Fight Over EV Charging Infrastructure Breaks Out In England

For the past two years, Ecotricity — a British company that uses only electricity from renewable sources — has had the exclusive right to install high speed EV charging stations on England’s motorways. Until now, they have been free to use. Last week, the company announced it would begin assessing a flat fee of £5 for 20 minutes of charging time. Over the weekend, it got an earful from irate Britishers with electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

EV charging in UK

The people suggested that 20 minutes was too short a time for their needs while traveling long distances in an EV. In response, Ecotricity has agreed to extend the charging period to 30 minutes while increasing the fee to £6. Ecotricity president Dale Vance went on the radio to announce the change. “We’ve changed our plan over the weekend following feedback from our drivers. It’s now going to be a 30 minute charging session for £6. We’ve done this to reflect that most EV drivers have said that they need 30 minutes to get the ideal 80 per cent battery charge.”

But Vance didn’t stop there. He took direct aim at the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — the most popular plug-in EV in the UK. “The [Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV] is not designed to be used on electric power for long journeys. It’s designed for running around town on its very small electric battery, filling up at home or at your destination over a period of several hours. Then he ramped up the vitriol. “It’s an inappropriate use of a fast charger at motorway services. It is only the Mitsubishi that can plug into a fast charger – all of the others [PHEVs] just plug into a type-two or three-pin socket over a period of several hours.

The abuse continued. ‘The [Mitsubishi] hybrid is essentially a compromised car. It’s an electric vehicle with a very small battery and a petrol engine so that you have the back-up of the petrol engine for long journeys. It’s designed to use its petrol engine for long journeys. It takes half an hour to charge on a fast charger, and then you can travel 20 to 25 miles, and then you have to stop for another half an hour. It’s just not practical.
‘The point of a hybrid is that they don’t have to charge. They have a petrol engine for a long journey, that’s the whole point of them. It’s just been an anomalous use of our network and our fast charge technology.”

Vance’s tirade drew a sharp response from Mitsubishi Motors UK. A spokesperson said the decision to implement a flat fee scheme for plug-in vehicle charging was a “retrograde step.” for the industry. “‘We don’t understand why the only supplier of charging points in the UK’s motorway services would want to deter the drivers of the UK’s most popular zero emission capable vehicle from charging. For an organisation whose vision is of a ‘Green Great Britain’, the decision of imposing a £6 per charge fee hampers the promotion of electric miles.

“In a growing sector, with a diversity of pure electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles, we believe that consumers should have a choice. A reasonable nationwide strategy would be to have the same charging facilities to match everyone’s requirements. The Outlander PHEV is the first 4WD plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and offers a widespread consumer base uncompromised access to ultra-low emission motoring. Being able to cover the majority of journeys under electric power whilst having the security of a petrol engine as back up for longer trips is a key factor in its success. This announcement is more than disappointing – it seems to be a retrograde step not just for us but for the whole industry.”

Does all this signal a coming conflict between electric car owners and PHEV owners? Will there be fist fights at EV charging facilities over access to the equipment? Will we need two separate and distinct charging networks, one for battery electrics and another for cars with range extender engines? Stay tuned. Any nation that can vote to leave the European Union one day and instantly regret its decision the next is capable of almost anything.

Source and photo credit: This Is Money

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.