The number of chargers in the country is rapidly approaching the number of petrol stations, so you could be forgiven for thinking that the problem of long distance travel in an ev have been solved.
for a lot of motorway journeys, you are well covered with the sometimes-reliable Ecotricity or the Polar Network rapids. In some parts of the country such as Milton Keynes and Dundee, you are awash with charging options. Other places however like Yorkshire, Sussex and Norfolk, you are in for a bit more pain.
Driving a 24KWh Nissan Leaf like I do, you are acutely aware that your return journey range of roughly 80 miles in summer or 70 in Winter, is the realistic maximum you can achieve. You may be lucky and be going somewhere which has a 7KW post or if you’re really lucky, a rapid. Certainly around Sussex, those locations are very limited.
From Billingshurst, I occasionally travel to Uckfield. The only charger which is even close to useable on that route is the Pease Pottage rapid. That requires a not insignificant diversion. Let’s just say that there were a dozen or so 7KW post’s in Uckfield. That would help to a point, but I may still be left with a long walk from there to my destination.
Could lamp post charging be a solution? Perhaps, Companies like Ubitricity have made great progress with developing the technology. At the moment however you still need a dedicated cable to use them. Those can be expensive. These would be ideal if they could just use a standard cable. But then who pays?
With BP and Shell getting involved in the charging market, we can hopefully expect to see forecourt charging options improve. Potentially they will be more expensive than others but at least it gives us more options.
Is this even needed?
For an 80 mile range Nissan leaf, the usable distance around Sussex you could travel is around 35 – 40 miles. With the current crop of cars hitting the market, a minimum range of around 140 miles is common. So is 70 miles each way, reasonable? Probably. That is the distance from Billingshurst to Rye. How about when we start seeing more 300 mile range cars such as the Kona 64KWh or Niro? A 150 mile each way range would get you to Leicester. How important at that point are chargers on every street?
For people without home charging, it is a problem. However, assuming that the average commute is less than 30 miles in the UK, a 300 mile range car would only need to be charged once every ten days theoretically. Public charging at forecourts becomes practical.
So is there an actual lack of chargers? Yes and no. For todays and yesterdays cars, travelling any serious distance can become a bit of a mission depending on where you live. That isn’t to say it is impossible, just harder than it aught to be. With the new generations of cars however, most of these problems disapear. We are all used to travelling somewhere other than our homes to put fuel in cars. That won’t change for a good proportion of drivers. For the ones lucky enough to have home charging, they will very rarely even need to visit a forecourt. That means in a practical sense, the forecourts will be at least 50% less busy than today. If charging up to 80% can happen in less than 15 minutes with a 200KW – 350KW charger, the time spent at the station is not dissimilar to today either.
The naysayers will probably be disappointed.