Let's See How The Market Matures

With the announcement this week of another charging network Engenie UK has set our pulses racing again in the hope of there being a national fast charging network in the UK.

The announcement is good news but I think it worth pointing out that there were several similar announcements last year with similar promises of a national network of charging stations. OK, some of these are still in the process of being delivered but to be honest progress has been slow. The most developed of the motorway networks is Ecotricity but even their early enthusiasm has waned with only 11 or 12 installed in 2011 and nothing more this year. Little Chef too announced their network in a blaze of publicity and only a few locations have been installed and even POLAR, with its high prices and membership fees has stopped altogether it seems… or at least the lack publicity suggests it.

So what of Engenie UK. Why should they be any different?

Well, the hardware is supplied by Schneider, a very well known, established name in the electrical supply equipment industry. But the people at Engenie UK seem to just be business people, lawyers and accountants. Not very encouraging. Neither have they yet announced pricing. The good news is it is going to be a Pay-As-You-Go pricing model but with them coughing up for hardware, installation, paying rent for the locations and paying for the electricity I suspect prices are going to be steep.

Now don’t get me wrong… I have no problem paying for charging. I just want it to be reasonably priced when compared to petrol/diesel. We will see when they announce pricing if it is reasonable.

Engenie UK have installed one location at Clacket Lane services on the M25. However, there is a glaring error in their thinking if this is representative of the rest of what the network will be. It is 50kW DC fast charging only. There are only a few cars on the market that can use DC fast charging, the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-Miev and one or two others. The EVs being launched this year are mostly either J1772 or more commonly Type 2 “Menekkes”. This means that most future cars, and certainly most of those being launched this year, won’t be able to use the Engenie UK network! I find this a staggering omission especially as including 43kW AC would require almost no extra cost to each installation.

When this was queried on Twitter David Greaves from Schneider said “I believe the plan is to see how the market matures but AC could be added at a later time.”. Sounds reasonable on the surface but people will buy depending on what they can and cannot do with their car and if the charging network is already there and in place people will buy EVs that can use it. Not the other way around. There is no point in waiting to see if people buy cars with Type2 sockets before installing the Type2 charging infrastructure because if the infrastructure isn’t there then they won’t buy in sufficient numbers to eventually justify the network.

It is a bit like saying this…  here is a car. It needs petrol. We won’t install petrol stations until there are enough people with petrol cars to justify the investment. The problem with that is that no one in their right mind would buy a petrol car unless there are petrol stations to fill them! The stations much be there for the market to grow.

EVs are no different. It needs the vision to put the charging in place FIRST if EVs are to become attractive to the public. Engenie UK has a superb opportunity here to become the market leader in the electric car charging arena but they need to do two things if they are to capitalise ahead of those other networks that already have a head start. They need to listen to current EV drivers and put their needs at the top of their agenda. They need to be inclusive, not exclusive, of all EVs of all types and include both DC and AC charging at their locations. They can do that very easily with almost no extra cost over what DC only charging would cost.

Will they succeed where so far the others have failed? Who knows but the start isn’t looking very hopeful!

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