EV charging – useful information

Glossary

CCS = Combined Charging System using AC and DC for faster charge

EV = Electric vehicle

Fast chargers = 7-22kWh AC charging. Ours is a type 2

Rapid chargers = 50kW DC charging or 43kW AC charging. There’s also a 100+ kWh but that’s not compatible with our car

RFID = radio-frequency identification charging card – hopefully being replaced now by apps.

Tethered = charging unit with a fixed charging cable

Untethered = bring your own cable!

Tethered versus untethered home charger

Tethered = Convenient to use as the cable is part of the unit and doesn’t have to be rolled up and stored in car or in garage. The cable is more secure as it can’t be stolen. It’s often cheaper to buy the combined unit and cable.

Untethered = You can take the lead in the car and use it out and about. If you need to change the lead for a longer one you don’t have to change whole unit. You can connect cars with different connections. The unit looks less cluttered as the lead’s not hanging down.

EV Charging apps and systems we’ve used

I will continue to update this as we venture more widely

BP Chargemaster – this app seems to operate the Polar charging network – which is possibly why I’ve been unsuccessful at signing up to Polar Plus (a subscription service – £7.85 per month with first three months free then 15p for kWh rapid charging). I’ve managed to sign up for Polar instant which is Pay as you go and 25p per kWh rapid charging. You have to load a minimum of £20 from your debit card to get started. They’re rolling out contactless charging at 40p per kWh. We’ve used successfully – once as contactless on debit card and once through BPChargemaster app.

Ecotricity/Electric Highway –  covers motorway network. Free to register 30p per kWh used. Access through app or RFID card. We used successfully at Cobham Services.

Pod-Point – memberhip free and 15 minute emergency grace charging period. Have to add debit card and set up a credit. We’ve ordered our home charger through Pod-Point.

Polar – see BP Chargemaster above. Polar chargers at Toby Carvery on A27 and Polhill which might be useful on my regular trips.

Smoov – app is free. Doesn’t store payment details. Apparently you input them once you’ve started a session but we haven’t managed to get this app working as yet.

Source London – Subscription requires RFID card. You pay £4 per month then 9.5p per minute for 22 kWh, or a one-off £10 then 11.5p per minute for 22 kWh, or PAYG is 14.3p per minute for 22 kWh. I might try this in Chislehurst.

Zap-Map – great app for locating charging stations. You can filter to your specific car and then choose services, stations, etc… Invaluable information about EV charging. I strongly recommend you download.

A short note on charging types

Our car uses a Type 2 connection. It also takes a rapid charge from a CCS. It can’t use a Fast Charging AC connection or a CHA-de_MO or Tesla connection.Guide-to-Charging-lead-plugs

Transitioning to an electric car – the journey continues…

Day Two

Next day we load the car and set off for our ‘staycation’. The battery range reads 70 miles but almost as soon as we pull away it drops down to 50.

‘Why is it dropping so fast?’ I ask.

We consult the handbook. ‘Pro’ is the best setting for battery economy and we’re on the default setting ‘Comfort.’ It’s 35 degrees but we try turning off the air con. The battery range begins to creep up. With a few adjustments and the air con set at a miserly 25, we eek out the mileage and make it to Cobham services.

The charger terminal here is owned by Ecotricity so we have to download another app. Apart from a message to say our car is not compatible and won’t charge quite as fast as it should, it seems to be working. We leave the car charging and go to find the loos and a coffee.

The charge takes 45 mins. We get 7.9 kWh for £2.37. Bargain!

As we pull away we note the battery range reads 53 miles. This is not enough to cover the remaining journey. We’ll have to stop again.

The battery economy seems quite good on the motorway. The battery self-charges whenever you take your foot off the accelerator. We stop again at Oxford Services. There’s a charge point but it’s in use and the man has only just started, so we drive on to Oxford Pear Tree. This is also in use but the lady says she’ll only be another 15 minutes. There’s nothing nearer our destination so we wait. The distance between Cobham and here was 60 miles and the battery range still shows 20 so we’ve done well.

We plug in but the Ecotricity app tells us the charger’s already in use. It doesn’t seem to have cleared when the lady finished. We fiddle with it for some time. It appears to be charging but I suspect only slowly and someone else is now queuing to use the charger.

Best-gin-bars.-Feathers-Hotel-WoodstockWe give up and limp on to Woodstock where we park up. The hotel doesn’t have a charger and the home charger is useless away from home – we can’t exactly knock on someone’s door. We’ve got two days before we have to go anywhere so we’ll worry about it then. Meanwhile, lead me to the gin bar…

 

Day Three

After two days in Woodstock visiting Blenheim Palace and gardens, we head off on our journey home. We locate a charge point on the A44 at Yarnton. Zap-Map tells us it’s a Polar charger but luckily there’s an option to pay with a debit card. We have a successful charge of 11.90kWh in 55 minutes for £3.57.

We stop again at Runnymede Hotel on the M25. This is a BPChargemaster but it won’t work.

  1. It says it’s in use (it isn’t)
  2. It says I need to swipe the charger with my card, but it won’t accept my debit card.

We ring the help number on the charger and the man is very helpful. He tells us sometimes the chargers don’t clear but he can fix that remotely. The card is another issue. Apparently, this is a special card that will be sent to me. As I downloaded the app a few days before, he’s willing to check the status of my application. A few moments later he’s able to confirm I’m approved and he sets up the unit to charge.

IMG_7688We go into the hotel and enjoy lunch overlooking the canal. If we don’t have lunch, we’ll be charged £40 for parking to use the charger. I guess we have to get used to two-hour car drives taking four and a half hours, but there are worse ways of whiling away an hour.

We have another successful charge of 11.10kWh in 55 minutes for £3.56.

I’ve come to realise that saving the planet is not easy, but I’m reasonably confident that these charging issues are teething problems and once we know what we’re doing, life with our electric car will become easier.

Meanwhile here are my top tips:

  • Be aware that not all filling stations have chargers.
  • Be aware that not all chargers have leads.
  • Download Zap-Map before taking delivery of your electric car and research which EV charging company apps you’re most likely to use. Download these apps and register in advance.
  • The apps sometimes tell you a charger is free but if there are three types of charger lead on one terminal it won’t let you use it if someone’s already using one of the other leads.  I’m unclear yet whether this is the case everywhere – or perhaps it’s a COVID restriction?
  • If you’re going to charge your car ‘out and about’ purchase your own charging lead and carry it with you.
  • Order a home charger. Decide in advance whether you want tethered or untethered -see pros and cons. Be aware they’ll take your money up-front and it might be several weeks before they supply and install your home charger.

 

 

 

How to save the planet – an idiot’s guide -transitioning to an electric car.

I’ve been saying for a while it would be good to get an electric car, sadly they were out of my price bracket. Then I was away for a couple of days granny duties and returned to find my husband had all but done the deal.

‘It was too good an offer to miss,’ he says.

‘It’s black,’ I say, ‘a bit boring. Still,’ I muse, ‘if we’re saving the planet…’

Day One

We pick up our electric car from 0260 in Crowborough – a four-year-old BMW i3 REX. Actually, it’s a kind of hybrid as it has range extender – a petrol generator which acts a charger if the battery runs down. I joke it will be my mission to never use the range extender as it sort of defeats the purpose but it’s a good safety net.IMG_7426

We get a brief tutorial:

‘The charger lead is under the bonnet. This is the flap where you plug it in – it’s been fully charged – and here’s the petrol filler. Any problems, just call me.’

As we drive away the battery shows 50 miles capacity and the range extender an additional 80.

‘That’s not as much as I was led to believe,’ I say. ‘I thought the range was supposed to be 85 miles when fully charged?  Perhaps it’s lost a bit standing around…’

We head off for a drive across Ashdown Forest. We want to do a trial charge somewhere as tomorrow we’re driving up to Oxfordshire for my birthday ‘staycation’.

We’d planned for the electric car’s arrival with as much diligence as if it were a new-born baby. After researching the best apps, we downloaded the charging locator Zap-Map to our phones, along with apps for Pod-Point and BP Chargemaster which have quite a few charging stations located locally. We also pre-ordered our own home charger. There are two types, tethered and untethered. The tethered charger has a lead already attached, while with an untethered you purchase the lead separately. We deciding to go for an untethered as this gave us a separate charging lead and meant if we upgraded our car for another model or wanted to offer the charging facility to friends and family we didn’t need to purchase a new unit.

The process of ordering a home changer is a bit long winded. You can get a grant of £350 but that’s often already deducted from the quoted cost. Ours will be £750 – that’s with the grant already deducted but includes installation. You complete three online forms including one where you upload a series of photos to show the cable route. It’s generally an ‘okay’ process if you take your time, although we’ve got a three week wait before installation. Meanwhile we’ll use the home charging cable which plugs into a 3 pin socket. You can’t use an extension cable as it will blow your fuses so you need to be able to park close enough to a house socket where the lead will reach.

Anyway, back to the trial charge:

With our trip to Oxfordshire looming, it was essential to be able to charge our car while ‘out and about’. We consulted Zap-Map and found the nearest charger south was Lewes, but we decided to drive west towards East Grinstead. According to Zap-Map, East Grinstead and Lingfield stations both have Pod-Point chargers so we were all set. We drove into East Grinstead station car park and located the charge point. It was available – hurray. A sign warned us we’d have to pay the car parking charge if we’d be there more than 20 minutes. As we were novices we decided to pay the £5.60 day rate – ouch – but needs must. We opened the bonnet and took out the charger, but the connections were wrong. This was the 3 pin home charger. So where was the one that plugged into the Pod-Point unit?

I ring 0260. ‘Where’s our lead to charge the car?’

‘Under the bonnet.’

‘That’s just the home charger.’

‘You only get a home charger.’

‘How are we supposed to connect to a charger out and about?’

‘They have leads attached.’

‘No, they don’t’.

‘Really? I thought they all had leads?’

‘Nope.’

‘The ones in garages have leads.’

‘The ones on the motorway services do,’ I say, ‘but not the ones anywhere else.’

I google charger leads. You can buy them on Amazon but we don’t have time to wait for a delivery as we’re off in the morning. After a couple of phone calls we locate a charger lead at a BMW garage in Tunbridge Wells. The five-metre cable is £165 including vat.

We drive to Tunbridge Wells. The battery is now down to 20 miles which doesn’t bode well. We buy the lead and consult Zap-Map again.

‘There’s a charge point at the garage in St. John’s,’ I say.

We head there. We read all the instructions. The charge point is owned by Smoov. This is not one of the apps we’ve downloaded. My husband downloads the app, giving them loads of info about us and the car. He enters his debit card details and scans the terminal.

A message pops up on the app, ‘a problem has occurred…’

I repeat the entire process on my phone with my personal details.

‘A problem has occurred…’

It’s very hot, we’ve been out for four hours and we’re both ratty. My husband has had enough. We limp home on the remaining battery, move my husband’s car out of the car port so we can connect the home charger and plug in. The car goes on charge at 4.00 pm. It tells us it will reach 80% by 1.33 am. We leave it on overnight hoping for the best.

Read on…