Chargemaster Unveils Multiple UK Tariffs for Electric Car Charging. We Explain All

As it promised a few weeks back, UK firm Chargemaster has just quietly unveiled details of how much it will charge electric vehicle owners to use its Polar EV charging network from April 1.  With two different monthly tariffs plus a more expensive Pay-As-You-Go option, Chargemaster says existing Polar customers — who currently pay £10 per year for unlimited charging and whose memberships will automatically expire on March 31 — will have to choose to let their membership expire or to sign up for one of the new services.

Chargemaster units are now found in many city-centre parking garages.

Chargemaster’s POLAR network  units are now found in many city-centre parking garages.

With charges for a Type 2 public charging station costing up to £2.50 per hour, and rapid charging costing £8.50 for half an hour however, many EV owners are already fearful that the fees outlined by Chargemaster are too expensive, too soon.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve spent some time drilling down to figure out exactly what’s included in each tariff, as well as what we think it will mean for current and future EV drivers.

Polar Economy Plus

Chargemaster says the Economy Plus tariff will cost drivers £12 per month if paid by direct debit, and include twenty ‘charging credits’ which can be used on the network over the course of each month.

  • An hour of charging at a Polar Network 13 amp (UK domestic outlet) point will cost one credit. That’s a theoretical power draw of just under 3 kilowatts per hour, but since most production electric cars we know restrict 13-amp charging to 10 amps, that’s nearer to 2.3 kilowatts, or between 5 and 10 miles per hour.
  • An hour of charging at a Polar Network type 2 (7 pin Mennekes) point will cost two credits. Because the Type 2 charging standard does cover a range of power levels, that could equate to a power level of anywhere from 3.3 kilowatts or 7 kilowatts single phase all the way up to 22 kilowatts three phase. In our experience however, most Polar points are either 3.3 kilowatts or 7 kilowatts, translating to a usable range increase of between 10 and 20 miles per hour, depending on the car you have.
  • A half hour of charging at a Rapid DC or rapid AC unit will cost ten credits. On many EVs, this will be enough to theoretically charge from empty to 80 percent full, but in our experience 30 minutes will normally charge from 20 percent to 80 percent full in that time. A fully depleted battery pack will require nearer 45 minutes.

Once you’ve used up your ‘credits’ Chargemaster says you’ll still be able to charge, but it will levy an additional £0.95 per hour (or part) for 13 amp domestic charging points, £1.90 per hour (or part) for Type 2 charging stations, and £6 per 30 minutes (or part) for rapid charging.

It’s worth noting too that this particular tariff seems very similar to BMW’s own ‘mobility’ package for BMW i3 owners, which offers ‘free’ charging access for subscribers to its service. It’s also worth noting that Chargemaster is the chosen provider for this service.

Chargemaster's website now lists the Polar network tariffs which will go live on April 1.

Chargemaster’s website now lists the Polar network tariffs which will go live on April 1.

Polar Standard Tariff

Costing £20 per year, the Polar Standard Tariff appears to be designed as a more occasional-use option for EV owners, because it charges a yearly rather than monthly fee.

Unlike the Economy Plus tariff however, there are no free charging sessions built into the price.  As a consequence, you’ll pay:

  • £1 per hour (or part) for domestic outlet-style 13-amp charging stations
  • £2 per hour (or part thereof) for Type 2 charging stations, regardless of its power capabilities or your car’s power drain.
  • £7 per 30 minutes (or part thereof) for rapid charging stations.

While the membership fee is charged annually, usage charges will be collected monthly by direct debit.

Polar Instant Smartphone App

Offering a ‘pay-as-you-go’ service without the need for RFID cards or subscription, this particular service will require users to have the relevant smartphone app installed on their phone, and for them to have pre-registered from April 1 at the website.

To use the service, you’ll have to pay at the point of service via your smartphone app. Costs will be

  • £1.30 per hour for 13 amp domestic outlet-styled charging stations
  • £2.50 per hour for the type 2 charging stations, regardless of how much power your car can draw
  • £8.50 per half hour for rapid charging stations.
In a month, Chargemaster says Polar's new PAYG site will be live. Right now, it's just a domain holding page.

In a month, Chargemaster says Polar’s new PAYG site will be live. Right now, it’s just a domain holding page.

(At the time of writing, we note that while it’s now less than a month before the site is due to enter operation, there’s little more than a domain-registration generic holding page at the PolarInstant website. While we hope that a website is being developed to soon be deployed, we admit to finding a lack of a branded, official website holding page so close to launch a little troubling.)

What will it really cost? 
Based on the figures provided by Chargemaster in its official statement, we’ve come up with some costings for a hypothetical EV owner who drives 80 miles a day to and from work, using a public charging station to replenish their car’s battery pack to full so they have enough range to get home and do evening errands.  For that purpose, we’re assuming they’ll put about 8.4 kilowatt-hours back into their car’s battery pack — that’s about 3 hours of charging from a domestic outlet.

We’re also assuming they drive to and from work 5 times a week, plugging in at the public charging station an average of 21 times a month and then moving their car the minute charging has finished. (And yes, while statistically these kind of distances are far above the average UK commute distance, we know many EV drivers who regularly drive 80 miles or more every day, and many more who plug-in daily at a public charging station for three hours or so. We’ve provided these figures as a ‘worst case’ scenario based on the belief that a 40 mile commute to work isn’t so unusual, and that those who drive much less won’t need to charge away from home.)

  • £62.85 per month for the Polar Economy Plus tariff on 13 Amp (£12 monthly membership + 43 hours of ‘overage-charges’)
  • £93.70 per month for the Polar Economy Plus tariff on Type 2 at 3.3 kW ( £12 monthly membership + 43 hours of ‘overage-charges’)
  • £44.30 per month for the Polar Economy Plus Tariff on Type 2 at 6.6 kW (£12 monthly membership + 17 hours of ‘overage’ charges’)
  • £144 per month for the Polar Economy Plus Tariff, rapid charging (£12 monthly membership + 19 days of ‘overage’ charges’)
Chargemaster's charges will depend on which type of EV you have -- and where you plug in.

Chargemaster’s charges will depend on which type of EV you have — and where you plug in.

For those making the same trip using the Polar Standard tariff, we’d estimate the costs to be:

  • £64.67 per month for Polar Standard Tariff on 13 Amp (£1.67 membership fee per month plus £63 of use charges)
  • £107.67 per month for Polar Standard Tariff on Type 2 at 3.3kW (£1.67 membership fee plus £106 of use charges)
  • £55.67 per month for Polar Standard Tariff on Type 2 at 6.6 kW (£1.67 membership fee plus £54 of use charges)
  • £148.67 per month for Polar Standard Tariff on Rapid Charger (£1.67 membership fee plus £147 of use charges)

For those considering the pay-as-you go system — and we’re pretty sure nobody making this kind of regular commute would, the prices would be:

  • £81.90 per month for 13 amp PAYG access
  • £132.50 per month for Type 2 at 3.3 kW PAYG access
  • £67.50 per month for Type 2 at 6 kW PAYG access
  • £178.50 per month for single, daily rapid charge use on PAYG. 

True cost? 

As we’ve mentioned before, the Transport Evolved team think it’s only correct and reasonable for EV owners to pay a commensurate fee for the electricity they use at public charging stations.  It’s inevitable after years of virtually free EV charging station access that some form of charge has to be levied against owners for the electricity they use.  And we support that.

But based on our calculations, our hypothetical 80 mile per day EV driver, topping up with 8.4 kilowatt-hours of electricity at public charging stations five days a week  uses 178.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month at public charging stations.

Even at 20 pence per kilowatt-hour (most domestic and business tariffs are well below 10 pence per kilowatt-hour, so we’ve doubled it to help pay towards system upkeep) the total monthly cost would be just £35.70. Remember, that’s for a tariff which is 200 percent the price of your average UK energy price.

Charge at home on cheap-rate electricity, and you could easily get that figure well below £10 per month.  Essentially, these proposed charges would more than quadruple — much more in some cases — the running costs for an EV.

Use one of these, and you'll be faced with pretty expensive daily use charges.

Use one of these, and you’ll be faced with pretty expensive daily use charges.

Own the ‘wrong’ type of EV with 3.3 kW instead of 6.6 kilowatt charging, and you could be paying the kind of fees for electricity that you’d expect to pay for petrol. And that’s with UK petrol prices approaching £6 per gallon.

Worse still, we’ve heard from at least ten EV drivers this morning who tell us that these charges mean they’ll be returning to gasoline when their EV’s lease period is up.

It’s worth mentioning too that the costs here are far more than the prices U.S. drivers are set to pay on the Washington portion of the West Coast Electric Highway: $19.99 U.S. per month for unlimited use, or $7.50 per quick charge.

The problem

Of course, the electricity itself is the cheapest overhead of any public charging network. Buying, building and installing charging stations is a costly affair, with the higher power charging stations costing more to install than lower powered ones. Maintaining the IT infrastructure which allows the charging network to communicate back to its head office adds additional cost. 

Were Chargemaster’s network extremely reliable with lots of redundancy and the ability to let users know en-route of a problem with a particular charging station, we’re fairly sure owners wouldn’t be so frustrated about the upcoming charges. But here at Transport Evolved we’re often contacted by EV drivers moaning about charger reliability across the UK. Broken or ICE-blocked charging stations is a major complaint.

Plugging in at a public charging station owned by Chargemaster is about to get costly.

Plugging in at a public charging station owned by Chargemaster is about to get costly.

The situation is not helped by current UK utility regulation, which stipulates that in order to resell electricity by the kilowatt-hour, a company needs to be a registered utility company. In of itself, that’s a complex — and costly endeavor — causing charging providers like Polar to charge per unit of time rather than unit of energy.

A per-unit energy tariff, with a flat, understandable fee per charging station type, would be far more equitable, but what do you think?

Are you a Polar customer now? Will you continue to use the network after it moves to tariff-based charging, or are the fees just too high for you to consider taking an EV?

Are you an EV driver who is seriously considering moving back to gasoline in the light of these charges? Or do you think the tariffs are fair and only right as proposed?

Leave your thoughts — with tempered language, please — in the Comments below.

[For our U.S. readers, £1 is equivalent to $1.67 at current exchange rates. Europeans will find the pound sterling worth €1.19– Ed]


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  • Darren Griffin uf8ff

    I’ve already notified ChargeMaster that I won’t be renewing. I’ve always seen these chargers as occasionally useful but rarely essential and the announced tariffs mean I wouldn’t consider using them unless I was really stuck. They’re so slow that I’d rarely plan to be in one location long enough to benefit from a charge at 3.3 kW and the Rapid Charge tariff is, frankly, laughable. nnI’m delighted to be an Ecotricity customer and member of their Electric Highway and will continue to use and support them instead.

    • Nigel Jones

      Nissan leaf 3.3 kW (2012) here. I do most charging on mennekes 16A, either at home, or when out and about. That’s only about 10 safe miles/hour but is 60% better than 13A/10A charging.nnAt polar’s new prices on PAYG that’s going to cost be 2.50*7 – so u00a317.50. For 70 miles. Errr right, that is so attractive.nnAs far as I’m concerned polar may as well switch the points off/let them ICE up.nnOk I accept in an emergency I might use, but seriously this just does not make sense. nnA rapid charge at u00a37 is at the top end of what seems reasonable, but I note today that I often go a little over 30 minutes (up to 40 or 50 if the point is free). That would be u00a314. IMO for RC the timing needs to be more fine grained – per 10 minutes saynnPolar points are in a variety of locations – if in a supermarket I *expect* cheaper charging – an encouragement to use their facilities, similar for cinema, shopping centers. Take gunwharf quays, portsmouth. It’s a nice place, good car park but charges premium prices for parking. I’ve visited plenty recently, and spent money there as I can charge. But why would I pay even CM rates as well – not a chance, so I’ll go there far less (or use their “regular” 13A outlets, if that’s not banned)nnWhat about Source Bristol/Source London? Those schemes are destroyed by these charges. Let’s encourage petrol use into the city instead. What do they think ? WHat about olev with all the grants? nnI’m not aware of typical charges for CYC managed points, but their model seems more appropriate – centralized billing/management, but let the venue decide on an appropriate price – from free upwards. I think that has to be the model at least for non rapid chargers (where the destination has less to gain from charging!)nnThe future of rapid charge networks in particular definately seems to be with the big utilities. I’m sure ecotricity will charge in the next 18 months, but hopefully with attractive packages for ecotricity subscribers (I’m surprised they don’t make it free(ish), and PAYG but cheaper for others)

      • Nigel Jones

        I’ve got two trips coming up which might involve chargemaster visits – ont just to oxfordshire where waitrose abingdon is handy , one up to newcastle. I guess I’ll be skipping that charge.nnMy car is up for lease renewal in April 2015. that choice has suddenly got a lot harder. having a engine to generate (ampera, rex) suddenly got lot more appealing and cheaper – though the best option IMO remains a much larger battery capacity to better cope with longer trips interspersed with home charging.nnnAnd how about olev working to resolve some of the BIK/tax concerns around workplace charging

  • Jeffery Lay

    I won’t renew either. I’ll occasionally (rarely) use the PAYG setup where needed, as the convenience in times of urgent need goes some way towards justifying part of the cost, but the ongoing rates are simply too high, especially when I can sometimes go a different route and use the still-free Ecotricity chargers, or charge at home for around 6p per unit.

    • Mark Chatterley

      And the PAYG isn’t really PAYG – it requires people to have pre-registered.

      • Jonathan Tracey

        I went to look at my usage on the polar site and it said 0 charges and 0 kwh used, now I know i have used a few polar points in the last year but it occured to me I must have used another card (eg source london). I wonder whats going to happen to these arrangements, will I be able to use my source london card to get free charges while others pay if using a polar card, or will they just throw away the roaming agreements

        • Jeffery Lay

          My usage there appears low too, partly because there are so many points where even if I connect my 13A portable EVSE brick correctly it *still* doesn’t make contact or supply power. And sometimes it’ll start, but then break connection after a short time. No idea why – loose adherence to british standard plug specs on the part of Chargemaster or Nissan, perhaps? It doesn’t seem to be a problem many people have.

      • Nigel Jones

        so does CYC… A simple debit card contactless payment should be possible really… though personally I don’t have a big issue with smartphone app… until one finds one has no signal in the vicinity! that’s going to go down well. so it can’t be relied on as only mechanism

        • Jeffery Lay

          But since you have to have a signal for the charge points to operate their telematics anyway, that shouldn’t be an issue. Granted, you may find you’re on a different network with different coverage, but it’s not that likely.

          • Mark Chatterley

            But you have to have the App already and have pre-registered. In my mind a true PAYG system would mean anyone could use it regardless of the phone the have chosen to buy or if they have pre-planned by registering online.

      • Jeffery Lay

        I’d still call it PAYG, since you can register from where you are, if you have appropriate equipment (i.e. a smartphone – and maybe they’ll allow 24 hour phone signup too). If that was their biggest problem, I’d accept it without worries. It isn’t, though…

  • Jeffery Lay

    Of course, I have a 3.3kW 2011 LEAF too, so I’m one of the worst-case users…

    • Nigel Jones

      +1 it’s a double whammy

  • YOY! ud83dude08 u2026 What happened with billing by kWh, or by minute?nnChargermaster swapping a u00a310 per year for a u00a312 per month membership that provides u2018charging creditsu2019 instead of electricity! Let me guess unused u2018charging creditsu2019 expire at end of each month?nnVery sad in short term as such a monopolistic access and billing system is going to drive customers away. At issue is the ‘membership’ structure as it requires ‘members’ to agree to terms, thus avoiding free market regulation.nnFor long term, perspective EV buyers will opt towards largest battery capacity they can afford, as there is clear payback from home charging vs. dealing with sharks selling u2018charging creditsu2019! At u00a36 per 30 min. it will be unlikely we’ll see any Model S owner (with CHAdeMO adapter stopping). Just thinking u2026 it won’t take many hours at u00a312/hr to pay for upgrade from 60 kWh to 85 kWh pack. (~10,000 miles, ~year driving)nnThe real costs to use a charge station are a combination of u00a3, u2018charging creditsu2019, rate tariffs, type of charger equipment in EV, and recent charging history. This would drive an accountant crazy for a business operating a mixed vehicle fleet of 3-4 EVs. ud83dude08ud83dudc7f (‘u00a3 per mile’ will be all over the map) nnPS: u2018charging creditsu2019 sound much like bitcoins, only they are not transferable.

  • Duncan Booth

    With a Volt I have the choice of charging or burning petrol. I really, really prefer to run on electricity, but at these rates it will be cheaper for me to fill up the tank than to plug in to a charging post.nnSimple calculation: full charge on a level 2 post takes at least 4 hours, so that’s u00a310 (or likely u00a312.50 if I leave it until the car thinks it is fully charged). It gives me a nominal 38 miles range and running purely on petrol I get about 45mpg so the petrol for the same distance is about u00a35.50.nnSorry Chargemaster, I know you want to make a profit, but if your customers all desert you then all that happens is you go bust.

    • Jeffery Lay

      It’s a survival-of-the-fittest marketplace… and perhaps they’re not the fittest and won’t survive. More likely, though, this is an experiment to see how much they can price-gouge, and in a year or so they’ll have a big announcement about how they’re halving their prices, and get lots of PR and good impressions (misleading though they’ll be) out of it. And the only people who suffer meanwhile are the current customers. If EVs don’t take off, the business will die anyway, and if they do, the current customers will be irrelevant compared to the vastly greater number of customers who’ll come in the long term.nnSo we get screwed, and the only thing we can do about it is go elsewhere until they change their plans. At least there are some alternatives…

  • Matt Beard

    My EV only manages about 60 miles on a full charge (a little more in good weather if I drive like granny, and loads less if I need the heater). I live just over 30 miles from the nearest city, so I usually need to grab a charge if I venture out.nnnnAlmost nowhere that I want to go has an EV charger (the only exception is a shopping centre with a row of 13A sockets that are usually broken, or ICEd or both). This means that I am pretty much tied to using rapid chargers or my diesel car. I have calculated that it costs about u00a37 in diesel to make the return trip. If I were to have to pay u00a38.50 to charge my EV I would never do it.nnnDriving an EV is currently an exercise in coping with compromises. I have to wear a coat except at the height of summer, in the winter I can need to wear gloves. My wife wears a coat and sits under a thick blanket. Keeping the windscreen clear is a never ending battle. I often find I just can’t do journeys because en-route chargers are broken. Worse still I have had times when I arrive at a charger to find it dead and it’s miles to the nearest backup option. I once had to beg a charge from someone’s house when a closed road meant I could not reach home on the remaining charge. Is it worth doing all this when it ends up costing the same or more than a diesel car? No!

  • Matt Beard

    OK, important question…nnnSay I drive to work and plug in to a 7kW post, which recharges my car to 100% in no more than two hours. I don’t have a Polar card, so use the app to “pay as you go”. Now this should cost me u00a35, but what if it is really cold and I ask the car to pre-heat before I return to it. Isn’t it now going to be u00a37.50?nnnWhat if my car has active battery temperature management and every 90 minutes takes a little power to warm the batteries up – will it now be u00a317.50?

  • Paul Churchley

    I will not be renewing and furthermore I shall not be using POLAR PAYG unless I have no other option available. Would I use a POLAR charging station rather than accept a flatbed recovery? Probably not, but I wouldn’t use it under any other circumstance.

  • Phil Mason

    Thought. Maybe the Government should move some of the RHI applied to Biomass burning, and subsidise the EV Infrastructure market……nnBiomass poor for local Air Quality, and questionable for Climate Change (due to wood harvesting methods, and transport of fuel etc)….nnnEV, when using a mainly renewable electricity supply, proven carbon reductions, NOx and SOx etc…..nnnMight be simple….. but an answer longer term……..

  • Keith Johnston
  • ‘Thatu2019s a theoretical power draw of just under 3 kilowatts per hour”nnAh, come on! You’re an EV website. You should know your units!

  • Alex Curry

    it is the granularity of the charging which also irks me as a prospective EV buyer. u00a312 to u00a317 for 31 minutes on a fast charger ouch.nnChargemaster, it might be something in their name.

  • gordon fraser

    I own a Nissan Leaf . I also will not be renewing my Polar subscription.nI will charge at home or at work . I will when i can use the Ecotricity network unless they too go this route .nChargemaster have made a huge mistake and i believe Nissan could now face a huge problem selling the Leaf as a result which would be a great shame.nThis does nothing to persuade new buyers to get on the electric highway , quite the opposite im afraid.nI love my leaf but Nissan really need to get this sorted , this is a backward step.nGordon

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  • GBEV

    Isn’t this all about pricing non BMW out of the market clearing the way nfor BMW exclusive use of the few Chargmaster/Polar posts that can ever nbe made to work? BMW must have know there are really very few of those nsurely! BMW efficiency married to Chargemaster muppetry? Maybe they can nget that to work having shunned Chademo but they won’t be comfortable nbed fellows once I3 owners get a taste of what their expensive ChargeNown+ packages will actually provide by the way of a charge now especially if nthey don’t have the Rex to fall back on

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