Fully Charged Reviews Ecotricity’s UK Network After New Charges, Talks To Founder About Changes

SEP 4 2016 BY MARK KANE 39

New Ecotricity program charges £6 for a 30 min boost in the UK

New Ecotricity program charges £6 for a 30 min boost in the UK


Fully Charged recently visited the Ecotricity’s Electric Highway charging network in UK, which has switched to a pay per charge system, and is available only through smartphones (review of that system here).

Fully Charged gives a quick walk-through of using the app and the full charging process, as well as talks with Ecotricity founder Dale Vince.

Dale Vince presents some prospective from the other side on the recent decision to to make the economic changes, assuring the public that the company is now looking at new charging models for those who can’t best use the initial flat £6 fee for a 30 min charge.

After losing money (obviously) in the past, the company hope to break even on an operating cost basis in 2016, without including investment costs.

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39 Comments on "Fully Charged Reviews Ecotricity’s UK Network After New Charges, Talks To Founder About Changes"

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As I’ve said and commented on probably every other article here on Inside EVs about the new £6 for 30 minutes Ecotricity rate, simply going with a per minute rate would be the simplest solution rate structure.

I’ve already detailed why. See my comment here if interested:

http://insideevs.com/ecotricity-public-backlash-charging-program-now-6-30-minutes/#comment-920390

I agree with you, and I can add that in the beginning we had three different price models in Norway used by different charging operators, pay pr minute, pay pr charge and pay pr mont or even pr year. What happened then was that once the operators grew out of their dedicated areas and started installing fast chargers in the same areas competition started and the most robust and costomer friendly option survived. Some operators switched to pay per minute, and those are now by far the largest operators, and some are following the path of the dinosaurs. Automated counting of minutes and billing by email/directly by bank is very simple and cost efficient, i get a monthly bill if i have made any charging purchases, and it is automatically paid by the bank if i do not make any actions. Operation costs for chargers are low, and it is a lot better to sell a lot of 10 minute-cahrges than a few 30 minute charges, and also you have a lot more risk for queing and waiting time at the chargers with fixed price pr month or pr charge. Pr minute motivates drivers to move on to next charger… Read more »

Thanks for your firsthand report from Norway. Great!!

Per minute billing is the preferred way to charge in Norway, here’s why:

https://www.chargedrive.com/?p=8

You’re forgetting that them are 2 different countries. In Norway they do have a lot of incentives what outweighs the running costs. In UK you cannot even drive on the bus lanes (5 cities signed for with no final dates); still need to pay for parking (in 90% of car parks with chargers (park&ride excluded); pay for ferries; and it cost more, way more, than equivalent ice vehicle; And now you need to pay a LOT for charging; I’m leaving the motorway, going out of my way and using the other networks, which having pay per kwh used price structure and it comes out way cheaper than £6 for 30mins. Wait for a winter, we will be lucky if it will be mild one, if not – in some places you won’t be able to reach next charger after 30min top up, if you will arrive with cold battery and you will end up with £12 instead of £6 to do same distance. You, Brandon, need to stop to look just from your point of view, pay per minute still doesn’t work, it’s very common when I’m coming to the motorway services (not for a charge anymore) for a quick… Read more »

Hey Nero, when I’m saying that billing by the minute is the simplest solution, what I mean is a per minute rate (as they have in Norway) where each individual minute is billed that the EV is connected to the charger. The Ecotricity model is a set amount (30 minutes) so it’s not a simple bill by the minute structure.

A strictly bill by the minute pay structure would give incentive for drivers to move when done charging, because they are billed while connected even tho charging may have finished. As you noted there are Ecotricity fast charge customers who are still plugged in after charging. The Ecotricity billing structure didn’t give incentive (via extra cost) to move.
Also, is Norway the cost per minute is 2.5 NOK for most operators, which is £0.23, and for 30 minutes thats £6.75. Ecotricity is at £6 for 30 minutes, so there really isn’t anything to complain about price wise besides the fact that it’s £6 for a charge that’s under 30 minutes too. In fact they are right in line with fast charge operator rates around the world I discovered.

I’ve never seen a gas station that only sold fuel,.. I presume because they’d go broke with out the concessions sales.

Do any Ecotricity stations even try to pull additional revenue through ancillary sales?

Add,…

If it’s a “chicken-egg-volume-startup” problem, then why not partner with nearby businesses? With a 30 minute captive audience , I think any shop within a 5 block radius would be fare game.

Any purchase at Joe’s Coffee Shop over $x between start and completion of your charging session and you get 1/2 price charging. Ecocity then gets a cut of those sales from Joe. Smart phones manage the “coupons/details”.

/edit….”fare game”

Some Service Plazas on toll roads in the US don’t have their own convenience store, but the plaza building with its fast food restaurants etc is there too.

Most Ecotricity rapid chargers are at motorway rest areas in the UK. In their case (as in probably most fast chargers operators?) Ecotricity is not connected to the eating places etc at the rest area. I would guess tho that it’s quite possible that they don’t have to lease the parking spaces or pay rent to the motorway plaza for having two fast chargers there. So that is a perk if true.

Fuel stations must buy/rent/lease a standard retail space in order to install their fuel storage tanks. Convenience store/fast food stand not much of an added expense to pay for the rent/mortgage.

A charging station does not need all that retail space.

The ecotricity model is far simpler than that. They are an electricity retailer. If you want to use their network you either pay a reasonably high rate on the day or use the charger for “free” but switch your electricity supply to them. It is, IMO, one of the best models out there, it basically says “we’ll give you 3% of your fuel for free but you pay full rate for the other 97%”

I think it was good to compare the experience of an ecotricity customer to the experience of someone who wasn’t (as in all the previous articles on the charging network). I honestly think that this is a really good model it doesn’t exclude anyone and it offers a clear choice.

In the video, Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity said this:

“What’s happened is that we only had one charging model that we could launch with, and we haven’t been able to please everybody with it. But what we’ve tried to do is please the most people, and our core focus has been EVs.”

This statement may help explain why the pricing model is what it is, probably with the limitations of the app. But it sounds like they are looking to change it, maybe making it possible in the future to select lesser time amounts to charge.

However, the most significant thing that stands out to me (and there are a few good points) is that if comms are down on the charger it will still work, and will do so without charging a fee. Vince called this feature ‘fail to vent’.
A very important feature to have!!

It’s interesting to see Nissan paid for a lot of the network, could we be about to see the “no charge to charge” in the uk?

It’s quite possible. Dale said they are in talks with Nissan.

I hope that Nissan’s NCTC program follow the lead of the new BMW ChargeNow program that was announced last month. It’s no longer free. Instead there are reduced rates plans that are available to i3 owners specifically.

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1105352_bmw-chargenow-by-evgo-electric-car-charging-rolls-out-in-25-cities-for-a-fee

I would not recommend fast chargers With free charging. They are likely to be occupied for longer periods by People who just are charging because it is free. If you are on a long distance trip there is nothing more annoying than to wait 50 minutes for someone who is just topping up the car because he can save som few coins. And the fast charger is an expence for the owner. Additionaly you sabotage the market with free fast charging.

It is a lot better with a small payment pr minute (but still higher than the cost of charging at home) so people use it only as much as needed and the charger pays itself.

Interesting interview. Plug-in Hybrids is a challenge, I would imagine. Because almost any form of public charging is going to cost more than gasoline. There’s simply no way to build the hardware and charge the customer less than what equivalent gasoline use would be.

Ultimately, public charging is a convenience. And that’s what you’re paying for. And I don’t have a problem with that. I would imagine 99% of EV and PHEV drivers are charging at home. having said that, I do use charging stations even with my Volt when I happen to be parking near one. I want to help support the infrastructure. So I pay to use them anyway, even though I don’t need to.

Well said David. True.

I would however put the average of charging away from home at 4-5%. That’s not just me, but what I’ve come to find in my research of the subject.

Keep in mind this is the AVERAGE. Some will be more, some less.

So the charging station cost $53,000 (installed). (40k pounds = 53k US)

Maximum gross potential is 2 stalls x 2/per hour x 24 hours = 2 x 2 x 24 = 96 charges/ day x $8.00/charge = $768/day. $768 x 365 days/year = $280,320 maximum gross potential per year.

But let’s say each stall is only occupied 1/3 of the total day. That reduces actual gross income to $280,320/3 = $93,440. Now take out their electricity costs (I’m going to guess an average of 20 kwh/charge and 10cents/kwh commercial rate) then that’s $2/charging event electricity cost to Ecotricity. That brings annual gross revenue down to $69,750.

I don’t know what Ecotricity’s operating costs are but (with sufficient traffic) it looks like they ought to be able to hold their own.

Yep. I think that is the case with all charging companies. There is money to be made as long as the number of EV drivers is high enough to support it. However, one issue is the need for stations along interstate routes where they are crucially needed, yet rarely used. Outside of Tesla’s business model, I’m not sure how we’re ever going to get those stations put in.

IMO this is a pretty common infrastructure problem. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about gas pipelines, postal services, roads, mobile phone networks, wifi, etc.. No body is going to buy into your network unless it is pretty complete but there will be plenty of places that are seldom used. There are plenty of public and private business models that work, we are just starting to feel our way with these.

Yeah, but he said they are currently being used three hours a day. Add in maintenance and it’s getting pretty tight financially. Luckily, Ecotricity believes in this.

I’m under the impression that British small commercial rates are much higher than the equivalent of 10 cents/ kwh.

Anyone know for sure what the marginal cost is?

In North America we’d have either a Demand Charge/ (or if over 100 kw) Demand Contracted For, to be added to the delivery and energy charges. 10 cents/ kwh won’t cut it in most places even in the states.

That is a very misleading table since it apparently doesn’t include demand charges we all have here, the only major exception being Atlanta.

If such a fast charger was used by me, if a BUSY ‘fast charger’ were used only 2 hours a day, the demand charge for the month would swamp the energy charge.

I believe Tony Williams or one of those ev guys actually printed out an electric bill on one of those chargers. It was no where near 10 cents/kwh by the time you got out the check book to pay the bill.

“That is a very misleading table since it apparently doesn’t include demand charges we all have here….”

No. You are wrong, Bill.

The table isn’t wrong just because it doesn’t fit what you have locked into your mind. From the report:

“The electric revenue used to calculate the average price of electricity to ultimate consumers is the operating revenue reported by the electric utility. Operating revenue includes energy charges, DEMAND CHARGES, consumer service charges, environmental surcharges, fuel adjustments, and other miscellaneous charges. Electric utility operating revenues also include State and Federal income taxes and taxes other than income taxes paid by the utility.”

Here you go getting personally insulting. If you truly knew what you were talking about it wouldn’t be so bad, but in this table. the demand charges are swamped by the energy charges since most businesses that are open for 16 hours per day, and still use a significant amount when closed, have plenty of usage. The EV charger’s electric service will behave as I’ve described if used only 2 hours a day, and apparently, those are only the ‘busy ones’. Utilities will give anyone who asks ‘Commercial Service’, putting special restrictions on Residential Service. My particular utility gives owners of converted commercial buildings all kinds of grief before they will allow conversion to Residential rates – a friend of mine had to eliminate a Show Window in the front of the building to make it ‘look’ more like a house; something that had nothing to do with electical usage. Combined Domestic/Business use for a home office is only allowed if it is UNDER 10% of the total square footage. If over, then the homeowner is forced on commercial rates. If the commercial rates were exactly everywhere cheaper, there would be no incentive for any homeowner to hold onto residential… Read more »

So I provide a source that supports my point. Then defend my source by pointing out that it has, in fact, included charges which you say were left out, then you respond with:

“Here you go getting personally insulting.”
“If you truly knew what you were talking about it wouldn’t be so bad….”
“But you can’t make a point without being personally insulting.”
and
“….before you start hurling insults.”

Hell, at some point ‘I’ might start to get insulted.

Enough of the cat fight … back the the actual electricity costs on a fast charger, .. I am not going to argue that a low use fast charger is going to get hit by demand charges and the effective rate could run up well over 10c/ kwh. But I think we both agree (? maybe) that it will greatly depend on the individual utility’s rate structure. If you want to dig up an actual bill to prove this point (which I don’t doubt) then, by all means, go ahead.

The charges are effectively left out since they are, to quote an oft used phrase ‘immaterial’ to the results of the chart.

The other way this chart is misleading is it vastly overstates my cost, since it is averaged in with Confiscatory Consolidated Edison, who also operates a bit in upstate NY.

Biggest problem I see are the very limited bays being ICEd. I have a Rex and try to stay on electric whenever I can. But the number if times I’ve turned up and not been able to charge is awful. Sometimes even an Ev owner will choose not to move away after also.
Until this us solved I cannot see anyone risking arriving needing an 80% charge unless they have a rex or hybrid.

This should be an easy fix.

The charging station could give you a “grace period” of 15 or 20 minutes once the charge has completed, then it could start charging you for the parking — encouraging the already charged EV to move along.

Sounds like a neat idea, but to have consumer acceptance is probably another issue with a fee structure like that.
Look at Norway. They have it figured out and it’s working great. What are they doing?
Simply biling by the minute.

…. which sounds closely related to my “easy fix”.

Sounds to me that the Norway meter keeps running at the same rate wether you are charging or have finished charging.

/I’m certainly not arguing against “charge by the minute”,.. but I think we can all agree there needs to be a balance between “carrot and stick” to get EV drivers to come in for a charge and then move off as soon as they are done.

OR

Their needs to be a new charger design that can manage several cars at the same time,… i.e. multiple plugs to the same charger that manages “the que” automatically. EV drivers who know they are going to be at the parking spot for a longer period of time can input this information and perhaps get billed at a lower rate per kwh.

/I expect (hope) we’ll see lots of innovation as EVs and charging stations become more ubiquitous.

Very true. One thing (out of a couple that come to mind) is having the fast chargers on an island type base. This makes it possible that in the cases where the chargers are blocked an EV can still reach them to start charging.

EVgo has some installations like this.

The utility Vector in New Zealand only installs two fast chargers on this type of island pier.

See pics on PlugShare listing:

Auckland Airport Shopping Centre
http://api.plugshare.com/view/location/91494

If Ecotricity are going to make the return required to grow the network the system needs to have a higher utilisation factor across the network. Its clear that outside of peek times the majority of the pumps stand idle, more so since the flat rate charge. As a PHEV driver I am supportive of the £6 for peek times as EV drivers have the greater need, but in the quiet periods I would expect the cost to be reduced to a sensible lower rate to encourage use of the system by all EV/PHEV drivers providing a greater return for Ecotricity whilst increasing the number of electric miles driven.

Do you know what the maximum power that the Outlander can take? I’m assuming it’s about 20kW. So, like the Ecotricity bloke said, they could install much lower cost charging stations to satisfy the needs of PHEV owners. If they charged half the price per minute of the 50kW stations, then you could also more cost effectively top off your Leaf, i3 or e-Golf after filling the first 75% on the faster charger.