Motorway chargepoints should be saved for pure EVs, report finds
Only drivers of pure electric vehicles should be allowed to access rapid chargepoints on motorways, ensuring that drivers aren’t blocked by slower-charging plug-in hybrids.
That’s the view of a new report published by the RAC Foundation, which looks at current and future challenges for the current public chargepoint network in the UK and how they can be resolved.
In particular, the Development of the UK Public Chargepoint Network report says widespread confusion over how fast electric vehicles can be ‘refuelled’ could be undermining efforts to provide an adequate public chargepoint network. To summarise, RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding, a chargepoint will only ever be as ‘rapid’ as the car that it plugs into; pure EVs only need around five minutes of charging at the quickest rapid chargepoints to get 15 miles of range while plug-in hybrids will need around an hour to achieve the same thing.
To ensure drivers of pure EVs are not “blocked” from using essential chargepoints, report author Harold Dermott, who has spent more than 35 years in the motor manufacturing industry, says drivers of plug-in hybrids should not be allowed to use them, until PHEVs have both a greater electric-only range and can accept electricity at a faster rate.
Steve Gooding added: “Ever-faster and more powerful chargepoints might sound like the answer to creating the electric car recharging network we need, but if the cars themselves can only be recharged at a certain rate then at best we’re going to be disappointed and at worst we’re going to waste money. Compatibility between car and charger is key.
“In an area where policy, technology and the market are almost falling over themselves, such is the pace of change, communication between all parties is fundamental. Neither society nor drivers will reap all the potential rewards of greener transport if there is confusion about how it should best be delivered.”
The comments build on those a couple of years ago by Ecotricity founder Dale Vince who slammed Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drivers for using the firm’s fast chargers on the BBC Radio 4 programme, saying: “It’s just been an anomalous use of our network and our fast charge technology.”
However, the new report follows recent comments slamming PHEV drivers for not charging their vehicles at all and relying solely on the engine, meaning many PHEVs actually cost more in fuel pence-per-mile than typical diesel or petrol company cars due to drivers not charging them.
The RAC Foundation report also noted other necessary areas for chargepoint network improvement, including on reliability. Although there has been an increase in the reliability of public chargepoints in the last year – resulting in a reduction of out of service chargepoints from 14.8% (one in seven) to 8.3% (one in twelve) – it added that there were still too many malfunctions.
The study also recommended that chargepoint locations for battery-electric vehicles – particularly the larger hubs that are now being trialled – need to offer the services and facilities routinely found at traditional petrol stations, such as: protection from the weather, food and drink facilities, toilet provision and good lighting.
And the report said that while the pace at which the public chargepoint network has grown has been impressive, the difficulty of predicting how the electric vehicle market will evolve puts the onus on manufacturers to do more to communicate their future plans to infrastructure providers so that money is not wasted investing in the wrong equipment in the wrong location.
Gooding concluded: “Ultimately, refuelling electric vehicles should be at least as convenient and fuss-free as filling up with petrol or diesel. As the report makes clear we may be on the right road but we are not there yet.”