EV Owner Gets Told He’s Been Charging for 44 Years By Charging Network

With the advent of DC and AC rapid charging technologies like CHAdeMO, Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger protocol and 43 kW three-phase AC units, refilling your electric car’s battery pack takes far less time than ever before. What once took eight hours can now be achieved in under 30 minutes, if you happen to have the right combination of car and charging station.

These things weren't even around 44 years ago...

These things weren’t even around 44 years ago…

So when we were contacted this weekend by an EV owner from the UK who said Chargemaster’s Polar Network  — yes, the same one planning on charging EV owners up to £8.50 for 30 minutes of charging at a rapid charge station or up to £2.50 for refilling at a 6.6 kilowatt Type 2 charging station — had logged one of his public charging sessions at more than 386,655 hours, we thought it was a joke.

Enter Dave Davies, a businessman and Nissan LEAF owner from Reigate, Surrey. Like many EV owners, Mr Davies is interested in keeping a track of how much electricity he’s used to charge his car so he can work out real-world costings and figure out how much money he’s saved on petrol since dumping the pump.  So this weekend, he logged onto Chargemaster’s dedicated Polar Network customer portal to see how much electricity he’s used over the past few months at Polar’s network of EV charging stations.

What he saw shocked him.

Listed under the first two entries for his public charging station use — totalling less than an hour of public charging at his local supermarket — the third entry lists a date of January first, 1970, some 41 years before the Nissan LEAF even went on sale in the UK, and 42 years before the Polar Network was launched.

Ever charged your car for 44 years? Polar things David Davies did!

Ever charged your car for 44 years? Polar things Dave Davies did!

Yet the computer insists that Mr Davies had been charging for 386,655 hours and 56 minutes, consuming 2.48 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.  This, says the obviously broken software, saved him more than £1.6 million in fuel costs.

Obviously, Mr Davies’ account has become confused after a hardware or software error, and he wasn’t actually charging for that length of time. But we’ve seen several other examples over the years of the same charging network producing similar errors. We’ve even seen a public charge post recording a mammoth multi-week charging session for a phantom car that isn’t even plugged in, while other charging stations happily report they’re charging nothing but an empty space.

Hardware defaulting to a date some time in the 1970s or turn of the last century has been a traditional symptom of a failed backup battery or incorrectly-set system clock for years. We’re no experts on the system used in charging stations, but we’d hazard a guess that this kind of symptom was triggered by a power trip, or perhaps a dead clock battery.


A 'phantom' car draws 625 kWh from a public Chargemaster point. We reckon that's nearly two weeks of charging.

A ‘phantom’ car draws 625 kWh from a public Chargemaster point. We reckon that’s nearly two weeks of charging.

Either way, we’ve seen it happen before.

“Did someone mention being billed for time spent charging?,” joked Mr Davies on Twitter last Saturday. “Scary stuff!”

Scary stuff indeed. Using the rates outlined by Chargemaster last week for its Polar Network, that little ‘phantom’ charging session equates to a potential bill of more than half a million pounds. All for a computer error.

Of course, computer glitches like this happen all the time — and we’d like to think that had it actually been billable, a human somewhere within the company would have noticed that Davies’ supposed charging session was both theoretically impossible and statistically unlikely and cancelled the billing.

But it does highlight one thing we’re seriously worried about here at Transport Evolved: If charging networks start to bill customers for the electricity they use, it’s imperative that the hardware and software responsible for collecting any owed monies is robust, reliable and accountable.

Where does that phantom power go? Why are the systems producing these kind of errors? And how does it make you feel about using a network when its telematics seem to have such basic failures?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

We reached out to Chargemaster’s official press team several times during the past few days for comment, but at the time of writing have received none. We’ll update this story as and when that changes.


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  • Matt Beard

    I suspect that nine times out of ten an incorrect charge will automatically lead to money being requested from a credit card without human intervention and without anyone noticing. So, if you do intend to use Chargemaster after the end of the month – check your accounts frequently and carefully

  • vdiv

    In the interest of “fairness” computers can make errors that would benefit the user. At the end of the day the governments may step in with their weights and measurements divisions and start regulating the charging stations for accuracy similarly to fuel stations.

    • Computers don’t make errors u2026 computers only do what they were programmed to do by a human. (intentionally, or not).nnOne of the issues with designing a complex billing system is the software needs to be as complex and testing even more complex to work in all use cases.

  • Nice u2026 2.4 TeraWatt battery charged in under 3 hours! Clearly an alien spaceship stopped by to charge up the ion-drive for a trip across the Milkyway. The u00a31.6 million in savings was worth the detour. 😉

  • GCO

    The start date shows 1/1/1970. As Unix counts time as seconds since that moment, that’s what an all-zero time/date value would be interpreted as.nnProbably the software never filled up correctly the ‘start’ data, or something caused it to be lost/clobbered (like, an unhandled error condition like a network timeout, or the unanticipated concurrent access to that data or the structures which hold it from different threads/processes)…nnYes, those kind of bogus values should get flagged for review, at the very least, but that might bring its own issues too.nExample from personal experience: my utility billed me an extra 1MW*h after my solar system went online. Apparently nothing on the account made obvious that I now could generate power, so the fact the meter went backwards caused the reading to be reviewed (good) and “fixed” (bad).

  • Ad van der Meer

    I think it’s unfair to discard paid charging based on this one error. I’ve been charging with a rfid card and it’s been spectacular uneventful. I’ve been billed at the end of every month with a specified bill like the one for my mobile phone and I haven’t found one mistake yet. In fact, I haven’t heard of such a mistake in the Netherlands yet.nIf you want more (fast) chargers, it will require a business model for entrepreneurs to invest in them. I can’t blame them for trying to make a profit and that won’t work by giving away electricity for free .