UK Electric Car Charging Provider Ecotricity Ends 24/7 Telephone Support for Electric Highway

In the electric car world, there are generally two different types of anxiety that come with driving long-distance trips: range anxiety and charger anxiety.

The former — the fear that you won’t reach your destination without running out of power — can be conquered by experience and careful planning. The latter — the fear that you’ll arrive at a charging station to find it broken or vandalised — can only be treated with up-to-date information from charging providers, careful redundancy provision at charging locations, and comprehensive support.

Dale Vince, CEO and founder of Ecotricity

Dale Vince, CEO and founder of Ecotricity, announced the change in Electric Highway telephone support this morning.

In the UK, utility company Ecotricity, which owns and operates the highly-successful Electric Highway of rapid charging stations, has always been at the forefront of helping customers overcome range anxiety and charger anxiety by providing a 24-hour telephone support line. As well as helping owners with technical problems, its telephone helpline is invaluable for those wishing to check the status of a charging station before they make a long-distance trip outside of office hours and will even help stranded customers find an alternative place to charge in the unlikely event that all of its charging stations at a particular location are offline for some reason.

Today however, the Gloucestershire-based company has announced it will end its 24-hour support service for Electric Highway customers as of tonight, operating only during office hours (8:30am-5:30pm, Monday-Friday) from Tuesday, 10 March. For those taking note, that’s tomorrow.

In an email to its customers, Ecotricity CEO Dale Vince said that the change comes about as the Ecotricity Electric Highway enters into a new phase of charge point installation and provision.

As of tomorrow, there's no more 24/7 support for Electric Highway customers using its network of rapid charging stations.

As of tomorrow, there’s no more 24/7 support for Electric Highway customers using its network of rapid charging stations.

Instead of a 24-hour helpline, the company says a new online resource, available from tomorrow, will address the most common issues that customers call the electric highway helpline about, which we presume revolve around basic first-time questions about using the network or obtaining a charge.

Despite the drop in the level of telephone support however, Ecotricity says work is continuing at a pace to ‘iron out’ some of the faults with the rapid charging hardware that is currently part of its network. Referring to the upgrade as ‘going very well,’ Vince says he hopes the upgrade should be completed within a few months. After that, Ecotricity plans to continue to double-up on charging stations at each of its existing sites, ensuring there’s always more than one rapid charger at each site to both help alleviate bottle-necks as well as provide physical redundancy at each site in case of a failure.

Many sites now include more than one rapid charging unit for redundancy.

Many sites now include more than one rapid charging unit for redundancy.

It also plans an expansion of rapid charging sites in the coming months, expanding onto A-roads in rural areas not connected to the motorway network. This is especially important for users in areas like Wales, Scotland, the rural south-west and East Anglia, where there’s currently a chronic shortage of accessible rapid charging infrastructure for electric cars.

While Ecotricity doesn’t specifically state it, its decision appears to be one influenced by financial logic: put the available money where it is most likely to be used.

For the heaviest Electric Highway users who have become accustomed to calling up the 24-hour helpline to report a fault with equipment or check the status of equipment at weekends, the switch from 24/7 support to office-hours only is obviously a frustrating one.

Ecotricity Electric Highway Rapid Charger

Ecotricity is responsible for 119 of the UK’s current 239+ DC quick charging stations.

But at the moment we feel it’s important to note too that Ecotricity, unlike other charging networks, is still offering unlimited free recharging for those registered to use its Electric Highway. Both Charge Your Car and Chargemaster/Polar, the other two main providers of rapid charging for electric vehicles in the UK, charge a fee upwards of £5 per 30-minute rapid charge session.

Eventually, Ecotricity will also levy a fee against customers for each rapid charge, but according to Simon Crowfoot, MD for Ecotricity’s Electric Highway, “We don’t expect to be charging for some good while yet.”

With a new website promised in the coming months, as well as a new smartphone app to allow customers to check live availability and status, Ecotricity’s Electric Highway will soon become far easier and reliable to use. But as owners across the UK start to react in horror to the news of the loss of 24-hour support, we’re curious to know what you think about this announcement.

Do you think Ecotricity’s decision to end 24/7 support for its customers is premature? Do you think it’s an understandable change ahead of a more reliable, serviceable network?

Or perhaps you think moaning about a free service that provides free fuel for your vehicle is disingenuous?

Leave your thoughts — for and against — in the Comments below.


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  • Matt Beard

    With reliability running so low that about 20% of chargers are currently out of action this seems to be the wrong move. Even if they are going to cut the telephone support, it should be done AFTER the live-status map and other facilities are available, not before. With each charger costing high tens of thousands of pounds to install, is telephone support really a significant cost?

  • While range anxiety is overcome after driving a BEV for a couple weeks, charger anxiety is dependent on the ‘unknown unknowns’ of non-communicating and unreliable EVSE. Charger anxiety is most pronounced with DCFC as an unknown can throw an itinerary from space-age travel back to an ox-cart like travel experience!nnWhat is most surprising with offering a 5-day support schedule, is that it aligns with the least likely of EV travel times. Public DCFC charging tends to occur in the later half of a day, with 65%+ occurring Friday-Monday (ie: more weekends and holidays, than midweek travel). A better matched ‘office hours’ schedule would be Thur-Monday 10:30a u2013 7:30p. The operation costs to add a second support team can double expenses, however matching hours to needs can make efficient use of existing personal. While 24/7 support may not be sustainable, having support hours during primary customer use periods is logical and follows common sense.nnA call-in support team is less needed if there is a good realtime reporting on status of EVSE charging points so users can plan and alter plans before reaching a weak link. Also building physical redundancy at charging stations with multiple charging points helps provide equipment is fairly reliable.nnHopefully there will be an emergency number, (text msg service) for system monitoring & to alert the network operator should major system wide events occur. (eg; network comm goes down, blocking Id-card access, regional outage, u2026)nnUnfortunately customer service is only needed when a product (service) doesn’t meet quality and reliability standards and expectations for customers. How much to offer of each are key business decisions to a sustainable business.

  • Surya

    Of course having 24/7 support is preferable but when I was in the UK with my ZOE I mostly was setting up my tent in the evening and didn’t really need support after 6pm.nAlso, the times I did call, for a ‘circuit breaker’ problem, all they could do to help me was to find the next closest charger for me, which I could always do by myself.

  • Ad van der Meer

    If money is an issue, maybe they should start charging their clients. Of course that will cost money to implement as well, so basically they are the only ones who can judge what is the best way to go.

    • EVrider

      That payment backbone was once live via chargepointgenie but is no more. I wonder if the terms were uneconomic for the ElecHighway?

  • D. Harrower

    Seems like some kind of online form where customers can report the status of individual sites and advise others to avoid them would go a long way to easing their support load.

  • Nick

    I think so long as there is an up to date online map available people will not need a helpline.nnOn top of this we must remember this service is free and admin costs money. So to that end we cannot be too critical.

  • D Gatewood

    It would be interesting to know why there are so many failures of charge points, is it the safety system? the monitoring and communication system with base? How often does your power fail at home? What is so fragile about having a live source that is only activated after safely being plugged into ones car? The charger and monitoring system are in the car.