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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I got my first EV last week and will mainly be charging at home as I do very low mileage. However, for those occasional road trips I'll obviously be looking to use rapid chargers en route. Everything I've read about public charging seems super positive about the UK's expanding network. A scan though Zap-map shows I'm tripping over rapid chargers here in London.

I decided yesterday to do a test run around North London to familiarise myself with public chargers. Which brands are good. How busy they get. Whether the car will charge at the advertised speed, etc.. However, I came home after about an hour with zero kWh added. Feel free to skip the boring details of my trip...

First on my list there are three 150kW chargers at a BP station very near my house. Great. Off I went. All units completely dead. Oh well, bad beginners luck? I tried ringing the customer helpline number (mainly to test their ability to do anything about it). No answer. Well, it was a Sunday afternoon.​
Seeing as I'd already given BP £5 of credit, I thought I'd try the next Polar charger. About a mile away I found two 50kW chargers. They're Polar Plus only which I don't have, but no worries they take contactless payment. I try the first device; card accepted, lots of green ticks, then: "Error: Unable to start charge. Please disconnect your vehicle and re-start the charging session". I try again. Same error repeatedly. So I try the second device: I tap my card. Nothing. Payment process hangs for 5 minutes and resets itself. I try a different debit card. Same.​
Pretty annoyed at this point, I drive in the direction of home where I know there's a Shell Recharge stop. I pull up at the solo device. It says I need to download an app. Fine, done. But kiosk is dead. Touchscreen not lighting up, but there seems to be a contactless payment panel. I tap my debit card: "Service Error".​
I've had enough now. It was only a test run and I've got 90% battery so I give up for the day feeling lucky not to be 100 miles from home with a screaming 4 month old in the back.​
Would you say this is a typical experience of using public chargers? If the petrol network behaved like this, the country would grind to a halt. Was it bad luck? Because of Covid? Because it was a Sunday? Because it's London? Because I'm inexperienced and was "doing it wrong"? Are rapid chargers notoriously less reliable than "fast" ones?

Based on this one experience I'm very nervous to embark on any journey beyond the range of the vehicle. I can see myself driving from services to services and ending up sitting for hours on a 3kW charger just to limp over the finishing line.

As a side note, I found Zap-map unreliable as a tool for mitigating these problems. The networks continue reporting to Zap-map that a device is "Available" after a user says it isn't. So do you trust the user report from 12 hours ago or the network report from 5 minutes ago? You have to drive there to find out!

I will try another test run this week. Can anyone give me any useful advice? Networks to avoid? Tips on using Zap-map more effectively?
 

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If you spend time reading other posts here, you will see this is more or less what most new owners go though.

A few suggestions -- which we've given many times.

Zap-map is useful to know where the chargers are. That is all I use it for.


Instavolt are reliable and contactless only.
Genie Point are generally reliable and have a web interface. You can also enroll any RFID card to your account. I've not been sucessful with that.

Polar are hit and miss. I drive right past them. Most of the ones around here aren't reliable enough to be worth the effort.

Ecotrcity have a bad reputation that is not entirely deserved. Their ancient chargers are best avoided but new ones are on the way - fingers crossed. Some of the old ones do work (maybe 3/4 of them work on CCS with my car)

I've had good results with Pod Point - Others may disagree.

Ionity have a good reputation - Their chargers are best suited to cars with large batteries and > 50kW charging capability.
 

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Kia Soul EV 2020
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@TimWh That is a very poor start, sorry. So far, I haven't had such a bad luck, but the stories you read here, are very similar to yours.

I would say Zap-Map is good and I would always take the user feedback first (of course, time dependent, e.g. not a month old).
 

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I echo the comments above - I tend to avoid certain brands because of their lack of reliability and always have a Plan B and C in case the first ones aren't working. I also tend to use ones where there has been a recent successful charge listed on Zap-Map.
I find GeniePoint good and registering an RFID simple.
Years of working with IT and experience of calls to the Rapid chargers helpdesk suggest that turning them off and on again cures a lot of issues.
But travelling out of office hours on a Sunday is higher risk as most of the assistance disappears.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks a lot for the tips. I like the simplicity of Instavolt's offering. I feel like this (among other things) is important for for mass EV adoption. Reward points etc.. are fine (as with petrol) but I find all the multiple apps, and multiple tariffs so unnecessary and confusing (and I'm not technically inept). My 65yo mother-in-law is talking about getting an EV. I don't think she'd cope with the system as it is now. It feels like the Internet was 30 years ago. For enthusiasts happy to fiddle with modems that sometimes just cut you off.

It's a real shame that the most dominant companies are the least reliable. Of course they're the petroleum companies and already have the locations and the money to dominate. But with 99.?% of their customers being petrol users, EV charging is a side line for them. I bet if it was a petrol pump out of action at my local BP garage it would have been fixed before breakfast.

I will happily give my money to smaller players as long as I can find them when I need them. My most common non-local journey is between London and Bedford. Within battery range, but I hoped to try an on-the-road charge next weekend. Unfortunately no Instavolt en route, but looks like there's a GeniePoint.
 

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Kona64
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You can drive beyond the range of your vehicle, but armed with Plan A, B, C and D.
ZapMap/PlugShare are good to help understand what is where, but there's no 100% surety that they will be available to you when you pull up. ( I cover here being ICEd, bust, in use by another EV driver, or just plain not liking your rfid or contactless card )
I don't have range anxiety, I have charger-availability anxiety, made worse by the fact on a long trip you are likely to have passengers who don't mind you saying " let's stop for 15-20 mind at this Costa " but get right peeved if fi are spending over an hour bumbling around a town trying to find a unit "available".

My success at long trips so far has been to drop passengers off and have at least a 45mns-hour to sort the car so I can use Plans C + D with only me getting in +out of the car between swearing at large tall units of power.
 

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I will happily give my money to smaller players as long as I can find them when I need them. My most common non-local journey is between London and Bedford. Within battery range, but I hoped to try an on-the-road charge next weekend. Unfortunately no Instavolt en route, but looks like there's a GeniePoint.
or IONITY at Milton Keynes? Pricey though. I've heard good things about the Polar next door, which is also much cheaper. But that gives you an option to try or look at both.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
@gladini Consider my expectations well and truly managed. Now I just have to back-track on telling my wife it would all be fine and we can drive to Scotland with just a couple of coffee breaks :)

@Todor MK not really on our route, but who's to know? Maybe I thought it would be scenic.
 

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My most common non-local journey is between London and Bedford. Within battery range, but I hoped to try an on-the-road charge next weekend. Unfortunately no Instavolt en route, but looks like there's a GeniePoint.
The GeniePoint at Morrisons works well. There are also a lot of Polar rapids in car parks in town (which I've not tried to use).

You aren't going via MK, so you are either going up the A1 - in which case you could stop off at Baldock services and use the Ionity chargers (the CCS Ecotricity one is dead and has been for months according to Zap-Map) - or the A6, which I can't help with except to say the aforementioned Morrisons is on the A6.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'll actually be extremely near the Bedford Morrisons, so will consider that plan A. RFID card in the post just to be sure.

Incidentally the two nearest GeniePoints to my house are dead. Not that I need them near my house so much as where I'm going, but indicative of my general frustration. One is no longer there (interestingly was in a BP forecourt) but is still listed on Zap-map with issues reported from 4 weeks ago.

Looks like Morrisons have a deal with GeniePoint which is great. My local Morrisons doesn't have one, but maybe it will soon. I feel like supermarkets could be our saviour. They have the locations, the money and the incentive. Tesco need to catch up!
 

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Part of the problem is that few EV owners regularly use Rapids (apart from Tesla owners) and instead buy cars with huge batteries such as the e-Niro/Kona. In turn this and the market approach adopted as a default in this country means that our charging infrastructure is underutilised leading to a lack of maintenance from and return for the companies concerned.
That it's possible to do is demonstrated by Tesla everywhere and for the open market in Norway.
 
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I've never tried Polar, but I've always had good experience at podpoint, and every time I've used Ecotricity they've been working fine (one had an issue with disconnecting a couple of times) and on free vend.
It may by an issue with your vehicle, it seems unusual to have issues at 3 separate chargers and must be a rare occurence (do you know if anyone else had used them successfully before or after you turned up - zapmap often has comments eg, "successful charge". Some chargers don't like certain vehicles, they need to communicate with them and if that doesn't happen properly you are likely to get errors.
 

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I got my first EV last week and will mainly be charging at home as I do very low mileage. However, for those occasional road trips I'll obviously be looking to use rapid chargers en route. Everything I've read about public charging seems super positive about the UK's expanding network. A scan though Zap-map shows I'm tripping over rapid chargers here in London.

I decided yesterday to do a test run around North London to familiarise myself with public chargers. Which brands are good. How busy they get. Whether the car will charge at the advertised speed, etc.. However, I came home after about an hour with zero kWh added. Feel free to skip the boring details of my trip...

First on my list there are three 150kW chargers at a BP station very near my house. Great. Off I went. All units completely dead. Oh well, bad beginners luck? I tried ringing the customer helpline number (mainly to test their ability to do anything about it). No answer. Well, it was a Sunday afternoon.​
Seeing as I'd already given BP £5 of credit, I thought I'd try the next Polar charger. About a mile away I found two 50kW chargers. They're Polar Plus only which I don't have, but no worries they take contactless payment. I try the first device; card accepted, lots of green ticks, then: "Error: Unable to start charge. Please disconnect your vehicle and re-start the charging session". I try again. Same error repeatedly. So I try the second device: I tap my card. Nothing. Payment process hangs for 5 minutes and resets itself. I try a different debit card. Same.​
Pretty annoyed at this point, I drive in the direction of home where I know there's a Shell Recharge stop. I pull up at the solo device. It says I need to download an app. Fine, done. But kiosk is dead. Touchscreen not lighting up, but there seems to be a contactless payment panel. I tap my debit card: "Service Error".​
I've had enough now. It was only a test run and I've got 90% battery so I give up for the day feeling lucky not to be 100 miles from home with a screaming 4 month old in the back.​
Would you say this is a typical experience of using public chargers? If the petrol network behaved like this, the country would grind to a halt. Was it bad luck? Because of Covid? Because it was a Sunday? Because it's London? Because I'm inexperienced and was "doing it wrong"? Are rapid chargers notoriously less reliable than "fast" ones?

Based on this one experience I'm very nervous to embark on any journey beyond the range of the vehicle. I can see myself driving from services to services and ending up sitting for hours on a 3kW charger just to limp over the finishing line.

As a side note, I found Zap-map unreliable as a tool for mitigating these problems. The networks continue reporting to Zap-map that a device is "Available" after a user says it isn't. So do you trust the user report from 12 hours ago or the network report from 5 minutes ago? You have to drive there to find out!

I will try another test run this week. Can anyone give me any useful advice? Networks to avoid? Tips on using Zap-map more effectively?
You tried BEV chargers operated by OIL COMPANIES. Did you expect any better.
 

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Thanks a lot for the tips. I like the simplicity of Instavolt's offering. I feel like this (among other things) is important for for mass EV adoption. Reward points etc.. are fine (as with petrol) but I find all the multiple apps, and multiple tariffs so unnecessary and confusing (and I'm not technically inept). My 65yo mother-in-law is talking about getting an EV. I don't think she'd cope with the system as it is now. It feels like the Internet was 30 years ago. For enthusiasts happy to fiddle with modems that sometimes just cut you off.

It's a real shame that the most dominant companies are the least reliable. Of course they're the petroleum companies and already have the locations and the money to dominate. But with 99.?% of their customers being petrol users, EV charging is a side line for them. I bet if it was a petrol pump out of action at my local BP garage it would have been fixed before breakfast.

I will happily give my money to smaller players as long as I can find them when I need them. My most common non-local journey is between London and Bedford. Within battery range, but I hoped to try an on-the-road charge next weekend. Unfortunately no Instavolt en route, but looks like there's a GeniePoint.
I really hope that Instavolt do well, contactless and reliable. Given a choice I would go for the Instavolt charger over others to ensure my business goes to a network of chargers that is doing well and will hopefully expand. I'm a big believer in ensuring that good businesses get the business and bad ones don't.

Saw one recently in a Booths car park, I didn't need to charge on that occasion but stopped by anyway to check them out. All appeared to be in working order and no ICE'ing. And Booths got some more custom as a result as I popped into the store and bought a few treats.

Its an improving situation as more chargers are installed every day. However, we may soon be onto the next problem - demand exceeding supply. I've seen some pretty big queues at certain Tesla superchargers, especially since the numbers of model 3s are growing rapidly.
 

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That’s a pretty typical experience. For enroute charging, you need a Tesla, but that comes with its own issues.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
@freddym The irony wasn't lost on me, as I pointed out. But yes, I did expect better. I expected a super-wealthy company to protect their brand by maintaining their own infrastructure. Especially one whose days are numbered if they don't adapt.

@Electrickery The first chargers had no power and weeks of people saying so. Others refused to process two debit cards, so I can't rule out a bank issue. Only one of the four separate devices I tried could potentially have been a vehicle issue. But none of this reasoning changes the actual situation. I'm not an idiot and I couldn't charge my car in an hour of trying.
 

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Your experience certainly matches my own. Successful charges achieved with Instavolt and Geniepoint, but every other type I've tried (Polar, PolarPlus, BP, ...) has been a complete failure.

ZapMap as a status tool is also useless, and even as a map isn't great - I've failed to find two charge points listed on the map, and two others have been unavailable as they were located in the middle of building sites.

Is the infrastructure in the UK "for for purpose"? Nope!
 

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It is rubbish, but you’ll get used to it. It is very very rare that you end up stranded (never happened to me so far), but it is not unheard of to end up spending two hours on a charging stop, because your Plan A, B, and C chargers were all broken, so you end up wasting an hour faffing around with that before you even start getting a successful charge at Plan D. That’s not every time by any means, but it’ll happen to you a few times a year if you do lots of long trips.

I persevere with Polar more than I should because I got two years of free Polar Plus thrown in with my home charger installation, so it’s nice and cheap! But for reliability you want InstaVolt first, Geniepoint second.

I would always pick an Instavolt over a Geniepoint though for one simple reason... Instavolt locations usually have 2x CCS chargers minimum, whereas Geniepoint in my experience usually just have 1x CCS per location. So with Instavolt, you have double the chance of finding a working, and unblocked CCS charger at each visit.
 

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I
I would always pick an Instavolt over a Geniepoint though for one simple reason... Instavolt locations usually have 2x CCS chargers minimum, whereas Geniepoint in my experience usually just have 1x CCS per location. So with Instavolt, you have double the chance of finding a working, and unblocked CCS charger at each visit.
Thats my sentiments also.
 

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Zap-map has a problem with reliability of data. At the moment they trust data from the networks that provide it, however if that network is BP Chargemaster/Polar/CYC/etc that data is junk. Users reporting a charger as down will be overridden by the network data. It’s hard to know what the answer is to this, other than to try and get the networks to report accurate data.
The other issue is very old non-networked charge points that may not exist any more are still listed.

The strength of Zap-Map is the mapping and user reports. Before heading to a charger be sure to check the comments. Also it’s important to check in and update, the community of users are the strength of the platform.

BP Chargemaster are utterly useless though. They manage more chargers than anyone else I think with CYC, Polar and chargeplace Scotland but the reliability seems to be appalling, the offering is incoherent and they don’t appear to answer the phone.
 
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