Recently, Plymouth City Council announced that phase 1 of their plan to install EV charging in the city was now complete and so I thought I would give it a try.
I live in Saltash and until now there has been very little public charging available. A Nissan rapid charger at a Plymouth dealer and a POLAR unit at the Saltash Waitrose have been pretty much the only places to charge my EV away from home in and around Plymouth. So it was great news to my ears when I looked on Zap-Map and found the following list of charging locations in Plymouth:
Looking them up on Zap-Map I saw that the one at Midland House was not available to the public and one at the Renault dealer has been removed… which is all fair enough but the others should be publicly available and so I set out to visit them all this afternoon.
Due to the issues I had I ran out of time and only managed to visit 4 of the 8 potential charging locations and so I have had to split this report into two parts… this post covers the first 4 locations and I will visit the next 4 later this week.
So how did it go? Not so well…
First a couple of ground rules – I wanted to approach each location as if I were just a normal EV driver turning up to charge after having found the location on Zap-Map. I looked on Open Charge Map and none of these locations were there so I saw this as a good opportunity to catalogue them and add them to OCM.
I have a Pod-Point card which I received as a freebie when I purchased a 32A Home pod from them 3 years ago so I wasn’t sure that would still work but if it didn’t then I was going to download and use the mobile phone app… in the end the card worked (well, mostly!) so I didn’t use the app.
So on to the report for each location…
1) George Junction Park and Ride
- No. Bays: 4
- No. Posts: 2 each with 2 x 7kW Type 2 sockets.
One of the bays had a non-EV parked in it but the other 3 bays were vacant which considering that the car park was nearly full that was a surprise.
I tried my card on the LH post. It worked! So I plugged in. Charging! Except that on checking LeafSpy it was clearly only charging at 3kW. This was meant to be a 7KW post.
I called the Pod-Point helpline and they said they had no idea why it was only delivering 3kW. The said my cable might be faulty. Then they said that I need to switch the car to charge at 6kW (this is not possible with the Leaf as it automatically charges at the highest rate available). Eventually then said they would investigate and email me with what they find.
I unplugged and tried the other post.
My card was not accepted. Called them again and they authorised the card manually… still only 3kW.
I thought this strange but moved on to location 2.
2) Milehouse Park and Ride
- No. Bays: 4
- No. Posts: 2 each with 2 x 7kW Type 2 sockets
Again, one bay had a non-EV in it with the other 3 available.
This was an almost identical result. One post recognising my card, the other not. The one that did allowed charging at 2.5-3kW only.
I tried to call the help line again but this time was on hold for over 15 mins in total. It is rather annoying because it stops the call after about 5 mins of holding and you have to dial again presumably going to the back of the queue. Eventually I decided that enough was enough and I gave up and moved on.
3) City College Plymouth
- No. Bays: 2
- No. Posts: 1 with 2 x 7kW Type 2 sockets
This time there was no mistake… it was out of order. The red lights were on and the “Out of Service” message on the screen.
Again I tried several times to get through to the Pod-Point help line but this time was put through immediately, without going on hold, to the answerphone.
On to the forth location.
4) Western Approach Car Park
This is a city-centre multistory car park. Parking was reported on Zap-Map as being free but in fact normal parking charges apply.
- No bays: 2
- No. Posts: 1 with 2 x 22kW Type 2 sockets
This post seems to be a newer design and is bigger and more rubust looking. It also claims to allow charging at 22kW but my Leaf can only take 6kW so I cannot confirm this. The signs clearly say 22kW.
Plugged in and charging was a success at 6kW. so this location I felt was a complete success.
There is even signed as you drive into the car park to the charging bays. Cool.
Conclusions So Far
If I were needing to rely upon being able to charge at the first 3 locations my experience would not have been a good one. At location 3 it wasn’t working at all and at the first 2 locations, where I did manage to charge, it was only at 3kW max. Moreover, only 1 post recognised my card without my needing to call support.
The signage at all the locations was not adequate in my opinion. None of the signs prohibited non-EV use and none of the car parks have attendants who could police that anyway. I suspect that ICEing will become a major issue at all these locations.
Finally, a word about the Pod-Point customer support. When I did get through, as at location 1, they were very helpful and pleasent but ultimately couldn’t resolve the issue of 3kW charging. I later received an email from them saying that these posts have been deliberately de-rated pending an upgrade. Hmmm! I am curious why they haven’t adjusted that on Zap-Map so people can know about it. I shall make sure the facts are reported on Open Charge Map correctly.
I am less than impressed so far… lets see what the other 4 brings when I visit them later this week. I hope it all works better than today!