Ecotricity, a UK-based utility company known for its commitment to renewable energy and electric cars, has written to its customers promising great things for its Electric Highway of public charging stations — and to apologise for poor network reliability over the past few months.
In a letter emailed to Electric Highway customers, the utility company broke the news that it intends to expand charging station provision at existing Electric Highway sites, ‘doubling up’ its CHAdeMO DC quick charge and 43kW AC rapid charge stations while simultaneously installing support for Combo DC quick charging network wide.
More charging capabilities
When Ecotricity began installing DC rapid chargers for electric car drivers three years ago,the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars were the only ones on the market capable of recharging their battery packs from empty to 80 percent full in under half an hour using the CHAdeMO quick charge standard.
Now, that single standard has been joined by another DC quick charge standard –CCS — which is favored by german automakers Volkswagen and BMW.
The inclusion of new triple-head DC DC AC quick charge stations alongside existing DC/AC quick charge stations will not only mean that the newest electric cars on the market like the VW e-UP, VW e-Golf and BMW i3 will be supported by the Electric Highway but will mean that electric car drivers won’t find themselves queuing for the only rapid charging unit at each rest stop.
This, says Ecotricity, means there will be more rapid charging capability on its network than ever before. Or, as its CEO Dale Vince is apparently fond of saying ‘Ecotriticy pumps.”
They will join Ecotricity’s existing charging stations, which already make it easy to travel along the length of theM4 in a morning or from London to Edinburgh in just a day.
Better reliability, design flaws found
Perhaps more interesting for many electric car drivers however, especially those who use the Electric Highway on a regular basis, is the news that existing Electric Highway charging stations will receive an important component upgrade designed to make them more reliable.
In the same letter, Ecotricity has admitted that a hardware “design fault” in existing dual-headed charging stations has been identified by the firms responsible for designing and building the rapid chargers used on the Electric Highway.
The fault, when it occurs, has been rendering charging stations inoperable until visited by a trained charging station engineer. In addition to causing a headache for Ecotricity’s engineers, it’s also given the network an unfortunate reputation for poor reliability among many EV drivers.
The matter of charging station reliability is one Ecotricity says it is keen to address. After months of technical investigations and meeting with both Nissan and charging manufacturers DBT, a two-stage remedy program will now be undertaken across the entire network.
First, says Ecotricity, a faulty component has been identified which it will replace in each and every rapid charge station across its network starting in two weeks’ time. Then, starting June, it will undertake what it calls a “major upgrade” to its network.
In addition to apologising for the reliability issues, Ecotricity says it hopes drivers will continue to support its network moving forward, promising ‘more cars, more range, and more places to top up’ moving forward.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on this network upgrade to see if it improves charging station reliability, so be sure to check back to see the latest on this important story for UK EV drivers.
The email is reproduced below in its entirety. Read it, and let us know what you think in the Comments below.
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Dear [customer’s name]
These are exciting times in the world of electric cars.
It seems like all of the major car manufacturers now either have an electric model on offer, or will very shortly. Along with this increased choice, we’re seeing car prices come down, as production ramps up and the driving range of new cars steadily increases – it’s exactly what we hope to see, more cars, with greater range and lower prices.
Things are moving at pace with the Electric Highway too.
It was only around the middle of last year that we began to roll out the fast AC and DC chargers and by the end of the year we had installed these ‘Ecotricity pumps’ (as we like to think of them) in half of all motorway services. In February this year we completed the M4 roll out with an Ecotricity pump on every service station from London to Wales. We’ve also begun to double up now, with two pumps in each location, to cope with the additional demand that is coming.
And we’re adding a third standard to the pumps, known as CCS (Combined Charging System) – as used by BMW (the i3) and VW (the eUp and eGolf) – three new cars launched in the last few months which will be able to use the Electric Highway.
By the end of this year we expect to have installed Ecotricity pumps in every single motorway service station in Britain. That should pretty much enable electric car drivers to drive the length and breadth of our country.
There are parts of the country that the motorways don’t get too close to of course, and we’re beginning now to roll out the Electric Highway to strategically important A-roads.
You can keep up to date with our Electric Highway – locations, old and new, on our website map.
We’ve had some teething problems with the technology, but – working closely with Nissan – we’ve identified a design fault as the root cause.
Two weeks from now we’ll begin a short program to replace one of the components in all of our pumps to temporarily improve their reliability, before implementing a major upgrade beginning in June. If you’ve had any problems with our Electric Highway I apologise for any inconvenience, and assure you this problem has had our full attention. I hope you’ll understand that this is new technology and teething problems are perhaps to be expected – the good news is that those teething problems will very soon be behind us.
That’s the update, more cars, more range and more places to top up – good times to drive electric.
Dale Vince MBE
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