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Ecotricity introduces EV recharge motorway fee

Date: 27 July 2016   |   Author: Debbie Wood

Public charging of plug-in cars has become more expensive following the announcement that a £6 per half hour charge is to be imposed at Ecotricity's previously free of charge motorway rapid charger points.

Depending on the range of the vehicle, this new fee could make charging an electric car just as expensive as running a diesel on a journey-by-journey basis.

Ecotricity said it reached the £6 fee by investigating the price that other electric car networks were charging, the equivalent costs of refuelling petrol and diesel cars at motorway services, and by looking at how frequently the average customer uses the Electric Highway.

Although it is generally accepted that rapid charging could not have remained free long term, many think the move by Ecotricity is premature, and Association of Car Fleet Operators chairman John Pryor believes there should be a more universal pricing structure in place.

"Six pounds sounds pretty steep to me. Cost should be a universal thing, there needs to be less confusion, plus you can't even guarantee you'll be able to charge when you get there as points are so limited," he told BusinessCar.

Charge point operator POD Point is currently trialling a number of different revenue models to get the balance right, and Erik Fairbairn, founder and CEO, believes more variation between the different charging firms is likely in the near future.  

"You are likely to see the various companies involved in EV charging try a range of different pricing structures as they work out the right balance between a commercially viable roll out, and an acceptable fee for the EV driver," he said. 

Edward Jones, EV manager at Nissan, told BusinessCar that many will now choose to limit charging to home and at the office, to avoid the rising cost of motorway charging.

"When you consider that the average distance driven by UK commuters each day is only around 20 miles total, the vast majority of drivers will still benefit from driving costs of just 2p per mile, having charged at their home or office. It was inevitable that a variable and sustainable pricing structure would play a role as the network grows and usage increases," he said.

Rival network Chargemaster also said the new charging structure from Ecotricity will deter drivers from using motorways services, rather than hamper sales of the electric vehicles themselves.

"We think this'll be a temporary blip. You don't need to charge your car at the motorway and this will simulate more charging solutions," CEO David Martell told BusinessCar. "The outlook for providing charging is very good and certainly shouldn't stop fleets investing in an EV."

ACFO's Pryor agreed that fleets will still opt for an electric car as they'll only be chosen if they are fit for purpose, and this new charge will probably encourage fleet managers to tell drivers to avoid motorway services, like most fleets already do on diesel and petrol cars.

"Electric cars are used more on small journeys so I don't think it will impact take-up. We try to tell drivers to not fill-up on the motorway anyway - the same will probably now be said for electric cars," he concluded.