple process and if you have to pay for parking anyway why not charge at the same time. I wasn't sure of the etiquette if parking all day but I figured that a charger located at a park & ride was intended to be used like this.

Given that we had a few full days planned in the city and a trip to an out-of-town shopping centre, slow charging was the best option. We used the Pay & Display at Hueston Station and one at at the Dundrum Shopping Centre. It struck me as odd in Dundrum that two dual port chargers were installed but each only served one space. The one we parked in had a pillar next to it meaning a second car could never connect to it.

It was back to Rapid charging on our trip north for a couple of days in Belfast, before getting the boat home. We were visiting the neolithic site of Newgrange on the way and there is no charging in the visitors' car park, so we had to have a quick 10 minute top up at a rapid charger near Ashbourne to ensure we could get to the next rapid on our way up the M1 later that day. We arrived at the Castlebellingham services before the "low battery charge" warning sounded, plugged in, had a cuppa and the kids had a play in the soft play area. Incidentally, if anyone comes across a small scruffy looking pink teddy bear at these services let me know! Pinky may have had her final road trip.

Moving north, I calculated we had exactly enough to get us to our hotel in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. As the rain got worse and the headwind took it's toll our indicated range exactly matched our remaining journey distance of 12 miles so we chickened out and pulled into Sprucefield Shopping Centre and hunted down the ecarsNI rapid charger. What was supposed to be a 10 minute "splash and dash" turn into a full charge. I think it had something to do with the giant M&S!

After that full charge we had enough for a run round Belfast to the Ulster Museum (worth a visit by the way, as is the Titanic Exhibition) and our drive home. We didn't charge on the boat as we had enough to get home. Once again the Leaf was faultless and we didn't have any real stress regarding range. If chargers are working, and you can find them, using them is simple. Driving around Dublin the car used very little juice and we managed to achieve an extra 0.5M/KWh than at home despite the extra load of shopping and souvenirs. Given the experience I'd have no worries about planning a trip further around Ireland in the near future.

It's worth noting though that ESB ecars will be introducing a charge for charging in the future but it's unclear how much it will cost. Previous plans had to be scrapped due to overwhelming objections. Ecotricity are also rumoured to be introducing a cost to use their chargers at some point as well. It's one to keep an eye on but as long as it's still cheaper than liquid fuel and it helps to improve and maintain the infrastructure then I'm sure most people won't object. It's a tough balance for ESB and Ecotricty to strike as people have been getting the service for free for so long but users are crying out for better reliability and more charge points.

Despite a very busy and rough crossing to Heysham our drive down to Holyhead went without incident. We had no problem with Ecotricity's rapid chargers. That particular route (M6, A55) is abundant with rapids so I knew we had a backup plan should we come across a faulty one. There was no charging on the Stenaline vessel (but I do believe that one of the Irish Ferries vessels has charging onboard) but we didn't need it as we charged to 94% at Holyhead ferry terminal before boarding.

We've had two days in Dublin so far and the car is down to 45%, 10% of which was driving round looking for a rapid charger at a nearby Topaz petrol station. Unfortunately the charger was faulty (I'm not sure what the problem was as the on-screen error was in French). After calling ESB ecars I worked out that this was an older charger, common in Topaz stations (CHAdeMO only), that they don't have remote access to so couldn't resolved the issue remotely. The guy on the phone did try to direct me to the nearest rapid charger and he was very helpful to be honest. We called it quits as we were late for dinner with our hosts so decided to find a charge the following morning.

The next day we ventured out to do a little bit of bank holiday shopping before visiting family. I realised that we were close to Nissan Ireland headquarters and they have a rapid charger. We charged for 25 minutes which brought us up to 70%. This is the first time I've used an official Nissan charger. The a DBT charger, the same as used by Ecotricity, but it seems to me to be a lot slower than ones I've used before. Maybe this is due to the power available to it I'm not sure.

We've used most of the power gained from this mornings top-up. Due to the flat flowing roads we've been on we seem to have been very efficient with our energy, that coupled with the number of CPs that keep popping up on the SatNav I haven't been worried about range at all. This could have something to do with changing the dash to kilometers so my brain thinks I have more.

Tomorrow is another first. I'm going to try a Park + Ride and take the Luas (tram) into the city. The Park + Ride has 4 SCPs (Slow Charge Points). I'm not sure what the etiquette is here, the car will be parked for the best part of the day but it seems to me that SCPs at this type of location are designed to used in such a way. Assuming I can get into one of the spaces I apologies in advance if any local EV drivers think I'm hogging the space.

On the subject of local EV drivers I advise anyone traveling to Ireland in their EV to check out the Irish EV Owners Facebook group. I've found people on there more than helpful and the group has a very positive and friendly vibe to it.

IMG_20160130_140244Here's an update to the previous update: We can confirm that the public charge point in Castletown is now working. We have tested both Type 2 sockets that were tripping out whether you were charging at the low or high rate. We had a Leaf charging at 3.3 Kw and a Zoe charging a 7.7Kw for over an hour with no problems.

Still no sign of the new charger promised by Port Erin Commissioners in, erm, Port Erin. It's understood that this will be installed outside the commissioner's building for use with their Nissan eNV200 as well as the public. We hope this one arrives before the summer.

Ramsey Market Square hasn't been commissioned yet, we understand that the damage cause by a vehicle driving into the post will delay this one going live even more.

I checked out the new CP in Ramsey today. The bay's are marked (both of them!) but there's still no power to the charge post. Any news on when we can expect it work Ramsey Town Commissioners?#EVIOM #iomcharge

Posted by EVIOM on Thursday, 10 December 2015

Also, please also remember that the casing on the Northern Swimming Pool charger has been damaged so take extra car when plugging in and out of that one.


If you're out on your travels and spot anything regarding the islands charging infrastructure submit a post via the Facebook page, on Twitter @EVIOM77 or send us an email to and we'll post it here.

Update to the update of the update:

The Ramsey Swimming Pool charger has been damaged further, as a result Manx Utilities will probably have to power off the post until they can get replacement parts and schedule the repairs.

12523176_898342433620324_1957568532800540642_nThe post has either been deliberately or accidentally damaged but the facility clearly hasn't been respected and unfortunately will now be out of action for everyone for the the time being.

Before I start this update on the status of the public charge points on the island I'd like to apologies for being very quiet on this blog for a while. Sometimes life gets in the way. Anyway...

We've had an update from our friends and Manx Utilities on the state of the public charge points around the island.

  • 12107182_10208778746975347_9144391598922399454_nCastletown had a fault on the type 2 (7KW) sockets, they kept tripping out. The breakers on these have been replaced and should now be working. If anyone is around there and could test just to confirm that would be great.
  • Ramsey Swimming Pool has suffered some damage, due to vandalism it seems. A new front cover has been ordered and will be replaced soon. Please be careful if using this charging point to avoid injuring yourself or damaging the post even further.
  • Ramsey Market Square is still yet to be commissioned but it too has been damaged by someone driving into it and requires extensive repairs. So as yet this new charge post still isn't live.

EVIOM has also been asked to remind charge point users to lock blue commando sockets that are padlocked to ensure they are only used by EV drivers. It was noted that the Ramsey Swimming Pool sockets had been left unlocked. Keys for these padlocks are available from Manx Utilities HQ at Ballacottier or call them on 687687. It has been mentioned by people that these padlocks do not fit the new charging posts very well and some have rusted making they difficult to use but if possible please re-lock them when you are done. Any faults can be reported to Manx Utilities on 687687 or drop them a tweet @manx_utilities.

Charging in Douglas remains an issue with only two very tight spaces that are not clearly marked. I tried to charge the Zoe one mid-week lunch time to find both bays occupied (by charging EVs which is good). On my way out of the multistorey I counted 3 EVs parked in other bays not including my own. It's clear that many more charging points in the capital are needed and we can't afford to have the existing ones blocked by other vehicles.

Keep EVIOM updated on your charging travels around the island via Facebook or Twitter. We have a map of charge points on the island and I would urge people to download the Plugshare app which allows you to check in, log problems and keep the information on there up to date.

Another useful app is Chargebump. This app allows you to enter the registration number of a charging vehicle and request the owner return to unplug if you need to. Handy if the vehicle has stopped charging or you are desperate.

Being able to charge your car at your hotel makes a trip "across" a little more practical for island plug-in vehicle owners.


"Chargemaster, the UK’s largest supplier and operator of electric vehicle (EV) charging points has partnered with AccorHotels, owner of IBIS and Novotel, to offer EV charging points at its hotels across the UK.

Rolling out over the first quarter of 2016, the first phase will see 60 hotels receive EV charging points as part of Chargemaster’s POLAR network. The charging points will be free to use for IBIS and Novotel visitors to charge their electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and are available to all our POLAR plus, POLAR Instant and ChargeNow Plus customers.

The charging points will be 22kW or 7kW state-of-the-art fast chargers, enabling electric cars to be charged in 60 minutes. However, residents are likely to take full advantage of the facility for charging their EVs overnight.

Chargemaster CEO David Martell said: “This is a major step forward in the provision of destination charging in the UK. Hotels are one of the obvious locations where EV drivers have a fundamental need for charging facilities and we are delighted to work with AccorHotels to achieve this.”

He added: “We expect hotels to adopt electric vehicle charging as a customer service in the same way that they have provided wifi across the board.”

Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director of AccorHotels UK and Ireland commented: “As a leading operators of hotels across the UK, we are always looking at ways to enhance and improve facilities for our guests. We recognise that many of our customers are adopting low-emission vehicles and we need to provide charging points at our hotels to accommodate them. In providing a national rollout of this service, AccorHotels continues to lead the field in customer service and our commitment to sustainable development.”

AccorHotels is the first major hotel chain to recognise the increasing need to install charging points to accommodate the growing population of business and leisure motorists using low-emission vehicles to visit their hotels.

With electric and plug-in hybrid car sales in the UK having quadrupled over the last 18 months, it is widely forecast that one in ten new cars by 2020 will be electric or plug-in, making destination charging vital for the future-proofing of infrastructure."

Source: Chargemaster Blog

Most EV drivers charge their vehicles primarily at home. It's most convenient as it charges overnight while you're asleep and is ready to go with a full battery the next morning. Also, if you're on the Manx Utilities EV Tariff it's cheaper overnight too.

Different vehicles have different types of sockets, charge at different rates and there's plenty of new jargon to learn too. All this can seem a bit daunting especially as one of the main appeals of running an EV is it's simplicity.

Signature Electrical

EVIOM has been contacted by Signature Electrical (formerly Phoenix) who supply and install EV charging stations here on the Isle of Man. They have been in business since 2007 and employ four full time staff, one of whom is an apprentice they are putting through the Isle of Man College apprenticeship scheme.

SE rolec1They are NICEICregistered, this means their work is inspected annually and all work is backed by NICEIC’s six year guarantee.
Signature Electrical install Rolec charging stations for Nissan/Motability on the island. They also understand the different charging and lead types needed for different vehicles. Before they undertake any works they complete a full site survey to ensure the customer's electrical installation is up to scratch and current regulations and can handle the additional load of an EV point.

SE van2Having an interest in all things ecological and electrical they have decided to go down the route of Electrical Vehicles for the company and have purchased a Nissan e-NV200.

Signature Electrical can be contacted on (01624) 624400 or at  Their website can be found at

As I have come to realise, traveling across the UK in an electric car is full of ups and downs.

imageIt all started well. We collected the car with a full charge from Park's, Irvine with a full charge and a list of post codes for the satnav. No fuss at the dealer. Signed the forms, ran through the basics of the car and headed south. I'd worked out that we had just enough on one charge to get to the rapid charger in Dumfries but along the way we spotted the CYC charger at New Cumnock so pulled in top up and play with the buttons. I was surprised how quickly the car charged as I'd heard that the 2015 Zoe charged slower than previous models.
I really wanted to pull into a charge point along the way in a wind farm, but unfortunately we missed the turning as it was just down a small and tiny road and would have meant doubling back on ourselves. But no to worry there was a rapid charger in Dumfries.

imageWell, there is a rapid CYC charger in Dumfries but the AC charge cable was connecting to a Zoe that had finished charging was locked into the car. I couldn't disconnect it. The car belonged to a company call Co Wheels so I googled the name and found a contact number. The guy on the phone told me that they had a deal with Dumfries council for exclusive use of the charger and no one had the key for the car to come and disconnect the cable. It all sounded like total rubbish to me, they were just monopolising the charger. Plugshare showed a slow charger at Dumfries Royal Infimary, I though it would do for a slight top up as the car was showing 39 miles range for out remaining 29 miles to drive.

Well, that charger was also a bust! None of my RFID cards worked and the charger had no sign or information on how to use it. We decided to give it up as a bad job, grab a bite to eat and head to the Travelodge with an Ecotricity Rapid charger. At least I knew I had all evening and night to get someone to fix it if we had any problems with that one.

imageI love Ecotricty! The charger worked. By the time we'd checked in and grabbed some snacks to munch on while watching Doctor Who a guy in a BMW i3 was sat waiting to charge and Zoe was almost full anyway. It goes to show how many people are using the rapids on the motorways.

I'll have a good whinge to Go Wheels, Charge Your Car and Dumfries Council when I get back home. I may need to do this journey again and the rapid at Dumfries fills a big gap in the area.

Tomorrow's another day and we should have plenty of time to get to Heysham for the 2:15 boat. Fingers crossed...

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