Public Electric Car Quick Charging “Only For Occasional and Exceptional Use,” Says UK Peer

One of the appeals of plug-in cars is the low, low running costs, ease of use, and ability to refuel at home while you sleep. But while 98 per cent of all electric car owners rely on home-based charging to provide the majority of their electrified miles, cheap, reliable public charging stations have become an important factor in persuading people to dump the pump and pick up the plug.

Don't wine about the cost of public quick charging, says Gov. Minister.

Public quick charging for electric cars is for ‘occasional and exceptional use’ says Baroness Kramer

Public charging stations also make it possible for those with an all-electric fleet to make longer distance trips, stopping off at appropriate public quick charge stations on the journeys. But they’re not meant to be used all the time, and those who use them should be prepared to pay the elevated charges to do so.

That’s the message of both David Martell, CEO of Chargemaster, and Baroness Kramer, UK Minister of State for the Department of Transport.

Taking part in BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours radio show earlier today, both were asked about their views on the high tariffs being levied against electric car owners for charging at certain public charging stations throughout the country.

After talking about the massive expansion of charging points in the UK, the program focused on owners who were finding that DC quick charging stations operated by certain networks were so expensive that they no-longer wished to use them.

At home, owners are used to paying around 7 pence per kilowatt-hour for recharging their cars, depending on their local tariffs and circumstance. At quick charging stations owned and operated by Chargemaster under the Polar Network brand, a thirty-minute quick charge session (or part thereof) costs £7.50. If a driver has a completely flat battery pack in their car, they can easily end up paying £15 to refuel their EV, since charging a Nissan LEAF from empty to 90 percent full for example takes more than 30 minutes.

The situation has left a minority of owners saying they’re now choosing between taking their EV or some other form of transport, or in some extreme cases, opting to risk not getting to their destination in deference to paying as much as £15 for less than £2 worth of electricity.

If owners only occasionally charge in public, should they should be content paying high prices for quick charging?

If owners only occasionally charge in public, should they should be content paying high prices for quick charging?

While we’ve not heard of anyone going to such extreme measures, we’ve expressed concern over the Polar Network and its high charging tariffs for EV owners. 

But, claims Martell, the high price comes as a consequence of the cost of installing and maintaining the network, and electric car owners need to accept that.

“They’re only low cost if you’re charging at home,” he said of electric cars. “It’s horses for courses. Electric vehicles are designed for local and medium trips”

While we’d agree that most electric cars on the market today are limited-range vehicles designed for sub-100 mile trips, we’d argue that the promotion of rapid quick charging networks around the world has been specifically to address the problem of limited-range per charge, extending the practicality and feasibility of longer-range trips.

“There’s noting to force them to use them,” he continued of owners complaining. “About £3.50 is the cost of the electricity… and the units have to be maintained.” Other fees, he said, went to pay taxes and electricity standing charges.

Interestingly however, Martell is calling for continued funding from the UK government, warning that without subsidised rapid charging — something which ended earlier this year — the electric car industry will fail.

“The public rapid chargers are intended for occasional use. They’re not a standard way of recharging your car,” said Baroness Kramer.

“Since I would have paid roughly 2 pence per mile to fill my car up and presumably I just needed to top up very occasionally, then I would be way ahead of regularly going to a petrol station for every mile I needed to travel,” she said when asked if she would be prepared to pay £7.50 to recharge her car.

Tesla's charger policy seems the polar opposite of UK policy on EVs.

Tesla’s charger policy seems the polar opposite of UK policy on EVs.

“I think in some ways the industry may not have been good at communicating, because these things have gone from being free to having a charge without much warning,” she continued. “But the message I want to get through is that these are for occasional and exceptional use. They are not the way you fill your car.”

Of course, while some charging providers are now charging high tariffs for quick charging, there are still some charging networks — including those run by Ecotricity — which currently do not charge for electric car charging. Even Ecotricity however, has admitted it plans to introduce charges next year, although we understand its tariffs may be more palatable than some of its competitors.

As for Martell and Baroness Kramer? We’re not sure if Baroness Kramer owns an electric car, but we’d guess the time she’s spent in one is measurable in hours rather than days. As for Mr. Martell? The last time we checked, he was the owner of a U.S-registered grey import Tesla Model S, with a range of 260 miles per charge.

Like many plug-in owners, the staff here at Transport Evolved think all plug-in owners should be prepared to pay a proportionate amount for the electricity they use, but what is an appropriate amount — and how do you charge for it?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • just someone old

    they dig their own grave! As there will get more & more fastchargers from other companys, prices will drop more. In the mean time their chargers will not or just rarely be used, and they will lose even more money!nAs for subsidising the networks, that would be plain stupid! No-one asked them to install them, they wanted to install them!

  • Matt Beard

    The huge fact that everyone seems to ignore when justifying the “need to make profits” is that the UK Government has basically paid millions of pounds to install chargers, then effectively gifted them to private companies.

  • eoosterhoorn

    Yes, the chargers are not for filling your car, we do that at home. But you can’t go any further than half the distance before you have to turn back therefore travelling further away is made impossible unless you are prepared to pay more than you would using a petrol or diesel car. I thought that the government wanted to reduce CO2 emission, tailpipes and such? We are prepared to pay for the use of a charger, but not if that charge is way more than the electricity we use. I am sure that the cost of petrol pumps and running a station is only a small part of the petrol price.

  • Kieron

    Back of the envelop calc.nLet’s say I plan a trip to bristol and back from my home 40 miles away. I can take my i-miev or Toyota Prius.nPrius: 80 miles = 6 litres @ u00a31.40 per litre = u00a38.50nI-miev: will need 1 charge at motorway speeds. Hassle factor of stopping (and/or cost of a coffee at u00a33.50) means I’d pay no more than u00a35 for a rapid charge.

  • Joe

    How about subscriptions?nnAs a consumer trying to keep the interests of the charging networks in mind, I think a good solution would be to offer a fixed subscription. I would gladly pay a regular monthly subscription to a high quality charging network if the fee were reasonable.nnImagine paying something around $25 US per month for an unlimited use subscription. The network will be very happy to have a reliable revenue stream and can use it to build and maintain a first class network. The consumer would be happy to have a sort of fuel insurance, meaning he can rapid charge whenever necessary without fear of being gouged. (Psychologically it might even feel “free” in the same sense that our home internet connections offer unlimited data transfers each month and it feels free since there is no penalty.) The consumer would almost always pay more for the subscription than the cost of the actual electricity, but the convenience of having access to a reliable charging network at any time would be worth it for many people. nnThe networks could even offer a 12-month contract with a slight discount to further please the consumer and ensure a more steady revenue stream. nnAnd you can be sure car dealerships would score points with customers by giving a 3-month subscription to new car buyers who would like it and start to pay for it after the trial ends. nnDo any networks already operate this way?

    • SDVance

      Yes. Check out NRG’s eVgo network plans. There is an unlimited option with purchase of a Home plan. Aerovironment also has an unlimited plan that looks to be the best offer to date. But yes you will pay more than charging at home for access to the network.

  • D. Harrower

    These people are EV supporters in name only. They are determined to keep EVs as low-range “city cars” that never truly compete with ICEs.nnIMO, the only feasible charging network model is Tesla’s. They build and maintain the network (and have a vested interest in doing so) and pay for it by selling more cars that use it, not by bilking the end-user. Simple.

  • philternent

    The cost of 20kw wholesale to likes of ecotricity is about u00a31.40. No more. So u00a33.50 seems fine, u00a37.50 too much. Although still cheaper than 9 litres of petrol in my i3, about u00a313.

  • Steven Barrett

    Who are these people ? Do they live in the real world ? I charge me Leaf at lots of ecotricity sites then head home to,top up, lots of other ev drivers do the same, its free, its how it should be, I also charge & shop at IKEA so they make money off expanded sales, My home fuel is bought from ecotricity so they make money too, result everyone is happy. I love being green but put the price of power up & I’ll drop my ev like a hot rock for an ICEr

  • wookiemaster

    It is way too early to charge for public chargers. People are sceptical about EV’s as it is. The cars are expensive, the dealers are awful at encouraging people, filling EV spaces with ICE vehicles, non working chargers, ICING at the MAJORITY of public chargers (8x chargers at Cockfosters underground EVERY day ICED) many more I could mention. I have had one 3 months. If I did not have a charger at home and could not use Ecotricity points for free (or a reasonable charge next year) then its GONE, QUICK. I love it, but the limitations mean it needs to have a plus side. The running cost is the plus side. u00a37.50 per 30 minutes would make me dump it like a big number 2!