Ecotricity blames £6 charge on Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs ‘clogging up’ network

A £6 fee for a 30-minute rapid charge at motorway service stations across the UK is being rolled out from today – with the firm responsible pointing the figure at the success of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Mitsubishi sold 11,786 Outlander PHEVs in the UK last year, making it the country’s best-selling plug-in vehicle. It works by running on electric-power when it’s charged, with an official range of up to 32 miles. When its runs out of battery, or when extra power is required, the petrol engine kicks in.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2016): long-term review

Ecotricity hits EV drivers with £5 fee for 20 minute charge

Opinion: Ecotricity’s £6 charging fee could be a huge blow for electric cars

Speaking to Motoring Research, Ecotricity spokesperson Max Boon said: “The vast majority of complaints we receive are about PHEVs clogging up chargers. We want to encourage electric car use and if we can do that by discouraging plug-in hybrids from using our network, that’s a good thing.”

Interviewed for Radio 4’s You and Yours programme earlier today, Ecotricity’s owner Dale Vince defended his company’s decision to charge £6 for a 30 minute charge (a pound more than when it was announced on Friday) – and pointed the finger at drivers of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

He said: “We’ve changed our plan over the weekend following feedback from our drivers. It’s now going to be a 30 minute charging session for £6. So that’s a 50% increase in time and a 20% increase in cost. We’ve done this to reflect that most EV drivers have said that they need 30 minutes to get the ideal 80% battery charge.”

Responding to a question from a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV owner, Vince added: “[It] is not designed to be used on electric power for long journeys. It’s designed for running around town on its very small electric battery, filling up at home or at your destination over a period of several hours.

“It’s an inappropriate use of a fast charger at motorway services.”

Motoring Research is currently running a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV on long-term test and recently questioned the etiquette around using public electric car charging points when other users might need them more urgently.

Ecotricity: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is ‘a compromised car’

After Radio 4 presenter Shari Vahl pointed out that not all plug-in hybrid cars sold are Mitsubishi Outlanders, Vince commented: “It is only the Mitsubishi that can plug into a fast charger – all of the others just plug into a type-two or three-pin socket over a period of several hours.

“The [Mitsubishi Outlander] hybrid is essentially a compromised car. It’s an electric vehicle with a very small battery and a petrol engine so that you have the back-up of the petrol engine for long journeys.

“It’s designed to use its petrol engine for long journeys. It takes half an hour to charge on a fast charger, and then you can travel 20 to 25 miles, and then you have to stop for another half an hour. It’s just not practical.

“The point of a hybrid is that they don’t have to charge. They have a petrol engine for a long journey, that’s the whole point of them. It’s just been an anomalous use of our network and our fast charge technology… it’s only happened within the last 12 months.”

Defending the charges, Ecotricity points out that its home energy customers will continue to be able to use the motorway charge points at no extra cost. The renewable energy firm generates 100% of its power from renewable sources, and has so far powered 30 million miles using electricity for no cost.

Speaking to Motoring Research, Boon added: “This hasn’t been an overnight decision. We’ve known since we launched that we would have to start charging one day.”

Mitsubishi: Ecotricity’s announcement is a ‘retrograde step’

Mitsubishi has branded Ecotricity’s comments a ‘retrograde step’ for the electric car industry.

A spokesperson told Motoring Research: “We don’t understand why the only supplier of charging points in the UK’s motorway services would want to deter the drivers of the UK’s most popular zero emission capable vehicle from charging.

“For an organisation whose vision is of a ‘Green Great Britain’, the decision of imposing a £6 per charge fee hampers the promotion of electric miles.

“In a growing sector, with a diversity of pure-electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles, we believe that consumers should have a choice. A reasonable nationwide strategy would be to have the same charging facilities to match everyone’s requirements.

“The Outlander PHEV is the first 4WD plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and offers a widespread consumer base uncompromised access to ultra-low emission motoring. Being able to cover the majority of journeys under electric power whilst having the security of a petrol engine as back up for longer trips is a key factor in its success.

“This announcement is more than disappointing – it seems to be a retrograde step not just for us but for the whole industry.”