Serendipity is a wonderful thing, especially when you happen to have some form of camera with you.
So we had to rejoice a little when we encountered what we believe is the site of Tesla’s first UK supercharger, at the South Mimms motorway services on London’s orbital M25 motorway.
Back in 2011, UK energy company Ecotricity installed its first Electric Highway CHAdeMO quick charging station: a place where long-distance electric car travellers could stop and refuel their car from clean, green renewable electricity at the same time as they refuel themselves. Capable of refilling cars like the Nissan LEAF from empty to eighty percent full in around 30 minutes, the CHAdeMO quick charge station was installed at a time when there were only a few hundred electric cars on the road which could make use of it, so it was installed alongside another charging post capable of providing a more sedate charging to a larger number of older electric cars.
Since then, the number of electric cars on the roads of the UK have dramatically increased, Ecotricity’s Electric Highway now covers everywhere from Perthshire to Exeter, Pont Abraham to Swaffham, and everything in between.
At most sites, there’s now dual-head DC and AC quick charge stations (although South Mimms isn’t one of them) and we’ll soon see the addition of triple-head quick charging stations at each site too, dramatically increasing the number of cars the network is capable of supporting and improving redundancy.
Passing through South Mimms on Saturday morning in our Chevrolet Volt however, we noticed a couple of things which we think point to a Tesla Supercharger joining those other electric car charging points in the very near future: extra parking spaces marked out for EVs, and two new covered units next to them.
We’re not sure who is responsible for the charging station installation or upkeep, but we think it makes sense to see Superchargers being installed at locations with pre-existing EV charging infrastructure.
One, next to the existing charging units along the top end of the parking space, could be easily mistaken for a triple-head charging station due to its front-end-in orientation. But as well as being substantially smaller than any triple-head unit we’ve ever seen, it seems to be about the right height for the Supercharger stalls we’ve seen in the U.S.
We should note at this point however, that while we expect the UK Superchargers to look the same from a distance as their U.S. and mainland European counterparts, there’s a connector difference between U.S. market Model S models and EU Market Model S models. Unlike the U.S. ones, which use Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger connector, the European Superchargers make use of a modified type 2 Mennekes connector, capable of using single phase AC, three-phase AC or Supercharger DC charging stations.
On examining the second unit — located to the side of the last parking space — we’re convinced. Although we were only able to give it a visual inspection — we wouldn’t have dreamed of taking off the covers — we note it’s perfectly located to the left-side of any car parked frontwards in it.
That’s the same side as the Tesla Model S’ hidden charge port door.
Add to that rumblings we’ve heard from several notable members of the electric car world, Tesla’s pending UK market launch next month, and we think you’ll agree: the UK Supercharger network is coming to the UK.
Watch this space.
Footnote: on returning back to South Mimms later in the day, we bumped into this rather handsome Belgian-registered Model S. Sadly, it was just a little too early to make use of the Superchargers, so had to plug-in at the much slower 22 kW three-phase post also on site. We’re sorry we didn’t have chance to say hi!
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