Fee for Electric Car Charging at Service Stations Introduced
Owners of electric and hybrid vehicles may be disappointed to hear that they will now have to pay £5 each time they want to top up their batteries.
This news comes after charge station provider Ecotricity announced that it was implementing the flat fee in order to fund the wider rollout of its network and enable more EV drivers to benefit in the future.
The fast-charge feature available at these plug-in hubs can restore an empty battery to 50 per cent of its capacity in just 20 minutes. And while this feature was available for free in the past, Ecotricity now believes that the time has come to start converting casual users into paying customers.
Although the fee has not yet been implemented, it will come into force from the 11th of July and requires the provider to send out engineers to manually convert its existing pumps so that they are compatible with this change.
Of course, from the point of view of most drivers, who rely on petrol and diesel-powered vehicles rather than EVs, the prospect of effectively being able to refill half a tank for just £5 will sound appealing. But it is worth noting that with a 50 per cent charge an EV will not be able to achieve anywhere near the same range before it needs to be refilled as an equivalent traditional car.
There are also those who have expressed concern about the fact that this is a flat fee rather than one which is tailored to the amount of power that a particular EV actually draws during the 20-minute charging window. The argument is that some models will be much more power-hungry over this period than others.
The fact that the fee is fixed for all customers suggests that Ecotricity’s current infrastructure is not sophisticated enough to measure use and charge on a more specific basis. And for the time being, it is worth remembering that electric car technology and the infrastructure to support it are still relatively new, meaning that improvements and changes are likely to occur with surprising regularity over the next decade.
Figures from the SMMT revealed that close to 60,000 EVs are already in use across the country, with sales up by almost a quarter in the first half of 2016. And this is only the beginning of the anticipated rise of electric and hybrid vehicles, with the government aiming to entirely eliminate combustion engines from new vehicles by the year 2040, according to Auto Express.
One other aspect of the current state of EV charging at motorway services in the UK is that Ecotricity is actually the only company to offer this type of capability. So in effect it has a monopoly on the marketplace, meaning that even if it continues to raise its prices, its customers will have no other option but to keep using its charging points.
This suggests that there is room for more competitors to enter the fray, perhaps setting the scene for companies which operate petrol stations to begin implementing fast-charge services.
The only EV drivers who will be exempt from paying the £5 fee to use Ecotricity chargers are those who own Tesla models and who have subscribed to the firm’s Supercharger service.
Tesla is soon setting out to introduce the Model 3, its most affordable EV to date, with an international launch already having earned it hundreds of thousands of pre-orders. And this relatively inexpensive electric saloon will not be eligible for the same access to charging stations without an additional fee applying.
The economics of electric motoring have yet to crystallise, and there is still a lot of growth and evolution required in this marketplace to increase its overall stability and give drivers a better idea of how much it will cost them to get from A to B.