By now, electric vehicle owners and those on the verge of going down the EV road will know that there are various on-car connectors that attach to various charging point sockets. Some cars charge more slowly than others and, obviously a suitable EV charging cable is needed in every case. For this reason the Nissan Leaf, for example, has a choice of two connections; a Type 2 connector and a CHAdeMO connector for rapid charging.
Charging an electric car at home or at the workplace means that the cost is borne as part of the home electricity bill or by arrangement with the employer. That’s straightforward; what is not so clear is how to pay at public charging points. An issue aside from connectors arises because different companies supply the charging network and each has its own method for payment. This is a matter of confusion for electric motorists and is something that perhaps should have been foreseen.
The Payment Problem
In our so-called ‘cashless’ society the idea of putting a coin in a slot went out with the old fashioned pay-for-power electricity meters that used to be found in our grandparents’ homes many years ago. Insert a coin, turn the switch and the lights came on. Simple.
Now of course, we have the onset of smart home charging stations in our homes that require no input from the householder at all. Not so with EV charging points. The proud owner of a clean, green electric car now finds that on longer journeys where potentially a top-up charge will be needed, it becomes a matter of forward planning to source locations where certain types of payments can be processed and here’s why:
Charging Station Payment Options:
Although many EV charge points are free to use, the majority of fast and rapid chargers require payment. Charging tariffs tend to comprise a flat connection fee, a cost per charging time of pence per hour or a cost per energy consumed in kilowatts. Across the UK there are a number of charging networks from different brands with an ever-increasing volume of charging posts. All of these locations can be found via an app in every case which at least takes the guesswork out of it.
These companies can take differing approaches to charger access. One of this country’s largest networks for example, uses a subscription service via an app or Radio-Frequency ID card where customers pay monthly for access. Included within this cost is free charging on around half their points, otherwise there is a small cost per kiloWatt elsewhere. They also use a pay-as-you-go service which makes points available via a smartphone app to those who don’t otherwise subscribe to their service. Customers load a minimum credit amount to get started but pay on every occasion. Other suppliers use similar methods.
One brand is rolling out contactless bank card access across their network’s rapid chargers, which requires no subscription or app to use although it will incur a transaction fee. Again, charging is priced on a per kWh basis with a minimum fee applicable. Meanwhile, Tesla owners simply roll up at a Supercharger station and wait for their EV to be recharged. There are even regional networks, although most also have access for customers of larger EV networks.
It all depends on how an electric car is to be used. Most journeys for most of us are relatively local and home or workplace charging takes care of it. As EV’s become increasingly common and range increases so we will inevitably travel further afield; that means using the growing public network.
Don’t see this as a major drawback though. Remember in the days before satellite navigation routes would be planned by sitting at home and studying a map. EV travel is the same; plan your journey and establish which company offers the best options for en-route charging. Apps are an accepted part of our lifestyle now so should be familiar to most.
The benefit of subscription services via smartphone of RFID card are that they collect data enabling users to track cost and usage and also make rapid chargers available, meaning a stop need only be 20-30 minutes assuming the right charging cable is on on board. For those who travel further more often it may even pay to be a member of more than one service. Get organised in advance and distance electric car travel is easy.