Recharging an EV really needs to be easier
Charging appears to be the main issue. Technically this isn’t an issue for most Volt owners, as it’ll keep driving as long as you can find petrol stations, and is likely to be kept charged using workplace or home charging units. However, with a few longer trips in my diary I decided I’d investigate what the public charging infrastructure had to offer.
It’s not easy. My first long drive was a route between St Albans and Cardiff, via Membury Services on the M4. This is home to a pair of Ecotricity charging points – perfectly placed mid way down the M4 corridor. But while they’re free to use, you need to be an Ecotricity member to access them and there’s no way to get at the plug without the key card to let you in. I’ve since ordered one.
Cardiff proved no easier. Next Green Car’s Zap Map identified two charging points in the region. One was at a Nissan garage, not the best location for a signwritten Chevrolet, and the other was on an industrial park miles out of the town centre. Neither were ideal for a trip into the town centre.
On Sunday night I headed back down the M4 corridor – not burning a drop of petrol until I got over the bridge, I add – to Heathrow. Each terminal at Europe’s busiest airport has a charging point in the car park, and each is accessible only via a Source East membership card. That’s a different scheme to the one at Membury.
A nationwide pay as you go charging network is on the way, thanks to Charge Your Car, and it really can’t come soon enough.
Ultimately most drivers of these cars will recharge at home or work, but a quick top-up while stopping to check e-mails and fill up with caffeine is an attractive one. Particularly for cars like the Volt and Prius Plug-in which can travel the length of the country when needed, and so could be out of their local public charging scheme. The only solution at present is a glovebox full of keycards – this really needs to be easier for the technology to find its feet, and for the existing points not to be left unused.