This Letter as a PDF file.
Dear Mr Martell,
I am writing as chair of the Electric Vehicle Drivers Association – United Kingdom, after having consulted with the rest of the Management Committee. We wish to pass on our views on your recently announced Polar Network tariffs.
The Electric Vehicle market in the UK is in a very delicate position at the moment with a small number of groups slowly making a tiny impression on the inertia of the internal-combustion-driven car-buying public. If Electric Vehicles are to make a significant contribution to improving air quality in the UK or to cutting the countries CO2 emissions, now is the time to increase the attractiveness of these products.
We understand that EV charging cannot remain free indefinitely, and we support the principle of charge-point owners charging when the market is ready for this. However we feel that your recently announced tariffs are too much, too soon. It would not be an understatement to say that your announcement has sent a shockwave through the EV community in the UK.
We have spoken to a significant number of EV drivers in the last few days and have been shocked by how many serious EV-advocates are now considering moving back to petrol or diesel cars, largely because of these new tariffs. A frequent comment has been that it is now looking more expensive to drive an EV! There are many compromises to driving almost any of the current EV models, but these are largely offset by not having to buy fuel. If the cost of charging the vehicle is higher per-mile than fossil fuels, this advantage seems to be lost.
When talking to drivers of conventional cars, who are interested in the idea of electric vehicles, we find the cost of using public charging points is always one of their concerns. It seems that from now on this will be the point at which any prospective EV purchasers stop listening.
I have done some calculations1 based on my own usage, and determined that rapid charging is equivalent to 15mpg in a petrol car, and fast charging cannot reach better than 27mpg. This means that the driver of an extended-range EV with an on-board generator (like the BMW i3 or Vauxhall Ampera) would be better off using petrol than recharging at a Chargemaster point. Indeed anyone considering buying an EV would be better off going for an EREV than a full EV, and given the cost of the batteries and the short length of the average UK car journey the best economy may be to buy the car with the smallest possible battery pack. Eventually they may be more than likely to stick with a conventional internal combustion car.
There are a lot of questions that are currently unanswered, here is a selection:
- The fees are per-hour or per 30 minutes, is this time connected or time actually charging?
- If you plug into a 7kW Type-2 charger, with a 3kW-only car will you still pay full price?
- If you plug into a 7kW Type-2 charger, but a second car also plugs in reducing the output to 3kW per socket, will you still pay full price?
- If the charger reports the wrong times (which seems very common) how easy is it to get the fee corrected?
- If the charger fails part-way (say after 0.1kWh) will you still pay for an hour? How will drivers prove the charger failed rather than they unplugged?
- If a connected EV takes a small amount of extra power to warm the batteries once at 100%, or to pre-heat the car before setting off, will this be regarded as charging and fees applied in the same way?
- There are areas of the UK where Polar and a local Scheme are shared, for example Source London, what happens to these local RFID cards and chargers?
- Who paid for the chargers, and the installation of the chargers?
It is also worth noting that a number of the perceived problems with the new tariffs are related to the lack of proper linkage between the fee and the amount of electricity used. We understand that current legislation prevents per-kWh charging, have you lobbied the government to get this law changed? I am sure that the EVDA-UK would support such a campaign.
A final issue is charger reliability; this really needs to be improved if we are expected to pay monthly or annual fees. The Polar Network does not have the best reputation for reliability and an even worse one for preventing blocking by non-EVs (ICEing). An EV driver based in Milton Keynes recently tested four of your newly installed rapid chargers and found two of them already faulty and one of them unusable due to being blocked by internal-combustion cars.
In conclusion I would say that it is not too late to rethink this new range of tariffs and current and future EV drivers would almost certainly thank you for doing so.
1So, how much will it cost EV drivers? A recent poll conducted by an EV forum found no Polar Customers planning to take up the “Economy Plus” tariff (monthly fee), 12% intending to use the “Standard” tariff (annual fee) and 88% either using the “Instant” tariff or avoiding the charging points altogether. This means that any consideration of charging costs needs to be made using the “Instant” tariff.
Looking back at the charging record for my EV so far this year, I find the following rapid charges: 7.51kWh in 36 minutes, 6.95kWh in 17 minutes, 8.32kWh in 34 minutes, 7.56kWh in 37 minutes, 10.98kWh in 32 minutes, 8.64 kWh in 25 minutes, 5.74kWh in 17 minutes. That would have required eleven “up to 30 minute” sessions at £8.50 each giving a total of 55.7kWh for £93.50. My car has 14.5kWh usable battery capacity, and a typical range of 62 miles when driven gently with no heating. This means about 4.25 miles per kWh, giving a range of 237 miles for £93.50. The UK average petrol price is currently £1.299, meaning rapid charging my EV would cost the same as running a petrol car at 15mpg.
My car has a 3kW on-board charger, so using 7kW or 22kW Type-2 charging points the best I can gain is 2.7kWh charge (assuming 10% losses) for each hour of charging at £2.50 an hour. This works out at 11.475 miles for £2.50, or the same as about 27mpg.