Ecotricity Electric Highway – Is it as reliable as people make out?

I have been having some very interesting conversations over the past couple of days on Twitter with a few people who are suggesting that I am over negative regarding the reliability of the Highway. While I respect their opinions I feel that I am not over negative and here’s why…

Their argument is that the evidence shows that people are generally not getting stranded as a result of failed or broken chargers.  In fact, one keen user of the Highway does 700 miles a week and has never been stranded in 2 years of driving. Another has had an EV since 2011, done 76k miles and was last stranded back in 2012. In fact, I too have not been stranded since about 2012 and I have had a Nissan Leaf since 2011 and done over 40k miles. Further evidence is that you only very occasionally hear of anyone getting stranded on social media… all this points to the fact that the Highway is not as unreliable as I make out.

I suggest that this so called “evidence” is flawed and is no evidence at all.

We all know that the short-range of most electric cars today is generally under 100 miles. Absolutely fine for most of our daily commutes and trips. But to venture further afield means we much charge on route and if we are using the motorway network then that generally means using the Ecotricity Electric Highway. People buying electric cars today are generally not everyday, Jo/Joe Public. They often have a special interest in electric cars or in conservation and reducing emissions. These “early adopters” (yes, we are still very early on in the take up of EVs) are very likely particularly cautios when it comes to not letting themselves be stranded. The know they can check on serviceability of charges and they check before they leave home. Very few people just leave home on a long and unfamiliar journey without checking.

So, if the vast majority of people are checking charger serviceability before doing the trip and not doing it or changing their route if their first choice of charger is not working, then it is no surprise that there are very few people being stranded. If no one checked on serviceability before leaving home then the picture would be a very different and much more sorry one.

I said I have not been stranded since 2012 yet had I assumed that the service was reliable and done as we should be able to do and just set out without checking first that my proposed chargers were working then I would have been stranded regularly throughout the past couple of years. In fact, there was a time when for weeks I could drive from Plymouth to London at all and had I not checked in advance I would have been stranded time and time again. I checked and I wasn’t. But it shows that we cannot use the fact that people are not getting stranded as any kind of indicator on reliability.

In fact, someone Twittered that they were needing a flatbed recovery only last night as 2 chargers in a row were not working.

So I stick to my assertion that the Electric Highway is nowhere near reliable enough yet and I challenge all though who say that it is now reliable to consider the fact that most people are checking on servicability before setting out. If we want EVs to be ready for the general public, most of whom have no interest in electric cars, or even cars in general, then it must get to the point where we can leave home without having to route plan at all save in the knowledge that the chargers will be working. Of course there will be the the occasional failure but hopefully they will be rare enough not to influence matetrs. Right now though we are at the stage where in my opinion no one in their right mind would just set out on a long trip without checking first that the chargers they intend to use are working and even then we are taking a risk that they will stay working.

It is all very well saying that you have had no problems but I bet you check in advance and I bet you use a regular set of chargers… try just setting out for somewhere different without checking on charger serviceability and see how you get on!

This morning there were 35 of the 247 chargers not working ( and this figure has not come much below that for as long as I can remember. The scary thing is that the failures seem all different and they are occurring at seeming random locations. Ecotricity seems to be fixing them as fast as they can so I don’t criticise them for not trying, but as fast as they fix them so they break equally fast. They just don’t seem to be getting on top of the issue.

I am sure that eventually they will and that eventually we will be able to set out and use the Highway without meticulous planning and checking beforehand but for now I will continue to help drivers know the facts and warn them to use the Highway with caution. I certainly don’t see that as being over negative.

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