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Bonkers Blog January 2020

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19 January - White elephants?

Car charging point Car charging point Car charging pointThere was a gratifying number of responses to my admission that I hadn’t found the Nuxley Road electric vehicle charging point. (I had lazily only driven round the Albert Road triangle.) They came by email, web form and Twitter notification. There was a map reference and photographs too but perhaps the most useful guidance was “outside the ugly new flats”. They weren’t joking, how on earth did they come to be approved?

Whether it shows an interest in electric vehicles or how Bexley wastes money I have no idea.

Anyway, I went there this morning and found the charge point easily enough. I would have parked right by it but in a sign of things to come one of the bays was occupied by a German Gas Guzzler. There will of course be two bays but therein lies a problem. As is very often the case, Kia, Hyundai, Nissan, MG, Renault, my charging point is at the front of the car. Nuxley Road being a one way street it would have been quite impossible to use the second bay and charge because the cable isn’t long enough.

The charging point said it was Awaiting Commission but the water had got there first. The display panel was unreadable because water had found its way inside.

I know I am spoiled with my electric car, it will take me more than 300 miles on a single charge and I can charge it for very little money at home, but I still can’t see the point of Bexley’s chargers.

When I bought my EV 16 months ago the 7kW AC charge points were generally free to use, subsidised by shops or a tourist attraction as their Unique Selling Point and most still are. A very large number of the 50kW DC units were also free as introductory offers from various small start-up companies. The latter is no longer true. I don’t know of any DC chargers outside Scotland (where the Government seems to provide everything for nothing) which remain free. Some revert to free when their phone signal goes down but generally speaking you pay.

16 months ago there were privately owned 50kW chargers in Bexley that were either free (Lidl) or as little as 9 pence a kWh (Starbucks). Lidl now demands 23 pence a kWh and the going rate elsewhere has risen so 35 pence plus. One of the European operators has just announced a five fold increase to 80 pence a kilowatt hour making EV running costs higher than diesel. It may be tolerable on convenience grounds on a once a year cross country trip but not for day to day motoring.

But back to Bexley’s puny 7kW units. What use are they?

For me none whatsoever, I charge at home. How about those not so lucky?

A 7kW charge point will deliver about 30 miles of range per hour, nearer 20 on a large luxury vehicle. How long can one stay charging for? Two hours maximum? 50 miles possibly? Not very practical for someone who might want to charge overnight for the daily commute and no long distance driver will want to divert to Nuxley Road and get only a handful of miles per hour.

In the UK it is mandatory for all new charging units to accept contactless bank cards and that costs the operators money, both the mobile phone link and the individual bank transfer fee. For a unit which will be used rarely with perhaps one transaction every two hours at best the financial overheads are enormous. It isn’t a problem only for Bexley of course, it is a nationwide chicken and egg problem.

The solution is to charge only for the 50kW plus DC units which can fill a battery every 30 minutes. The 7kW units chosen by Bexley Council only make sense when provided as a free attraction at supermarkets and National Trust properties etc. where a pound’s worth of electricity per hour is easily absorbed into a multitude of marginal costs. Will Bexley Council have had the foresight to put a bank of free chargers in the Hall Place car park? No sign of it yet.

One of my new EV correspondents says that electric cars only make sense on long journeys. In my view that is entirely back to front. If I exclude the occasional long journey my motoring consists of pottering around Outer London for no more than 100 miles a week. For that sort of motoring an EV is at its most economical. Mine consistently says it will do well over 300 miles at such speeds. The highest I saw was 384 miles but 340 is more usual. Even on my full price day electricity tariff that is only £8 and the maintenance costs are next to nothing. The annual dealer service is under £80.

BP Chargemaster, Bexley’s charging contractor, does not currently give a price for Contactless payment on its website for 7kW units but their minimum published tariff on more powerful units would cost me £20 and leave me parked by the roadside for ten hours. Who is going to pay Bexley’s prices when 7kW charging is free at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Lidl?

Meanwhile Bexley remains the only London borough with no public charging points.

Note: 7kW charging cables are provided with the car or bought as an accessory and are not found at charging points. DC units are chargers because they feed the battery directly via an attached cable. AC units are charging points because they supply electricity to the charger built into the car. Most are rated at 7kW but there have been 3kW units and 11 (three phase so not often useful) is beginning to be more common.


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