Ecotricity Faces Backlash: UK Charging Program Now £6 for 30 Minutes

JUL 11 2016 BY JAY COLE 31

A few days ago Ecotricity, the UK’s major charging provider for the “electric highway”, and most motorway service stops, announced a move from free charging to a flat £5 for 20 Minutes.

Ecotricity response to initial criticism of charging program results in change in structure

Ecotricity response to initial criticism of charging program results in change in structure

This new charge system did not take into account the vehicle (or rather the speed of its charging), and would automatically terminate the charge at 20 minutes.

As one might surmise, a 20 minute charge is not enough time to come close to fully charging (or even to the magical 80% level) any all-electric car.  So users would have to wait for the charge to stop, then re-engage, paying another £5.

The response was…well, strong.

Thankfully, the company did react to the backlash quickly by announcing a new program.

£6 for a 30 minute timed session

The new program is quite obviously superior in almost every way.  Yes, one does have to pay for an extra £1 – or 20% more, but the gain of 10 minutes (50%) on a fast charge is significant, and will net a near 80% “fill” in a single session for today’s city EVs.

During a BBC Radio 4 presentation of You and Yours, by Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, announced the changes and why:

“We’ve changed our plan over the weekend following feedback from our drivers. We’ve done this to reflect the fact that most EV drivers – electric vehicles, not hybrids – have said that they need 30 minutes to get the ideal 80% battery charge that they are used to getting.”

Does the program adjustment go far enough?  Will it satisfy consumers?  Only time will tell when the usage data information starts to roll in.  InsideEVs’ friend Andy aka “Electric Leaf Man, sent us his impressions of the new program first hand (video above – and our thanks to him for doing that so quickly).

The program begins this week at some stations, and will be enabled on all ~296 locations by August 5th.

Clean Energy News

Categories: Charging


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31 Comments on "Ecotricity Faces Backlash: UK Charging Program Now £6 for 30 Minutes"

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Much more palatable given most FC’ers tend to go for an 80% charge in 30 mins.

I’m in for that price on an occasional basis !

In New Zealand this is the way ChargeNet do it:
Fast chargers are extremely expensive to purchase and install. When you charge using our network you are paying for (a) the use of the machine and (b) the electricity supplied. Our current rates are: 25c / minute + 25c / kWh.

Yup, an ingenious pricing structure which I’ve thought was good ever since I saw it.
The rates are very in line, and there is the ability to just pay for what’s needed/dispensed.
There’s also an incentive with the minute billing being there to not let your EV sit and occupy the fast charger after charging to the needed level, usually around 80%.

I think the combination of charging both per minute and per kWh is great.

Though IMO, $0.25/minute is a bit high. Cut that down in half or so (10-20c/minute) and it would be a lot more palatable.

I suspect Miggy was quoting the price in NZ$, not US$… If so, given the current exchange rate, that would be ~US$0.18/min + ~US$0.18/kWh .

Per “Fast chargers are extremely expensive to purchase and install”, so, compared to what? At $25,000 – $50,000, DC QC’s cost is from half to equal the price of a Gas Station Pump, which can usually deliver 1 of 4 fuel choices to each of 2 vehicles! Do you pay for gas plus pay for using the pump on a per litre or per gallon basis?

I thing the model used to price L2 and Quick Charging is based too much on the thinking of making a high ROI, rather short term thinking instead of long term thinking!

For reference, what is the replacememt time for Commercial Gas Pumps? How do DC QC’s compare? Also? What is the depreciation allowance for them, tax wise?

What if they figured a 20 year life on them, what would be the monthly portion you are counting? How would that compare to this 25 cents a minute?

I’m thinking that a two station DCFC location like Ecotricity mostly has will cost somewhere between $80k to $140k to install.
Also, I believe the purpose behind the kWh + minute rate is not to divide out the cost for the electric and the cost of the charger, but rather a well crafted rate structure that gives incentive to drivers to not let their EV charging beyond what they need, maybe around 80% or so, since after that is Sloooow charging.

If they do more then it would be costing them more for the extra time using the charger, which could potentially block the next waiting user from charging.
It gives the user the perspective that it is a service (which it is) that still costs when they are there longer, or even worse, gone somewhere and left their EV sit connected to the charger and blocking the next user.
A per kWh rate structure alone would not accomplish this well.

Not too bad since most charging is done at home anyway. Of course the deal would be a whole lot better for 150KW chargers that could add ~150 extra miles to a 200 mile EV in 30 minutes.

This is what Tesla should charge for the supercharger locations for the Model 3.

You know.. here’s some interesting math.. Let’s say there were cars lined up waiting to charge for 30 minute intervals for 24 hours a day. That’s only 48 charge sessions. At £6 per session, that’s £288 per day. Or about £8,640 per month. Or £103,680 per year. That’s just revenue, not including the cost of generating the electricity or anything else. I suspect it would pay for itself after one year of that kind of usage. But at the rate of usage they get today, I would imagine they are looking at 10 years payback. It is no wonder why charging infrastructure isn’t growing much.

yep, not much of a business case for third parties to investing in charging infrastructure. if only some EV maker just took it upon itself to build that infrastructure, I’m sure its cars would sell that much better…

The thing I really like about the model that Ecotricity is using is that it is not related to making money off fast charging events but rather off people switching to Ecotricity for their electricity at home (Ecotricity customers can use the network for ‘free’).

So the equation looks more like 300 charging stations at $60,000 installed = $18 million. 40,000 fast charge enabled EV’s in the UK who will become customers of Ecotricity profit per customer $500 per year = $20 million.

Payback 1 year

Now obviously those numbers are completely made up and probably miles from the truth but if the fast charge network cost $40 million and you made $100 per customer you’d be looking at a 10 year payback on 40,000 EV’s.

I’m really surprised that they made the deal better for non-ecotricity customers. I guess there is some money to be made out of those who just need the charger every once in a while.

Sadly electricity isn’t free…

That’s true but if 40,000 cars used the chargers for 5% of their charging events that would work out as 18ish charging events per year per car or 730,000 charging events total per year. That sounds like a lot but if each event averages around 10 kWh then that is about a $1 in energy costs (for a utility $0.1 /kWh is probably a bit high but 10kWh is probably a little low) then that would add $730,000 per year to total cost of the electricity. I don’t know what the connection / network charge would be per charging station but I wouldn’t think it would be more than the power in this high use scenario. Even if all in it was $1,000,000 that would only work out as $25 per customer per year. If you spread the cost of the installation of the charging stations (say $20 million) over 5 years and add the electricity costs you would need to make a minimum of $125 dollars per year off each of the 40,000 EV drivers to break even. That is not huge on a $2000 electricity bill but is a lot of money for an EV driver to find… Read more »

You are spot on. The price to purchase, install and maintain quick chargers needs to come down significantly before one will be able to make money on charging networks.

Obviously very little forethought had been given to the initial pricing band, (even though Ecotricity had allegedly discussed with Ev folk).
This is a backward step for the use of EV’s – hell, they’re still in their infancy and we have multi-millionaires like Dale Vince throwing a spanner in the works with his over-priced pricing policy, (even at £6 for 30 minutes).
Ecotricity must have received a lot of money off both the UK and Scottish Governments for their charge point installations – think Vince will come out this with egg on his face.
Maybe he should buy himself a horse and call it Black Bess ?

I don”t think it’s that overpriced ? When 200 mile EV’s are the norm soon, £6 (a little more than a gallon of Petrol/Diesel) will get you 160 EV miles compared to 50-60 miles with an ICE.

For something that the vast majority will only use occasionally and the infrastructure has to be built by someone, I don’t have a problem with it at all considering it will take them at least 5 years minimum to get their money back per unit.

Perspective is needed in order to get EV mainstream.

Yeah, I don’t get the constant comparisons with the cost of gas/diesel. After all, EV owners will be charging at home. A fast charger should generally be used for long-distance travel in which you are paying for the convenience on a rare occasion. I would expect it to cost more than gas.

That is assuming the charger can deliver the juice. However these are (I guess) 50 kW max chargers, at least for now.

Could you imagine if a gas pump always stopped after 1 minute? Why only one time setting?

It’s not the price that is wrong, when you recalculate it per kW. What is wrong that you cannot pay by the minute. Often I only need to top off to be able to reach the next charger or the destination, but topping off now costs 6 pounds. Crazy! Just as crazy as not being able anymore to pay by charge card but only by (some brands of) smart phone. I don’t have the right brand…

It seems to me that Ecotricity has an in line price, but improvement could be made in pricing structure some. Those needing just a 10 or 15 minute charge will not be served well with this £6 per 30 minute session pricing structure.

IMO a pay by the minute based fee structure is best, at least for a mature market. In Norway that’s the way it is largely I understand.

I’ll post this again in case some didn’t see it from the last article where I put it in the comments.
I found this from Norway’s Charge & Drive network on the topic: Pricing the fast charging of electric vehicles correctly ensures the availability of the service.

Seems like a huge opportunity for more reasonable competitors to move in and take over the market. Dropping a big price increase on unprepared consumers is just stupid. The price should have been phased in. Not being able to pay by the minute is unreasonable and crazy from a marketing perspective. Imagine telling ICE drivers you are going to charge them for 20 litres of petrol whether they need that much or not.

Yes, Ecotricity’s pricing structure definitely leaves something to be desired for those just needing 10-15 minutes of charge. But… as I’ve said a bunch of times already, their price is in line with most other DCFC providers.
Not very much room for competition, really.

Cue Polar Plus (chargenow com) with its 0.09p per kWh charge. They just need to drastically increase the number of ultra chargers and they will have grabbed the (former) Ecotricity market. This will be interesting to watch.

I haven’t heard of Polar Plus before so I checked it out. I like their “Polar EV Experience” program, you get points for using their service and when you have enough of these points you are able to rent another EV for a while to check it out! That’s a great way for people to experience different EVs, the only problem is of course that you really need to have an EV of your own to collect these points in the first place but still it’s a neat idea.

There seems to be a lot of people focused on the pay per use model. IMO that model is deliberately designed to be a last resort. Ecotricities model is really not that different to Tesla’s model. If You want to use a super charger you have to buy a tesla, you want easy access to ecotricity’s charging stations you have to be an ecotricity customer.

What is wrong with that?

At least there is an alternative will the electric highway, let’s see if tesla offer a pay for use option for the bolt or leaf 2.0. I suspect all those offers “to let anyone use the SC network if they paid for its upkeep and the car could handle the power” will soon be forgotten.

I guess it’s better but wouldn’t it make more sense to charge something like 10p/minute + cost of electricity? So when charging at a high rate for a short while the electricity cost will dominate but when charging slowly the time cost will dominate basically making it very expensive parking.

I think the price is fair, but what if I just need to charge 15 minutes?
Now in the UK I’m used to stopping at most Ecotricity chargers I pass, because you never know if the next one will be up. If I can’t charge for 15 minutes (for £3), then I need to start taking that risk or pay more.

I would imagine that given the new norm for EV’s will be 200 miles, before long all those people who would have needed to top up for 5 – 15 mins will no longer need to once they upgrade their 70-100 mile EV’s.

Many of the current crop of EV’s will likely become 2nd family cars for running around locally ?

Yeah, that doesn’t work for me. I only have one car, and it’s an EV.

They shouldn’t just keep in mind upcoming cars that aren’t for sale yet. People drive Leafs and ZOEs today that might not need that 30 minute charge as long as their network is not as reliable as it should be.