POLAR Electric Car Network Leaves Customers In The Cold About PAYG

Yesterday, Polar Network, the largest UK electric car charging network by charging station volume, was due to switch from unlimited charging station access for £10 per year to a more expensive, per-use business model.

The Polar Network's new website failed to launch yesterday as promised.

The Polar Network’s new website failed to launch yesterday as promised.

But while the April Fool’s jokes came and went, Chargemaster, owner and operator of the Polar Network appears to have failed to launch its new service on time, leaving owners and would-be EV drivers wondering just when its switch to tariffed EV charging will happen.

No website yet

With its network of more than 900 charging stations due to switch from to time-metered access on April 1, 2014, Chargemaster had promised an all-new website giving access to the service would launch yesterday.

We’ve been tracking the course of the website over the past few weeks and have watched the site go from a generic domain holding page provided by the site registrar to one which simply states that “Your site is ready.”

Polar Instant network requires you to top up first.

Polar Instant network requires you to top up first.

Traditionally, websites are programmed by default to load either /index.html or /index.php when visiting the top level domain. In the case of the PolarInstant.com website, /index.html leads us to the forlorn “Your site is ready” sign.

But thanks to some of our readers — who suggested alternative URLs to try — we were able to find at least the start of a website at www.polarinstant.com/index.php. What we found there isn’t promising.

One look at the front page shows the PolarInstant website still isn’t ready for primetime, with placeholder text — that’s text used by web designers wanting to mock up a website before content is added by the client — front and centre.

What’s more, while some of the pages do contain what appear to be official PolarInstant content, the pages explaining the smartphone app contain fake links: pieces of text coded to look like hyperlinks but currently containing no physical link to the Apple iOS or Android Marketplace app stores.

Charging point confusion

It’s clear from the website that the PolarInstant system isn’t up and running yet, despite Chargemaster’s promise to bring it to market on April 1. Log into Chargemaster’s previous Polar network charging portal — Chargevision.com — and you’ll see too that cards which Polar said would expire on March 31, 2014 are apparently now valid through December 31, 2024.

We’ve spoken to various electric car owners with existing polar network memberships and who happened to try and charge their cars yesterday using a PolarNetwork site.  So far, all of them report being able to charge as normal with an existing RFID card, although some confusion remains as to if they will be billed proactively for charging.

Top-up required before use

For now, Chargemaster remains tight-lipped about its new tariffs or the delay in the website. When we spoke to Chargemaster on Tuesday there was no mention of any delay or any issues in bringing the service online for April 1. 

But a quick look through the half-finished PolarInstant website tells us that the pay-as-you go system — which Chargemaster said would operate on an ad-hoc, pay-as-you go basis, actually requires users to ‘top-up’ with credit just the same as a mobile telephone pay-as-you-go plan works.

In other words, instead of paying at the point of use as you would with most smartphone-based parking systems, you’ll have to credit your PolarInstant account with funds BEFORE you’re given access.

Chargemaster says it could share your Polar Network data with BMW.

Chargemaster says it could share your Polar Network data with BMW.

What’s more, the minimum top-up you’ll be allowed to apply is £20.

BMW gets your data?

Perhaps the most concerning element of this all however — aside from the obvious delay in site launch — is the news that member data could be shared with BMW, maker of the all-electric i3 and and range-extended i3 BEVx electric cars.

As detailed in section four of the official Privacy Policy document on the PolarInstant website, Polar lists the German automaker as one of its potential data-sharing partners.

It reads as follows:

4. Who will see my personal information?

Your personal data will be used for the above purposes by relevant staff in the Company and by those who support them in their roles. It will also be made available to our authorised service providers which perform certain services on our behalf eg providing IT support and maintenance for a customer and supplier record database. These service providers may have access to personal data needed to perform their functions on our behalf but are not permitted to share or to use such information for any other purpose. We may also share your personal information with BMW (UK) Ltd.

The Company may also disclose your personal data:

  • in response to a court order, or a request for cooperation from a law enforcement or other government agency; to establish or exercise its legal rights; to defend legal claims; or as otherwise required or permitted by applicable laws and/or regulations;
  • when the Company believes that disclosure is appropriate in connection with efforts to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activity, suspected fraud, or other wrongdoing; to protect and defend the rights, property or safety of the Company, its customers, staff, suppliers or others; to comply with applicable law or co-operate with law enforcement; or to enforce its terms or other agreements;
  • to prospective or actual buyers in the event that the Company sells, assigns  or buys any of its business or assets; and
  • to third parties who may analyse the personal data for marketing purposes.

What isn’t clear at the moment is why BMW is being given access to Polar’s data, although we should note that the Polar Network is the chosen charging provider for BMW’s own subscription-based charging tariffs for i3 owners.

At the time of writing, Transport Evolved has reached out to involved parties for comment, but is still waiting for an official statement.


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