Seldom Used Public Charging Stations Rile Up the Locals


EV Parking/Charging Spots in Bristol Not Used Often Enough

EV Parking/Charging Spots in Bristol Not Used Often Enough

What to do with these seldom used public charging stations?

This Charger Seems to be in Use

This Charger Seems to be in Use

First, we’d argue that public chargers stll aren’t a necessity.  Workplace chargers?  Yes.  Home chargers?  Of course.

But the public ones are more or less out there serving the purpose of showing the general public that there’s a substantial infrastructure for plug-in vehicles.

There is a problem though.

Take, for example, the case in Bristol, England.

The city is home to 36 charging points located in 12 parking lots.  All of these units are supposedly operational, yet data shows that in the second half of 2012, only 14 charge events occurred across all 36 units.

Bristol City Council seems okay with this lack of use, saying:

“We don’t expect to see high levels of take up at first, but the electric car market has huge potential for growth, and we are confident that electric is a big part of the future.”

“People won’t invest in electric cars until the infrastructure is in place to support their use.”

However, residents of Bristol see it differently.  The chargers cost the city some £100,000 ($152,000 US) to install.  This is money that should of been spent more wisely, argues some residents.

We do sort of agree that maybe Bristol overdid it, judging by the low level of use, but Bristol future-proofed itself, too.

The problem is that in these cash-strapped times, city/state/federal government spending needs to be done wisely and, as we mentioned above, public chargers aren’t really a necessity.  In time, these public chargers may see a substantial amount of use.  You see, extensive workplace charging would almost eliminate the need for public chargers entirely.  Just sayin’.


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23 Comments on "Seldom Used Public Charging Stations Rile Up the Locals"

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…then they’ll spend another £100,000 removing them… just in time for mainstream EV adoption. 🙂

I was about to say the same thing.. It’s done. They are in place. Leave them alone. It will only cost money to remove them and then more money to add them back a few years from now when everyone is screaming for them.

I think the UK really screwed up the EV charging network.

Too many different companies and too many different standards installed in places where they are not needed.

Didn’t they realize that the Leaf etc have adequate urban range when charged at home every night? That’s kind of the point. If the government wanted to interfere they should indeed have offered businesses grants to install slow chargers because, you know, that’s where people spend most of their day and would have been genuinely useful.

Home: Slow charger (possibly government sponsored but probably not needed)
Work: Fast charger (government sponsored)
Motorways: Rapid chargers at petrol stations with ONE payment system or simply pay as you go with normal payment cards.

That would have been near enough perfect IMO. I really don’t think it was that hard to work this all out before deployment started.

Well, are they fee-based? If the fee is too high, people will avoid them as they do here in the USA. It’s like building a Ritz Carlton hotel and charging $1000 a night and complaining that the tourists all go to the Marriott down the street at $400 night.

They’re normally free but they usually require specific RFID cards depending on the provider. It could hardly be any worse, but I suppose it’s nice that the charging is free (for now) but since the electricity not really a significant cost when running an EV I don’t even see it as that much of an benefit.

“You see, extensive workplace charging would almost eliminate the need for public chargers entirely. Just sayin’.” Sorry but this got to be one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in a while (I don’t watch Faux news). Eric, don’t you realize that just because work charging makes sense in your specific situation, it’s not automatically everyone else’s case?? Simple example: home and work for me are ~20miles apart. As even an i-MiEV could do the back-and-forth with plenty of miles to spare, I couldn’t care less if there were EVSEs at work (plus, how would I get Mr Plug-in-Prius to move his vehicle when he’s done?). On the other hand, every once in a while, I go much farther than that, furthermore, it so happens, not in the direction to my workplace. There, public charging, and more specifically quick-charging, becomes a necessity. I’m glad Blink and now Nissan offer that. I’m not saying that charging at work is a bad thing, every little bit helps, but public stations, especially fast ones and/or those which can be checked for availability or reserved online, open to anyone (or at least, a large group, like all members of a given charging network), are… Read more »

Agree. That last statement made little sense. Commute to work is rather predictable. Tooling around after work or on the weekend is not. Going to the doctor is not. Picking up your kid early from school is not. Going shopping at the last minute for a gift is not. Meeting a surprise visitor at the airport is not.

Just sayin’.

The author is completely correct. In my case, I work at one of the stock exchanges where the spots are rented for tenants somewhere over 500 a month. If they installed chargers, there would be teslas. For edge use cases like yours (which is why he said ‘almost’), you would be able to stop by our building for a charge if it was in vicinity of your route, or another workplace.

Everywhere you want to go is someones workplace. To call the idea ‘stupid’ is thoughtless, rude, and uncalled for.

@NotKyleBass, if such workplace charging stations were open for everyone to use, including obviously access to the parking spot itself, those would be by definition public. EVSEs meant for employees, or — just like in your own example — located on a private, restricted parking lot, simply can’t fulfil this role. Assuming I could even get there in the first place, how many minutes would I be able to charge at one of your “over 500 [$?] a month” spots before getting towed? The author (who maybe considers himself multiple persons?) states as opening remark: “First, we’d argue that public chargers stll aren’t a necessity. Workplace chargers? Yes. Home chargers? Of course. But the public ones are more or less out there serving the purpose of showing the general public that there’s a substantial infrastructure for plug-in vehicles.” If someone claims without any kind of substantiation whatsoever that public charging stations exist only for show, therefore implying that no EV driver would ever want to recharge quickly (given their costs and power requirements, private DC quick-chargers are probably extremely rare) nor travel anywhere except for a small radius around home and/or work, and furthermore does so on a website dedicated… Read more »

Work charging always makes sense – when you get back home you have a lot more charge than you would have done otherwise and then if you want to do more miles after work for socializing it’s far more practical. Basically whenever an EV is predictably parked somewhere for long periods then it’s the perfect opportunity to charge, that’s why people charge them up at home over night.

“You see, extensive workplace charging would almost eliminate the need for public chargers entirely. Just sayin’.”

Except if you live in an apt or condo, and both they and your employer say there is no way they will install a charger even if you offer to pay for it.

Where is the source article for this post? There is a block quote with no attribution.

Hey Doug, I’ll send Eric a message to source the quote out for you/readers. I think he is taking the rest of the night off, (=

Hey Doug: Here’s the link…note that they don’t attribute the quote to any single person…just city council in general:

I wasn’t referring to individuals quoted, but that an article was quoted, demonstrating that an external source was used but not mentioned. Unless you flew to the UK and researched this article yourself, you have to attribute the source somewhere within your blog post.

BBC News has a history of having an anti-EV slant in their reporting. So it’s useful for readers to know that this is where the story originated, rather than just reading your summary.

I used my first public charger after having a leaf for a month. It was more a matter of “why not”, the location was next to the restaurant we were going to, and parking is hard to find there.

Other than that, I typically carry more range than I need for the day, and my charging costs are better than the public chargers.

Of course the counterpoint would be that I parked once in a EV space just to get a good spot next to the front door without charging. That’s pretty much all it is good for, since it has inductive paddles from the EV1 days. The other spot was being used to store carts 🙂

I think anywhere an EV will sit for 2hrs or more is a good spot for a L2 charger. (work, parking decks, sit-down restaurants (think steak dinner), hotels, movie theaters). I don’t think there should be one at a 7-11.

My Volt has 40 miles of range. In the summer, I may go over my miles maybe once in 2 weeks. However this is because I have a short commute to work and I’m not far from shopping/restaurants/etc. Not everyone can say this. In the winter, I can get as few as 25 EV miles. It’s not hard to go over my AER in the winter.

With home and workplace chargers, I have not needed to use a public charger. That being said, I still need that network of public chargers between work and home, as much as I need liability/collision/uninsured motorist coverage for this vehicle that has a $40K replacement cost. Those public chargers are insurance that I hope to never use, but are there to cover the unplanned.

Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield
I live in Bristol, UK, and I dispute this story completely. Firstly, I believe we’re talking 14 charge point users, not 14 charging events. (I’ve single-handedly charged more than 14 times at these points in the past year) . There’s also another really big point in this story everyone is missing: people aren’t charging in Bristol because most of the EV drivers who live in Bristol don’t need to charge anywhere but their driveway. Bristol isn’t a big city, and most EV drivers I know there (about 30 of us who I personally know and I reckon there are about two times more who I don’t) don’t cover high-enough distances every day to NEED to charge anywhere but home. Many EV owners even don’t know where the charging points are. So it’s a bit of a complicated matter to claim that no-one is using them if they’re not properly advertised. Only early-adopters or folks who really need a charge go out of their way to find a charge point. Finally, until about four weeks ago, getting to Bristol from other parts of the UK (more than 50 miles away) was kinda tough: Bristol is 120 miles from London and there… Read more »

What is your EV, and how about the other 30 people you know?
(just curious what EV’s are selling in the UK)

“Finally, until about four weeks ago, getting to Bristol from other parts of the UK (more than 50 miles away) was kinda tough: Bristol is 120 miles from London and there weren’t any rapid chargers en-route to help folks charge before reaching town.
So these Level 2 units can’t be used by folks from outside of Bristol because they couldn’t get to Bristol until recently, when CHAdeMO points opened on the local freeways, and aren’t being used by locals because they don’t need them.”

With a Volt/Ampera, you can go longer distances and then opportunity charge where possible.

Thanks for posting Niki. It is great to read the real story.

Congratulations on the CHAdeMO installations on the freeways! Have the Bristol EV drivers done many trips to London yet?


I tend to read all the comments on sites and am amazed how few seem to actually have an EV here. . I’ve had mine over four months now so here is my take on the local infrastructure and what is required. . Firstly, charging posts are “destination chargers” – complete garbage for travelling. The UK has the EU standard but most are wired single phase AC 240V, 32A. Nissan Leafs are by far and away the best selling EV here and most can only charge at 16A AC (+12~18 miles per hour). So if I drive 30 miles down the m’way to see a friend at his local watering hole, charge up locally so at least I can turn on the heating coming back home. . Chademos (+150 miles per hour @ <80% charge) Are mostly sited at and locked in at Nissan Dealers. There seems to be no national infrastructure to space them out. Same with Ecotricity who put them at "Welcome break" m'way stations regardless if there are local Chademos around. The same company are now also going to install at a dozen Ikea stores around England. Once again, no main battle plan like there was in… Read more »