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Discussion Starter #1
Parax ask some questions about the Ecotricity public charging network and public charging in general so I thought I would answer it as a separate post...

Parax said:
Paul many of us here are new to EV's so haven't experienced public charging facilities yet, can you tell us a little about ecotricity and your experiences with any other providers?

I understand that the Ecotricity Scheme is free (even for non customers for first year) So I have been tempted to sign up. Whether I pay up for year two will depend on how many times I use the facilities (I suspect I may only use them 5-6 times a year so probably wouldn't bother to pay but we shall see...)

I am not happy about the 'pay for' regional schemes idea I think its the stupidest thing... I only need public charging when I'm away from home, ie out of my region... so I'd need to join all regions except where I live, So tbh I'd rather use petrol!

P.
I shall give you my opinions... remember, other opinions are available and widespread... make up your own mind what works for you... what works for me won't suit everyone!

I think we need to differentiate between fast and slow charging and between charging requirements for ER-EV like the Ampera vs BEV like the Leaf. The Ampera can only charge at 16A tops and has a petrol generator when the battery is depleated so charging requirements for the Ampera are quite different for a 100% EV such as the Leaf. This must be remembered. When driving my Leaf I must have charging or I stop. This focusses the mind and means that my charging requirements are quite different to when I am driving the Ampera.

This is an Ampera forum so I will concentrate on the Ampera/Volt but what I say in this context might not necessarily apply in the same way to the Leaf.

The most important thing to remember is that public charging is not something many will do on a regular basis. Most people charge at home overnight and most do less than 30 miles a day. Easily achievable with the Ampera in EV mode. Most people will use very little petrol and most will have no need to use public charging.

However, for those longer trips you will stop for food/nature and at those times why not plug in and get some more EV miles thereby reducing your petrol use further? This is where public charging comes in. Hoefully, you will have charging at your destination either with your family/friends or at a hotel/B&B and if they don't advertise that they have charging then ask if they have a 13A plug you can use safely accessable from where the car is parked. More often than not they will be quite interested and will help if they can. Remember though to charge at 6A to reduce the load on their cables/sockets as you don't know if they are in good condition.

Charging on the move requires using public charging and right now it is limited. Ecotricity has started to roll out to Motorway services and offer a free access card and I highly recommend that everyone signs up. It is free for the forseeable future and if they start to charge you can then make your own mind up to whether to pay.

There are lots of other membership schemes and almost all of them require you to join in advance and they charge a membership fee... usually annual but some, like POLAR, have a monthly option. Be very cautious before signing up to any membership scheme. It is very unlikely that you will ever use it enough to justify the cost. Some might, particularly if commuting, but the vast majority of people will only do trips where public charging is needed occasionally and the benefit to Ampera owners will be marginal at best over using a bit of petrol. You must do the sums and make your own mind up as to whether they are worth it for you.

PAYG (Pay As You Go) charging is coming and is a much better way. You will pay by card or SMS with no membership, no joining fees, no up front payment committments. It is a way off before it is available in all areas so you might be able to justify a membership of a scheme for a year or two if you will actually use it but eventually all membership schemes will be superceeded by PAYG in my opinion.

POLAR is probably the biggest nationally run scheme but is very expensive. There is a monthly fee + a 95p per charge fee. I cannot see many getting value for money from POLAR and I anticipate they will fold in just a few years. The same fate is on the cards for most membership schemes unless they can switch to a PAYG model. Pod Point is doing this and they are now starting to roll out PAYG charging stations already but there are only a few as of yet.

Many towns and cities have their own schemes that require a membership and annual payment. I would avoid them unless you are sure you will use them sufficiently. Certainly do not join any scheme until you have had the car a few months and have learned how you will use it.

My general advice is this: do not join any membership scheme unless you can be sure you will use it enough to justify the cost. Most people will never charge away from home enough to get value out of even a £50 annual charge.

The exception is if it is totally free such as Ecotricity. OK, they may start to charge non-Ecotricity customers in future but for now it is free to join and free to use so do it! Ecotricity is the only network I have found useful. It is on motorway services... just where I am likely to be on long trips... it is free to use and I am stopping anyway so it is convenient. I have charged using the cable in the boot at 10A although you could buy a type 1 to type 2 cable to be able to charge at 16A if you want to get a few extra miles per charge... convenient but probably not worth the £250 for the cable in my opinion. Prices for these cable may drop in a year or two.

There are other free to use networks the biggest of which is Zero:Net. This is operated by the charity Zero Carbon World. They offer free charging stations to hotels, B&Bs and other public locations. They require no membership and no cards. They are generally free to use if you also use the services or buy from the establishment where they are installed. For example, hotels often have these installed and offer them free to guests of the hotel in a similar way to free WiFi. If you are not staying overnight then buying a meal or using the bar often qualifies you for free charging. If you were going to eat anyway then it a very pleasent way to spend your time whilst charging.

If anyone wants further info on any charging scheme I can get it... just ask.

Also, I will do another post about the mechanics of how to use using these charging stations. They can be quite confusing sometimes! Watch out for that.

There is another aspect to all this and that is how do you find out where the charging stations are? There are quite a few web sites around but the problem is that it is a very immature landscape and not all charging stations are on all web sites. Some are on all, some are on some and some are on none. Not very helpful! The best I have found is Open Charge Map http://openchargemap.org/ . Again, this is an open source initiative from Zero Carbon World http://www.zerocarbonworld.org/ and has most charging stations in the UK. It relies on us updating it so if you find one that is not there, or if the details are incorrect, you can add it or change it yourself. Perfect. There is a smartphone app too for use when out and about. As always it is free.

So there you are... public charging 101.

I throw it open to the floor... ;)
 

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I've heard that POLAR are going to do something soon that you're all gonna like. I don't want to say more than that because I don't know how public domain it is, but trust me, you'll all be signing up.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I won't be signing up to any membership scheme if it means payment of a monthly or annual fee.

<cynic warning!>
If POLAR has come up with a business model that does not require advance payments then that is different. I have used public charging so few times in the year I have had the Leaf, and will do so even less in the Ampera, that I could not be sure to make use of any advance payment scheme enough to justify the cost, almost regardless of how much it is. I suspect that the vast majority of the current EV owners are the same.

We'll see. Nothing I have ever heard or seen from POLAR has given me any confidence that they could do anything I like. I hope I am wrong and I will look forward to seeing what they say and even more to what they actually do.
<end cynic warning!>
 

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Discussion Starter #5
If you are on Twitter then please report all public charging (whether working or not) to twitter using the tag #ukcharge

That way we can all easily get an update on servicability.

If you aren't on Twitter then no worries... post here and hopefully someone who is will do the twitter report for you. :)
 

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ZCW cable costs £ 250 all incusive.I ordered one and it arrived next day.It looks well made but couldnt test it as membury chargers not working
 

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Paul Churchley said:
If you are on Twitter then please report all public charging (whether working or not) to twitter using the tag #ukcharge
I would encourage everyone to get involved in this effort... some really useful Charging Station reports today.
 

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fixed price pay per charge .. eg £3.95 per charge is a bit of a deterrent to using charging network points for a quick top up if you go for a shop / stop for a bite to eat a bit further from home than usual .. thus generating range anxiety/petrol usage .. this applies particularly to ampera owners limited to a max charge rate of 16A .. different situation for those able to use v high amperage DC charging.
 

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poz said:
fixed price pay per charge .. eg £3.95 per charge is a bit of a deterrent to using charging network points for a quick top up if you go for a shop / stop for a bite to eat a bit further from home than usual .. thus generating range anxiety/petrol usage .. this applies particularly to ampera owners limited to a max charge rate of 16A .. different situation for those able to use v high amperage DC charging.
I sort of agree, but it would be very easy to overstate the significance of this. If I'm parked somewhere for less than 1 hour to get a bite to eat, then I would get at most 8 miles of range. Sure, I'm never going to pay £3.95 for that, but equally 8 miles more on petrol is hardly significant either.

I would *like* PAYG to be either metered by kWh (though if I understand it there may be legal issues over that), or a flat rate not more than ~£1 per charge (£0 is good too), but if it's a higher flat rate then I'll simply not bother using it.

I stayed one night at a B&B over the weekend without re-charging. It was far enough from home that the trip home included 17 miles on petrol; perhaps I could have charged but I've no idea whether there was an outside socket I could have used because it just didn't seem worth the hassle of asking. The 17 miles might have been more but we came home via shopping in Oxford so I was able to charge enough at Redbridge P&R to get the rest of the way home.
 

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I just called the Royal Sportsman in Porthmadog to book a room for the weekend and asked them if I can charge my car overnight. It was the first time that they have been asked this but willingly agreed to a 13amp socket. They also plan to immediately put in a 16amp charging point. I have agreed to help out with information. (Electric) power to the people!
 

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Dave Mathers said:
Good news at last the Polar charging point at the little chef chippenham is now fully serviceable
Good job I checked this thread as reading the POLAR thread I thought it was still out of order.


Duncan said:
perhaps I could have charged but I've no idea whether there was an outside socket I could have used because it just didn't seem worth the hassle of asking.
It's always worth asking. I have only been turned down once, but when I got to the site they let me do it anyway.

The more people hear this, the more likely they are to put in a proper facility.
 

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Well I had a fantastic experience yesterday. Went to Beaulieu Motor Museum and tried to use the Polar point there. After a lot of faffing it turned out that this old 2x 13A post has an old style of door that wont close on the Ampera's plug. They were supposed to be replaced but this one got missed. So I used my extension lead but when I came back there were red lights on the charge box and 0 miles in the car. Never had a problem with 10A on that lead before. I attempted a visit here in August and reported a problem then too, but clearly this was not checked out.

So we drove up the road to a pub marked on ZeroNet, only to find that they never installed the Zero Carbon World kit. Great.

That's now 0 out 4 (needed) public charging attempts in the last 2 weeks.

What is embarasing is I had a group of colleagues with me, some of whom are now interested in getting an EV. Well thank goodness the Ampera runs on petrol. 3/4 of a gallon wasted yesterday due to this incompetence. Many of the same group were there when it went wrong in Oxford last week too. Forget range anxiety, it's 'does the chargepoint exist and work' anxiety.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Sorry to hear about your experience David.

I have had similar experiences. I don't know what the answer is right now. The main problem seems to be a lack of understanding as to how important electric car charging actually is to EV owners. It isn't important at all to non-EV owners and so they do not consider keeping the charging stations working a priority. This attitude seems to exists even with the main charging network providers such as Ecotricity and Polar. It is very frustrating.

There is a fundamental conflict in the financials here. Electricity is cheap and we EV owners won't pay a lot for it if we are to realise the savings we expect from owning an EV, and yet installing and maintaining a charging network is an expensive undertaking. If we want frequent and reliable public charging then we MUST be prepared to pay for it in some way. That may be a membership fee or PAYG but right now most charging networks do not charge or do not charge much and so there is no revenue to cover ongoing maintenance.

Ever since I bought our Nissan Leaf 18 months ago I have always said that the financials of running a standalone public charging network do not stack up. The capital costs of set up and installation are high, the maintenance costs are also high because reliability is a key factor in the success of any charging network. However, the customer base is small and the product is low value and consumed in small quantities. There is little opportunity for profit and so I anticipate that all these standalone charging networks that have popped up over the past couple of years will disappear in just a few years and if there is nothing in place to replace them then EVs will die yet another death.

I see electricity as a similar product to petrol. Selling petrol is not profitable. The profit on a litre is normally a penny or so to the garage selling it and if all they sold was petrol/diesel then the would not have a viable business. Most garages make their profit from the shop. Go in to a garage and buy 40 litres of petrol and a coffee and donut and the coffee and donut could easily make more profit for the garage owner than the petrol. This is the only way that charging networks will exist in the future... as part of a business that has other, more profitable, revenue streams.

I think that we all have a collective blindness here. There is already a national network of locations perfect for EV charging, already with the necessary electrical supplies and the majority with profitable revenue streams able to support EV drivers. In fact, EV charging would mesh perfectly into their existing business... they are petrol stations and garages! Many of them already have micro-cafes and shops and would make perfect EV charging locations. Of course, the majority are owned by the oil companies and there is the rub. Oil companies seem to see EVs as a threat when in fact they are an opportunity. If they would only accept that there is a place for EVs right now and commit to being able to profit from their introduction then instead of loosing a customer to EVs they could retain them or even gain new ones. They have the existing locations and infrastructure to make the introduction of EV charging relatively cheap, easy and quick and it would have little impact on their existing business.

I believe that until EV charging is accepted by garage owners (and that probably means the oil companies) and installed at garages with suitable facilities (cafe and shop, sufficient parking etc) then public EV charging will always be unviable commercially and unreliable for EV owners.

Just my personal soapbox getting an airing... :)
 

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Actually most garages are not owned by oil companies, they are franchises. Look to Belgium and Holland and you will see DC rapid chargers installed in BP and Total garages.

But would I want to spend hours in garage AC charging? Of course not. And neither do they have to spare land to support it.

No - I believe that both ZCW and Polar do have the right locations and are complementary. They just have to get the system foolproof.

Both are installed in locations with alternative revenue streams. ZCW in pubs and hotels and Polar typically in lucrative car parks such as NCP and Q-Park (or in yesterday's case, the fleecing operation that is Beaulieu). The presence of a charge will make me go to one of those over, say, a cheaper council car park.

However I do believe that Polar are missing a trick. They should be offering their services to employers for work parking. It was this that I called them to speak about when they told me of their move to £10/year flat rate. I actually would pay £40/month for work charging, as that was what I was paying a colleague to charge at his house before (rough cost of electricity there). I think this is the only business model that would be self-sustaining for them in the short to medium term, before we get further up the S curve.

But they must get their equipment more reliable. And despite what the critics say, it's not been the Smartcard aspect of their system that has let them down 3 times in the last fortnight.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Who said anything about spending hours anywhere... I am certainly not. With 32A a 30 min stop can top up 30 miles and it then starts to be a useful range increase for a short stop. With 3-phase, as on the Zoe, that could be much more and then even a 15 min stop for a pee and cuppa becomes worthwhile.

I know about Belgium and Holland... it is a trial. It is not widespead yet. I hope it works out.

I believe that there are a lot of garages that have the spare "land"... a car park space is hardly land! There are many garages that have an area that could easily house a fast charger or 32A/3-phase type 2 post. To argue that they don't have sufficient space is quite frankly rediculous and simply wrong.

ZCW are mainly destination charging... that is quite different and not what I am talking about. In any case, ZCW are not doing anything that hotelliers and guesthouse owners couldn't do themselves and soon people will realise that and do it themselves I am sure. Polar will not be around for long IMO. They will not have a revenue stream large enough to support them past their initial capital injection. How can they? People say what will the Plugged in Places do when government funding is pulled? Many say they will cease to provide charging. I see Polar in the same light. There is no business case for standalone charging networks. I fail to see how they can be profitable with so little income. Even if the EV base grew by factors they will still have very little income. I really can't see them surviving for the 10-20+ years needed to grow a sufficiently large customer base to guarantee their financial survival.

I see garages as the only sensible locations for non-destination charging. I expect they will not have back-office connections and I would expect them to be located everywhere... until that happens we are always going to struggle to find convenient, working and available non-destination public charging at an affordable price.
 

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"With 32A a 30 min stop can top up 30 miles"

32A 1P charges at a rate of 20-25 miles an hour, so a 30 minute stop means 12 miles (there are no 3P cars yet). I certainly do not want to hanging around a petrol station for that long and it's owners do not want you there that long. Rapid chargers work for garages and that will include the 43kW AC versions for the Zoe, but anything else lower powered doesn't.

I said, "But would I want to spend hours in garage AC charging? Of course not. And neither do they have to spare land to support it." which I do not think is ridiculous at all. I'm sure that most garages could find the land for a ~50kW charger, but they certainly don't all have the supplies, as Nissan are now finding out. When EV ownership does pick up, jams at popular sites will be a problem to resolve with more space and so getting your fill at the supermarket or town parking while you shop is a much better model IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Well, you are entitled to your opinion and I respect that but I wholely disagree.

I believe that petrol stations are the only sensible way forward longterm. Charging at supermarkets and car parks will never work once the EV numbers get up. They would need to have so many charging spots... it just won't be practical.

There will be charging at home and work for most of our daily needs, charging at destinations, what I call destination charging, such as hotels, leisure locations etc, and enroute charging for trips. Supermarkets and town car parks will not fit into any of those categories and are not needed. Car parks might fall into the Work category but the problem of numbers and occupancy will mean they are never going to be able to be relied upon.

What seems to be overlooked by most people when considering charging is this proplem of numbers. At the moment there is generally just a few car park spaces set aside for charging in a car park. Right now this is sufficient as there are so few EVs. Once EV numbers pick up they will be insufficient and it will become commonplace to find all the charging spots occupied. It will not be practical to put charging in large numbers of parking spots and if they cannot be relied upon to be working and available then they might as well not be there at all.

Moreover, the issue of an EV occupying a space and not actually charging (perhaps they are 100% charged) is going to become a real problem. The limited spaces will often be occupied by people that are at work and plugged in but the car is now fully charged and so they are preventing someone else from charging. I can see this becoming as much a problem as ICEing... if not more so. These issues are not a concern right now and so they are being ignored but they will become a big issue eventually and our systems and procedures much be built to handle these issues from the start.

Finally there is the problem of redundancy on long trips. At the moment charging stations are going in in singles. That is already proving to be unsatisfactory. As people come to rely more on enroute charging they must be able to know that the charging station will work when they arrive at it. The issue of occupation applies here too. This more applies to 100% EVs I know but enroute charging is what will sell EVs to the public and if they are always out of action when you arrive or occupied then it will make use of 100% EVs for long trips unpractical as it is now. Charging stations must be kept working and there must be redundancy so if one breaks there is an alternative that is just as fast.

All these issues are problems of public charging and I fear that the issues I raise here are mostly being ignored or not even acknowledge but most EV infrastructure players. It is the "head in the sand" syndrome I am afraid. I am also amazed that so few current EV drivers are raising these kinds of issues or even wanting to try to influence what is happening. There seems to be a general apathy amongst current EV drivers that quite frankly amazes me.

I strongly believe that we are looking to build a charging infrastructure way too early in the revival of the EV. We are imagining EVs are they are now and trying to build infrastructure to suit todays EVs. EVs will develop and change massively over the coming years and any charging infrastructure we build today will either be not needed or unsuitable for the EV of tomorrow. I'm more for using petrol stations which will replace petrol and provide a working network for our future needs...

Perhaps I am looking too far ahead for most people right now.
 
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