There is one company that has taken on the responsibility of installing a rapid charger network in the UK – Ecotricity. Well, I say “one” but in reality it is a joint effort including Nissan, Welcome Break, Moto and others although Ecotricity front it under the name “Electric Highway”.
I am hugely grateful to these companies for being the only group that has said they would install a UK network of rapid chargers and actually done exactly what they said they would do. Thank You! There have been many make big announcements and never delivered… Ecotricity and their partners have delivered.
However, there is a problem. Well, there are a few problems with what they are doing and it is a huge worry for me.
Firstly, and by far the biggest issue, is that they are installing a type of charger that seems to be prone to breaking. As I write this blog there are 6 rapid chargers in the Electric Highway network currently not working. This is not unusual. It seems that almost every week one or more rapid chargers breaks down, potentially leaving EV drivers stranded at worst and not being able to make their journeys at best.
Now, I realise that Ecotricity and partners are not directly responsible for the unreliability of these rapid chargers. I am sure they are as frustrated as the drivers are. The chargers are made by DBT and so I can only assume that there are serious design or quality issues resulting in this degree of unreliability. However, it is Ecotricity and partners that are installing them and so indirectly they are responsible.
The issue has a multitude of consequences. People might get stranded and need recovery or have to stay in a hotel at their cost. People might miss appointments, flights, meetings etc. But by far the biggest consequence in my opinion is the damage this is doing to the reputation of the companies involved and that of EVs in general. Ecotricity is a quality brand and they are not normally associated with such a fiasco. They have been the darling of the EV UK world in installing their Electric Highway but if this unreliability issue is not resolved they risk getting into the bad books of all EV drivers. It just needs sorting once and for all!
Secondly, Ecotricity are installing rapid chargers at IKEA shopping centres. Sounds great but shopping centre car parks are not always the best place to install rapid charging. I have discussed this in previous posts so I won’t go on here about it but it is something that all charging infrastructure companies need to take on board… rapid charging is best installed where people are not parking for hours. EVs end up blocking the chargers while they shop… please put rapid chargers on arterial routes particularly in these early days. Places like IKEA car parks can be filled in once the main routes are covered and doubled up for redundancy in case of failure.
I have stopped doing long trips in my Nissan Leaf now because the rapid charger network is so unreliable and I don’t want to get stuck. That is not a great advert for EV ownership particularly as it comes from a staunch EV supporter and early Nissan Leaf owner such as myself.