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Hi all.

Joined the ev community a couple of months ago and can't see myself ever going back to an ICE vehicle!

At the weekend, my wife and I were heading to a garden center that had free 7kw chargers in their car park. I was a bit torn whether I should use them or not.

On one hand, there was no risk at all of me being stranded, I easily had enough charge to get home again so why tie up the space for the hour/90 mins I'm shopping.

On the other, the garden center got them installed (I assume) to encourage visitors. We likely would have gone to a different centre if it wasn't for the chargers - I wanted to get my wife comfortable using a public charger!

Plus are people really going to be risking getting there, finding them full and then stuck without having enough charge to get home? When we arrived they were full so ended up not using them.

What is the etiquette with free chargers?

Thanks
 

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LEAF N-TEC 62KW
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I wonder how many of the EVs plugged in actually needed a charge?
It's simple surely: if you need a charge plug in, if you don't, don't as you will be denying those that do from charging.
 

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Hyundai Ioniq 28
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Basically first come first served. I see it as a perk of patronising their retail outlet. As you say, nobody would be shopping there at a local garden centre if they would be stranded when the point was either in use or broken. I would suggest that nobody there actually needs a charge. But, just in case, I have one of those cardboard parking clocks that I have adapted to say " I will be back at the time shown. If you NEED access 'phone xxxxxxxx"

Of course, there are other destination sites where someone could well have travelled 50 miles to a theme park or zoo and plan to stay many hours. They may well need some electrons to get back home and I would avoid plugging in there if I didn't need a charge. Their plan B would be a nearby Rapid anyway. But again, nobody has priority at a destination charger. They are a 'nice to have' facility rather than essential. And as usual, there will be various human traits displayed in their use.
 

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VW ID.3 Worst Edition & Tesla M3 LR
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People can’t resist ‘free’ and will go to surprising lengths to avail themselves of a free resource whether they need it or not.

It’s the same mentality as the wealthy retired people in our village who are first in the queue after the ‘fair share’ truck has dropped off the free produce at the village hall.

That said, nobody should be relying on a garden centre 7kW post to continue a journey, and if the garden centre isn’t bothered about it then you shouldn’t be either.
 

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I agree that the current etiquette is first come first served, and that you can legitimately stay on a 7kw charger until you finish charging (or at least that you don’t plug in when nearly full and leave it for the day).

But as usage begins to ramp up again after lockdown, and as more and more plug in cars hit the roads increasing competition for chargers, I wonder if we should change that, particularly if we’re smug about helping save the planet (which I am…). Realistically I don’t need to charge my Leaf when I pootle along to Tesco, but hey, it’s free, so I do. But it’s actually more important environmentally for that Mitsubishi Outlander to recharge, because then it might get back home without any tailpipe emissions.

Of course, there’s also the issue of not encouraging people to drive tanks when they live in Surrey, but that’s another question.
 

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Garden centres, supermarkets etc offer 'free' charging as a loss-leader to encourage patrons to visit them rather than the competition. They hope to make more from you in sales than it costs to provide the free electrons.

If you visit a supermarket, and they are selling milk or bread at a fraction of the normal price, are you going to say to yourself - 'No, I won't buy that 'cos someone else might need it more than me'..?? Of course not. The supermarket wants you to buy it, and (hopefully) a load of other stuff as well.
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So do what the garden centre wants you to do - plug in, get your trip there 'free', and spend money on their plants, pots, cafe etc.
 

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Speak, Eevee!
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First come first served for destination chargers. They're just a convenience - no one should be relying on them to get around[*], they should have a nearby rapid as backup / not be landing at their destination on 0% if they can help it. It's expected that people will park up and go about their business and that they might hit 100% in the process and not be able to rush back and unplug, that's fine (unlike on a rapid, where you shouldn't do this).

Obviously there's a bit of common sense involved if you want to be nice - e.g. if they're all occupied and you're nearby but not leaving yet and hit 100% then it'd be considerate to move to a normal space so someone else can use it. But this isn't generally expected.

[*] The only grey area from a personal point of view is 22kW posts - to us owners of older Zoes, we might in a sense be forced to rely on them to get around as AC gradually disappears from rapids. I would love it if people would give a little extra consideration to moving on from those and not staying on them the entire day if they can help it. But that's not generally expected either, and drivers of other EVs don't tend to be hugely concerned about the Zoe riff raff.
 

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Personally I don't charge unless I need to. If I rock up to a post with a high percentage and I know I'll be fine for a few days, I'd much rather someone else uses the charger if they need to. Might be different if somewhere has LOADS of chargers which were very unlikely to all be used on my visit.


I wouldn't go to the nearest Tesco with a free charger (about seven miles round trip) rather than my local Sainsburys just down the road and end up on a 7kW post for half an hour as it's just not worth it, the gain I would make is marginal at best - I'd gain 3.5kW in 30 minutes, but then use 2kW (assuming 3.5mpkWh) just for the return journey.

One of the problems with Destination Charging is where you have Free Parking while Charging in an otherwise paid for car park. I assume with these even if people are on 90% and are parking all day, they'll still charge to save on parking costs.
 

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Frankly if they're free its difficult to make any call on whether someone else will need it more than you. You're taking advantage of it being free to top up while you're there. So will many others. So even if someone comes along, no need to feel guilty as they're as likely as you to be doing it just because its free.

When you have to pay for them, at or more than domestic rates, then the skimmers will back off and you'll see more of the ones that need it, using it.

Personally as the number of BEVs grows, and some of those will be people without a home charger, I think they should stop 7kw chargers being free - at least make them 15p/kwh so those that do have home chargers will genearlly leave them alone unless they need the charge to get somewhere, which will free them up for those that don't have home chargers.
 
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LEAF N-TEC 62KW
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Garden centres, supermarkets etc offer 'free' charging as a loss-leader to encourage patrons to visit them rather than the competition. They hope to make more from you in sales than it costs to provide the free electrons.

If you visit a supermarket, and they are selling milk or bread at a fraction of the normal price, are you going to say to yourself - 'No, I won't buy that 'cos someone else might need it more than me'..?? Of course not. The supermarket wants you to buy it, and (hopefully) a load of other stuff as well.
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So do what the garden centre wants you to do - plug in, get your trip there 'free', and spend money on their plants, pots, cafe etc.
Morrisons don't. They use Geniepoint which are 35p (registered) or 39p/kw (guest). However it is triple head Ac/DC charger, not just a 7kw one.
 

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Frankly, I just can't be bothered to get out the cable from the boot, plug in, set the timer to off etc just for a few kWh of power because it is free. My time is worth more than that.
 

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Frankly if they're free its difficult to make any call on whether someone else will need it more than you. You're taking advantage of it being free to top up while you're there.
Yeah, good point. I think if I did this and was going to be a while - but didn't NEED to charge, I'd leave a note with my phone number in the window.

For me at the moment I leave my car charging all day on a very sparsely used set of Destination chargers while I'm working from home when it gets low enough, so I've not really been in a situation when I just need a short 7kW top up. I'm sure the day will come.

Frankly, I just can't be bothered to get out the cable from the boot, plug in, set the timer to off etc just for a few kWh of power because it is free. My time is worth more than that.
I think this is pretty much my mentality. It takes my 30 minute shop down the road to a 30 minute shop plus 10/15 minute round trip plus time connecting, claiming charges if it's Pod-Point etc.
 

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you'll see more of the ones that need it, using it.
Define need in each of these scenarios:
  • Someone choosing to arrive at the destination without sufficient charge to reach another charge point?
  • As above, but in a PHEV?
  • Someone who cannot complete the return journey from home to the destination on a full charge?
  • As above, but in a PHEV?
  • Someone who has commenced the journey from home or a previous destination on less than a full charge who cannot make it home without recharging?
  • As above in a PHEV?
  • Someone without access to home charging?
Changing from free to paid changes it from being a destination charger to a commercial one in my opinion.
 

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There is another aspect that is rarely talked about. Or rather, there a few points to be made other than whether a driver needs, wants, or would like a top-up at a destination point. ( Different to street points) There is also the view from the provider. They will monitor the usage against the downside of losing a parking bay and if they see that it is rarely occupied they may reconsider, or at least refrain from installing more. Certainly, this would colour their judgement if it developed a fault and perhaps they would not want to pay for the repair.

Another consideration is that a car observed in the act of being plugged in can create interest in the EV curious and could encourage others to make that leap. There have been quite a few instances where I have been approached when plugging in at places such as Tesco and become involved in discussions about EVs in general. Especially the economics at first but often it leads to the wider advantages of the superior drive etc. I am sure that such people appreciate truthful information from real owners rather than stealerships. If they never saw any cars being plugged in at places like that it would send a negative message instead.

So there is a bit of 'use it or lose it', and EV evangelism involved as well.
 

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Speak, Eevee!
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To each their own but in terms of Tesco... takes me about 30 seconds to get the cable out and plug it in, and I activate it on the pod point app while walking to the entrance (another 30-60 seconds). By the time I'm done it's paid for my 10 mile journey there, and then it's about a minute to unplug and coil. As they say "Every little helps"! But yeah if I'm on like 90% already then I won't tend to bother. It goes slower than 7kW I think around 95-98%, just not really worth it.
 

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There is another aspect that is rarely talked about. ... So there is a bit of 'use it or lose it', and EV evangelism involved as well.
Yes: Back when it was free in Dundee and at work, I used to charge our Leaf there rather than at home. I saved a few quid, but I wanted the car to be visible and counted to show the council and work that the chargers would be used, and to indirectly encourage more EV uptake.
 

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Define need in each of these scenarios:
  • Someone choosing to arrive at the destination without sufficient charge to reach another charge point?
  • As above, but in a PHEV?
  • Someone who cannot complete the return journey from home to the destination on a full charge?
  • As above, but in a PHEV?
  • Someone who has commenced the journey from home or a previous destination on less than a full charge who cannot make it home without recharging?
  • As above in a PHEV?
  • Someone without access to home charging?
Changing from free to paid changes it from being a destination charger to a commercial one in my opinion.
they're all equally valid and first come first served. My point was they're all arguably higher priority than someone just topping up because its there. Changing from free should remove some/all of those and at least reduce congestion once they're needed more regularly by that group above.

(PHEV can go to the bottom of the list though :p )
 

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It's really simple: free destination chargers are there for you to use if you want to. It's entirely down to your own discretion whether it's worth your while, as it is whether you want to come back and move off the charger. The more conscientious among us will use the Need To Charge app so that it's easy to communicate with other people who...need to charge; that doesn't necessarily mean rushing back to vacate the charger, but being able to tell people how long you intend to be there and negotiate if necessary.
 

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There's a Lidl that's convenient for quick jaunt into the city centre and they have free podpoints and 2 hour parking limit. I tend to park there, plug in and do my errands. Usually leave it about 1.5 hours. I don't need to charge. Mostly all four spaces are empty. Occasionally there's only one free, in which case I'll tend to leave it available. Based on what I pay for power at home this is worth about £1.80 to me.

If I were on Octopus Go it would be about 52p. Would I bother in that case? Probably not.

Here's the thing though... It works. Through convenience and some sense of guilt/loyalty/gratitude for using their electricity I do end up buying some of my groceries in the Lidl.
 

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Speak, Eevee!
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Used to do similar with Tesco to be honest. Drain battery through the course of the week, then at the weekend leave it there for just under 3 hours (max is 3) to and go get some exercise (wandering about, pokemon go etc), return, nip in for shopping, drive away with 100%, repeat. As with a 22kWh battery that's very possible and based on our tariff and a not-completely-flat battery around £3 worth... hey, it pays for most of a pint, call me cheap but I like free beer. Particularly during various phases of lockdown I spent a few months driving for free this way, but this also worked out very well for Mr Tesco as by convenience guess where I did all the grocery shopping...

Out of courtesy I kept a close eye on PodPoint's map though and if all 4 were to show up as "in use" then I'd head back and make way for someone else. Simple case of "I don't mind taking full advantage of the freebie from Tesco and it's mutually beneficial, but I'll allow others their fair share". As it happened though I never saw all 4 in use. So, no harm no foul.

I don't tend to do this now though, as I've found more efficient forms of exercise than wandering around town for 3 hours and value that time doing something more interesting, and rarely want to mooch around the shops.
 
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