Charging on the go

Having just taken delivery of my first electric car my enjoyment and excitement was short lived as my mind quickly turned to range issues and where I might be able to charge it. Even though I have a home charger, where most of the charging will happen, thinking about longer journeys ‘charge anxiety’ had already set in! To cheer myself up I took a trip to see the latest piece of charging infrastructure in Fulham.

There the oil giant Shell has converted a petrol and diesel filling station into an all-electric charging hub. It’s the first time in the UK that a site like this has undergone such a radical transformation. Available to cars, vans and other small commercial vehicles, the site boasts 9 ultra-rapid 175kW charge points using 100% certified renewable electricity.

It also has a café and free wifi, and a small Waitrose store, so plenty to keep EV drivers occupied, while charging their vehicles. It’s impressive!

Equally as impressive is the so called ‘Electric Forecourt’ at Braintree in Essex. Built by Gridserve, it’s soon to be joined by two other similar facilities at Norwich and Gatwick Airport and there are many more in the pipeline.

However, are these facilities what’s required to prevent charge anxiety? They certainly help, but having spent a fair few hours studying the various helpful online and smartphone based maps that plot where charge points are around the country, I’m left wondering whether another emerging pattern is more encouraging.

The clammer to charge and go on long distance journeys has resulted in sometimes, expensive to use ultra-fast-chargers being installed, usually in banks of two or more either at motorway service areas or close by. They can provide an 80% charge in as little time as it takes to use the toilet and buy a coffee. Companies like MFG are new to the game and are already achieving a lot.

Then there’s another level of infrastructure being labelled mini-hubs, featuring a mixture of rapid and fast chargers. These a popping up and a variety of different locations including and pubs and fast-food sites, leading the way here are providers Osprey and Instavolt.

Next come fast chargers going in at city centre locations for a quick top-up charge while people are shopping, in many places they are being installed by companies like ESB and BP Pulse.

And then there are the slow chargers designed for charging at your destination, which take all night to charge the average car, providers here include Connected Kerb and Ubitricity. I couldn’t write this column without mentioning the Tesla supercharging network. Until recently the only car maker to invest in chargers.

But now there’s a new kid on the block in the form of Ionity, a joint venture between Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Hyundai and Daimler. Its chargers deliver speeds of up to 150kW. At 69 pence for kW, they’re the most expensive out there, but the are fast. Drivers of the brands association do get a discount though.

Having looked at going electric at the beginning of last year and put off the decision because of a lack of charging infrastructure, in the last 12 months a lot has happened and that left me concluding that now as the right time to go electric. Others will no doubt follow me.

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