The Economics of Joining the POLAR Network

With all this chat about the POLAR charging network I thought I would do a few sums and see just how much a POLAR membership might cost me “per charge”. This might give me a better idea whether POLAR is or is not good value.

I already have a home charging solution – a POD-Point 32A Home Pod. I was an early adopter and so I spent a lot more for that than I would do now so for this exercise I am assuming that someone is joining the scheme having just bought a new EV. They will need a home charging solution and so I am going to use POLAR’s standard subscription as the basis for this first example. This includes a installed home charging unit and access to the POLAR network charge stations. It costs £29.50 pm + 95p per charge when away from home.

I have no idea how long the contract term is for but for the sake of argument I shall assume at least 2 years.

So, total cost of 2 year contract is 24 x £29.50 = £708

Assuming you bought and installed a similar home charge unit from British Gas then that would cost you from £799. So, on that basis alone, joining the POLAR network seems good value. If you never charged away from home it would still save you money. But what happens after the 2nd year? 3 years will cost you £1062 and 4 years would cost £1416. Now things look a little less rosy!

So, on this evidence it seems that it is clearly worthwhile joining POLAR if you changed your home charging unit every 2 years or are only keeping your EV for 2 years. However, if you keep it for 3 years then you would need to justify £1062 – £799 = £263 worth of charging away from home. Now that is a lot of charging especially as there is a 95p fee per charge also levied when you charge. At most you are only ever likely to charge for 2 hours at a time and so, even at 16A, that will only put on 30 miles range maximum.

Let us say that you use the POLAR network 10 times a month. That is a lot for most people but for argument we will use this figure. Then over 3 years that would be 360 times. This will cost you an extra 360 x £0.95 = £342. So, over 3 years your charging away from home is costing £342 (the per charge fee) + £263 (the extra cost over a British Gas pod) = £605. That is £1.68 for a 30 mile charge.

Using the network away from home for just 5 times a month instead of 10 works out at £2.41 per 30 mile charge. Still not looking too that bad as that equates to about £8 per 100 miles. Still better than a petrol car but only just.

These figures assume that you spend 2 hours at each and every charge… spend just 1 hour and the costs stay the same so it then becomes £2.41 for a 15 mile charge. Do as most people will do, particularly in the early days, use a 10A cable instead of a 16A one and then each charge is costing you £2.41 for just a 10 mile charge up! That is £24.10 per 100 miles… almost double what you would expect a petrol or diesel car to be costing you!!!

To be honest, I don’t think I have to go on do I? Clearly, POLAR is only worthwhile financially if you intend to only have an EV for 2 years or less or if you always charge at 16A or more, always charge for 2 hours every time AND charge on average at least 10 times a month away from home. Even at 32A it is just 1/3 that price and so is still costing almost as much as a typical petrol/diesel car!

Does that sound like most EV drivers?

No. Most EV drivers will charge mostly at home overnight using their home chargeing solution and only rarely will they venture further afield and when they do the 16A charging that is available to them at most POLAR charge stations is completely useless to them for long distance driving… it is just too slow. Quite frankly POLAR are depending on EV drivers not doing these sums because if they do they will see that signing up to POLAR is likely to be a very, very expensive way to charge your EV.

These figures are using a comparison with the British Gas supplied home charging pod There are free and pay-as-you-go charge stations coming along very soon and when they do we will be seeing the demise of POLAR and all other similar closed membership schemes.

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