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

Motorway electric car charging now more expensive than petrol

The company behind the UK’s ‘electric highway’ and sole provider of electric car chargers at motorway service stations has announced it’s going to start charging a fee for charging your electric car.

Ecotricity has revealed that it plans to roll out a £5 fee for a 20 minute charge at its 300 fast-charging stations across the country.

A 20 minute charge in our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV long-term test car will fill the battery by around 50%. At most, that provides enough power for around 15 miles of electric-only driving. Without charging, the same distance will cost around £2 in petrol.

In an email sent out to its users, Ecotricity said: “When we began in July 2011, there was a bit of a chicken and egg situation – people were reluctant to buy electric cars because there were no charging facilities being built, but nobody wanted to build those facilities while there were still so few cars on the road. That’s when we jumped in to help kickstart the electric car revolution in Britain.

“And that’s going pretty well: today there are over 40 models to choose from and 64,000 plug-ins on the road. The Electric Highway itself comprises almost 300 electricity pumps – of the fast charging variety.”

The move renders it almost pointless to charge plug-in hybrid vehicles at motorway service stations – a significant change as more manufacturers introduce plug-in hybrid cars. Hyundai launched its new Ioniq this week – with a plug-in hybrid version set to follow next year.

Drivers of electric cars, which rely solely on being charged regularly, may have no choice but to pay the £5 fee to complete long journeys. They will still be able to charge at home and at public (non-Ecotricity) chargers, and Tesla drivers will continue to use the company’s supercharger network at no cost.

A 24kWh Nissan Leaf will be able to cover roughly 75 miles from a £5 20 minute Ecotricity charge. In a petrol-powered car, that would equate roughly to 75.0mpg, meaning EV drivers will generally continue to be better off than those driving petrol or diesel cars. This doesn’t take into consideration purchase or battery lease costs, however.

It comes as figures released today by the Department for Transport reveal that 45% of drivers are put off buying an electric car due to concerns over charging.

Ecotricity added: “The combination of more cars on the road and faster charging means we’re now delivering two million miles of clean driving each month – all powered from the wind and sun. That’s a great result. It’s also a growing cost. And to keep pace with demand, we need to build more electricity pumps – at existing and new locations.

“So the time has come for us to charge – for charging. We’ve taken a lot of feedback from EV drivers in order to arrive at the right pricing model. We’ve decided that a simple flat fee of a fiver for a 20 minute fast charge strikes the right balance.”

EV drivers who wish to continue to use the Ecotricity stations will have to download the company’s mobile app, which will show available chargers and allow them to pay online.

The ‘pay-for’ system is being rolled out across the network from Monday 11 July, and is expected to be completed by Friday 5 August.

Update: 11.07.16

Speaking on Radio 4’s You and Yours, Ecotricity boss Dale Vince said: “Following reaction from our customers, over the weekend Ecotricity has decided to provide a 30 minute charge for £6. This is following feedback from drivers of plug-in hybrids who say they can get a full charge in half an hour.”

Charging for charging: reaction

We contacted Mitsubishi Motors UK managing director Lance Bradley for his thoughts on the change. He responded that he was ‘disappointed’.

And he’s not the only one. A number of Twitter users are frustrated by the announcement, with some even considering cancelling their electric car orders.

Web editor at Drives a 1983 Austin Metro. Tweet me @MR_AndrewBrady.

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  • Mark Perrin

    good article, they should have considered a subscription based model at £10 per month. its far too soon to start charging for rapid chargers. id have guessed at about 5 years too early personally, even then this price is ridiculous. When you stop to charge you spend money on refreshments as you are there for 15-45 mins thats ignored. Also the chargers are at motorway services and 20 minutes will only get 50% charge out of a leaf so its actually only 45-50 motorway miles. Im selling up.

  • That’s a very good idea on the subscription model, Mark – I’d certainly sign up for that if I owned an EV. £5 a charge, though… I think I’d steer clear.

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  • Chris Chippendale

    On the one hand I understand the decision here – they’ve always said they will charge for use eventually. And the 20 min limit will encourage drivers to move on and free the pumps up faster. More than once I’ve had to wait for someone who decided to take 40-50 minutes to unplug. And as they point out, almost no one really uses these as their regular charge point. If, like most, you regularly charge at home, it’s still far cheaper overall than fuel. And everything else sold at services comes at a premium, so I’d expect these to as well.

    However, the price they’ve introduced is surprisingly steep – I’d have expected a more gradual introduction. Subscription modes might work but offer no incentive to free up the pump earlier, and are unfair to occasional users. A pay per kWh system would be a good middle ground, which other charge suppliers have adopted.

    I’m already an ecotricity customer, so this won’t affect me directly. I’m also more inclined to see their side of it as I’ve always found them a customer-friendly company. But it’s still disappointing to see this high a price being set, and I’ll be sure to make them aware of my views.

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  • GoodCheer

    The problem with a pay-per-kWh model is that charging power (and thus $/time) ramps down as the battery fills. If you want to get people off the plugs, and free up the (scarce) resource for the next user, a $/time model really makes the most sense, because it produces an escalating $/kWh as the charge rate tapers.

  • Thanks for your input. As many feel the £6 / 30 min fee is expensive, what sort of plan would you suggest, that would work for everyone?

  • GoodCheer

    The dominant (though not monopoly) provider in my area charges CAN$ 2.50 per 15 min, with no time limits. This gives a starting rate (at 50 kW) that is similar to peak energy pricing in our Time-Of-Use rates, and ramps up from there. This seems like a pretty reasonable level to me.
    As for their financials, I’m a bit skeptical that they’re making any money, but who knows.

  • bob

    They should charge the standard rate for electricity plus ten percent to cover expenses otherwise electric cars are doomed to fail. air pumps in garages used to be free, then they charged ten pence for charity, now it 20- 30 pence for three minutes, at most places. as with all monopolies, squeeze as much out of them as you can.

  • Mark Perrin

    I presume you’re aware they shafted you too with a 52 Charge limit unfair use plan.

  • We weren’t Mark… tell us more!

  • Android Lover

    PHEVs that charge slowly will suffer under this regime. But pure EVs that can rapid charge are much better off. That £5 charge can give a Nissan LEAF an additional 100km in range.

  • It’s certainly a disincentive for PHEVs… bring on the EVs with even faster charging and bigger-capacity batteries!

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