No adventures this week, just routine runs to Dalkeith. Which meant that the bulk of charging was done at home. We did take a trip to Falkland Palace, with a stop at Pillars of Hercules for coffee cake and electricity. The charge post was unresponsive, but did start from the CYC app. It wasn’t keen on stopping and required intervention from the helpdesk.
So why the title? Ecotricity have announced at fairly short notice their intention to move away from the free model for the Electric Highway. After subsidising drivers to the tune of £2.5M, the move away from free is as inevitable as it is reasonable. The flaw is in the price structure. It’s expensive. So expensive that it makes more sense to take an ICE on a motorway journey. If you switch to Ecotricity for your home supply then the free charge is included. This is a slightly disingenuous ploy to my mind. Most EVs will take the bulk of their charge at home. Indeed starting a journey without a full charge is not a sensible option. Ecotricity charge more than most per kWh. So although you gain free access to the network of rapids, it would be likely that the cost of your motoring would rise. The cost of home energy would also rise.
The price that is being implemented is £5 per 20 minutes on the Rapid charger. For a 30kW Nissan Leaf, that is around 15kWh, or 33p per kWh, three times what I pay in the house. One of the attraction of EVs to mainstream drivers is the lower operating cost. This reducess that as a possibility on motorway journeys. As Ecotricity have a well publicised exclusivity contract for most of the motorway sites they operate, as shown in the tiff with Tesla, they have something of a monopoly on this particular type of charge location. Arguably this is against the grain of the Ecotricity ethos.
For me the ambition is to make EVs mainstream. This plan will appeal to a very niche, eco-friendly group. If anything a backward step, both for EV acceptance and Ecotricity. At least two advocates of this scheme have suggested that the additional cost could be offset by making other changes to make savings. I’d disagree, as I’ve already made most of the changes they suggest. This should not be about lifestyle change.
On a commercial note, the service area companies might wish to consider that for an expensive 20 minute charge, the likelihood of a driver being either inclined or even having time to spend money on site will drop.
There are various arguments about preventing hogging and limiting the time slow charging cars spend connected. Charger availability will continue to be contentious until the infrastructure AND vehicle range are improved.
I’ve also seen comparisons to Fastned, the Dutch Rapid charging network. This is rather like comparing apple pie with apple seeds. Fastned offers an exceptional product, free WiFi, at least two chargers, all green energy, absolutely no chance of ICEing. The cost is higher than Ecotricity, but electricity is more expensive in the Netherlands. Fastned also have a truly nationwide network, never more than 50km from a station. That offers a service for long distance travellers that is complete and reliable. Plus the Dutch have a history of playing the long game, working together with a strong civic mindedness. I can see while this could be something Ecotricity might aspire to for us, the problem is that in the UK society simply doesn’t work the same way.