Until today I have been very hopeful regarding the future of electric vehicles in the UK. Prices will most certainly come down in the years to come and range will go up as battery technology improves. I have also been convinced that the charging infrastructure would grow as more and more charging stations were installed but this part of my vision has taken a bit of a knock.
There seems to be a divide amongst people’s views as to what kind of charging infrastructure we need to kickstart EV ownership. That divide seems to be very clearly defined as to those that own an EV on the one hand and those that don’t on the other.
Now that I have had my EV for 6 months and used it on a daily basis locally and also for some longer trips it seems to me that there are some basic truths that do not vary much between owners. Firstly is the fact that an EV with a range of about 100 miles can satify most peoplle’s daily needs and those needs are satisfied almost entirely by charging overnight at home. Sure it is true that there is the odd occasion where the range is just not enough but they are rare. So with this in mind it is clear that slow charging infrastructure for use locally to extend range is not needed and yet this is the bulk of the infrastructre that is being installed today. The vast majority of this slow charging infrastructure will hardly ever be used. In time it will fall into disrepair and eventually removed.
My biggest fear is that this lack of use of these slow charging points will be seen as supporting evidence of a disinterest in EVs in general and yet nothing could be further from the truth. It is the very nature of these slow charging points that pre-determines their lack of use. Except on the very odd occasion, there is no real benefit from slow charging except where the car is parked for many hours such as at hotels, B&Bs, shopping centres Park & Rides and other commuter car parks, airports etc. Here the car is parked with the owner away doing other things for a long time and so slow charging is of significant benefit.
In almost all other circumstances slow charging is not of benefit at all to the EV driver. If you are driiving on a longer trip and need to stop to charge who wants to be hanging around some car park or motorway service area, especially alone and potentially late at night, while you wait for your car to charge at a few miles added per hour? No, instead what you need is a fast charge that takes no more than the time to have a cooffee or a simple meal and then be on your way… and that means fast charging.
So, what is happening in the Plugged in Places areas? It is public money being spent to install charging infrastructure there and so it is bound to be the kind of infrastructure that we EV drivers need isn’t it? Fast chargers? Well no. The fast majority of charging stations being installed with our public money are slow charging points… the very type we EV drivers DON’T need. This then reflects the divine I was speaking of earlier… the Plugged in Places projects are run by people that don’t own and drive electric cars so that are giving us what they THINK we need… lots of charge stations everywhere. This is not what we need. We do not need lots of slow charge stations, we need a few fast charge stations strategically located to allow us long distance travel. The slow ones are useless for that and not needed for anything else.
Yesterday there was a meeting held by William de Laszlo of RCapital, owners of Little Chef, to discuss their proposals for putting EV charging stations at each Little Chef Restaurant. I did not attend and details of what was discussed are still emerging but it seems from first impressions that they are not the primary investors in their project and so have little financial commitment. Why should they care if people use their charge stations? Their justification isn’t tied to it bringing in additional business so their will be little