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.
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.
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.
“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?
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