Ecotricity is set to roll-out a payment scheme, charging users of its Electric Highway EV charging network. The current free service, with use of an RFID card, will change over to an app based set-up, with a 30 minute rapid charge costing £6.
The original announcement concerning payment was a 20 minute charge time at £5 but this has been revised following feedback from EV drivers that the time limit wasn’t enough to get a full charge. This would have then involved starting a second session at a cost of another £5, with some of the time wasted.
These changes should largely prevent this scenario, and was announced in an update of the Electric Highway Android app, and on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme by Ecotricity’s founder Dale Vince – a feature that also included Zap-Map’s Ben Lane.
The switch over will begin on Monday 11th July and should be completed by Friday 5th August across the entire Ecotricity rapid charging network.
Once completed, the charging sessions will last for 30 minutes at a time, with payment made before the unit activates. For those needing more than 30 minutes to charge, successive sessions are possible, but at the standard cost of £6 per 30 minutes.
Ecotricity energy customers will still retain free use of the rapid charging network though, which has almost 300 devices across the country – primarily on the motorway network.
There are almost 40,000 members of the Electric Highway network currently, with all needing to download the network’s app to charge – even those Ecotricity customers, who simply won’t pay for the service.
There are a small number of Ecotricity ‘medium chargers’ on the network too, with the fast 22kW AC units remaining free to use and operated by using the current RFID card system.
The app will provide a live feed as to device status, allowing users to judge whether the unit is able to be used or not. There are navigation tools and the ability to search for points in the driver’s area too.
A company statement said: “The Electric Highway is the most comprehensive car charging network in Europe, with nearly 300 ‘Ecotricity Pumps’ across Britain which enable electric car drivers to travel the length and breadth of the country using nothing but renewable energy.
“Up until now it’s been the only charging infrastructure in Britain that was available completely free of charge. It currently powers around two million miles a month and has powered more than 30 million miles since 2011.
“The usage trebled in 2015 and it has been so successful in encouraging the uptake of electric cars that it is now necessary to start charging for the service in order to maintain and grow the network.”
Those currently registered with the network will receive communication to explain the forthcoming changes. To see the full list of Ecotricity points, and those of other networks, visit the Zap-Map map.
There are a number of potential knock on effects from the changes. Drivers of PHEVs that are rapid charge compatible – Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs for example – are likely to be less inclined to pay for the use of the charge point when it will add only 15-20 miles to their electric only emission range. The result will see PHEVs driven on the motorway become less green and reduce their effectiveness as a way to reduce CO2 emissions.
However, the news will be welcomed by some users as there is a group of EV users that have become annoyed at PHEV drivers’ use of Electric Highway points. Only one car can charge from an Electric Highway point at one time from a rapid charger, despite there often being two connectors, with the perception that PHEV drivers do not need the charge in the same way that pure-EV users do.
There are still a number of questions yet to be answered though, including how those without an iOS or Android smartphone will be able to use the network and, linked to that, the question of mobile signal. Potentially drivers could be at a point but not able to activate it because of no coverage from their mobile service, though Ecotricity doesn’t anticipate this last factor will prove problematic.