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Fixed-cost recharging could hamper EV adoption

Date: 22 July 2014   |   Author: Tristan Young

A lack of transparency on rapid charging costs for plug-in cars and LCVs could harm the uptake of electric vehicles, according to several fleet experts.

With low running costs one of the major selling points for EVs, several organisations have highlighted that not enough information is provided to fleets about the price of using public networks of rapid or fast chargers.

Unlike petrol, diesel or even LPG, those recharging networks that require payment for the electricity used, instead of, for example, charging an annual fee, are billing for the amount of time taken rather than the amount of electricity drawn.

This means that even if you top up a half-full battery you could pay the same as someone recharging one that is near empty because in both instances you pay a flat hourly rate regardless of how much electricity is required. In turn, this could mean that drivers are paying far more than diesel or petrol in terms of fuel cost per mile.

Commenting on the lack of information on the true costs of EVs, John Pryor, ACFO chairman and fleet manager for retailer Arcadia Group said: "People keep brushing over the details about the cost of recharging. there's not enough information out there to work out the costs.

"We are concerned about knowing the pence per mile figure and that information isn't available in a central point. Fleets need to make themselves knowledgeable before taking on an electric car. They need to work out the costs."

Andrew Fenwick-Green, membership secretary of the Electric Vehicle Drivers Association, said recent price hikes in rapid charging have made some networks prohibitively expensive: "The problem lies with the fact that electricity used to be free. Now we're not under any illusion it will be free for ever, but the issue is that the pricing isn't clear.

"When pricing was introduced we thought it would be by the kWh, like buying litres of petrol, but a rapid charge from Chargemaster costs £7.50 for 30 minutes.

"An 80% charge will get you about 60-65 miles in a Nissan Leaf, but a gallon of diesel costs £6.18 and that will get you about 60 miles in a diesel car, so you're paying £1.32 more for the electricity.

"We'd like to see a charge based on per kWh or at least a fairer cost for the time - say around £4 for 30 minutes."

He continued: "They are not charging for what you've used, they're charging for time. This means that anyone.without an empty tank is disadvantaged. You buy everything else in units - water, petrol, Coke - why not electricity?

The majority of our members don't like paying for time. They all want to pay per kWh. That way you know what you're getting and. how much your cost per mile is. If the £7.50 fee stays then it will put people off buying an electric car and they will stay with diesel."

Pryor echoed the view that high recharge costs would deter potential fleet EV buyers. However, Chargemaster MD David Martell disagreed, claiming the pricing structure has been accepted by customers, and added: "The costs depend on the use. We've an economy-plus tariff that costs £12-a-month that reduces the rapid charge to £6 for 30 minutes.

"If you use our charging points regularly this is the way to go. But it's like pay-as-you-go - if you use us on an ad-hoc basis then you pay more."