Ecotricity, the charging provider behind the UK's "electric highway", and the majority of all EVSEs found at motorway service stops, has moved from a free to 'pay-per-use' service, as indicated in an email to customers today (see full company email below).

Ecotricity's new model favors all-electrics over smaller battery PHEVs

Ecotricity's new model favors all-electrics over smaller battery PHEVs

Why? The company just says it is time.

In the past the service was free to help kick start the technology - and because realistically there was not enough potential users to earn any revenue of significance.  Apparently, the tipping point as been reached:

"After five years of providing charging for free, we’re moving to a ‘charging for charging’ model.

When we began in July 2011, there was a bit of a chicken and egg situation – people were reluctant to buy electric cars because there were no charging facilities being built, but nobody wanted to build those facilities while there were still so few cars on the road. That’s when we jumped in to help kickstart the electric car revolution in Britain."

Bonus:  Check out first hand reaction and excellent walk-through of the new program and its effect on the common EV driver in the UK from Andy Rogerson AKA "Electic LEAF Man" who sent us his thoughts (below)

Rolling out next week at some stations, and completed by August 5th, the new program charges £5 for a 20-Minute charge (via a new app that must be downloaded - here).  This fee is regardless of the amount of power consumed, which strikes us as a bit odd.

The format has basically created a two-tier system of plug-ins.  Flat fee is better for some (like fast charging all-electrics such as the Nissan LEAF and Teslas), but not so go for others (such as any shorter range plug-in hybrid).

One aspect that is definitely a negative, is vehicle charging that automatically expires at 20 minutes.  So if you have an all-electric car and you are running low, you have to restart the process at 20 minutes to get closer to a full boost, there is no 'extended billing'.  Hopefully this situation gets rectified in the future.

Ecotricity operates some 296 stations currently in the UK.  Ecotricity energy customers will still be able to use the chargers for free as part of their paid-for utilities plan.   The company took the time to "add a pitch" to sign up for that service in the email as well

"Nearly forgot ... the Electric Highway will still be free to use for Ecotricity energy customers – so if you’re not already a customer, now is a pretty good time to switch. You’ll not only get free use of the Electric Highway, we’ll give you a discount on your energy just for having an electric car. If you’d like to switch, just click here."

The other major player in the UK for public charging - Chargemaster, introduced a monthly subscription model for its stations two years ago, priced from £7.85 a month.

As one might expect, reaction to having to pay for something that had previously been free, has not been great.  Mitsubishi's UK managing director Lance Bradley offered some perspective from his company in a series of tweets:

Video (belew): Walk through and reaction to new Ecotricity program, and full Ecotricity release can also be found below that.

Ecotricity email to users:

Ecotricity announces rate changes July 7th, 2016

Ecotricity announces rate changes July 7th, 2016

Hat tip to Andy for shooting us his video blog and Wade for a copy of the email!