Electric-Car Charging Networks: Don't Use 'Em To Travel Far, Says Company

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Polar Charging Post and Nissan Leaf

Polar Charging Post and Nissan Leaf

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Lately, we’ve seen a lot of new charging networks spring up around the world devoted to getting electric car owners the power they need to keep their cars charged up. 

But a U.K. based, government-backed charging infrastructure company has outraged electric car owners by suggesting that its network of member-only level 2 charging stations aren’t intended for anything more than providing a top-up charge.

In a heated discussion between Nissan Leaf owners into its newly-launched charging network, Polar Network sales director Neil Sharpe said that its level 2 charging stations were not designed to help electric car owners travel well beyond the range of their car’s battery pack.

“We are primarily installing 40 charging bays in 100 towns and cities in the first wave which are intended to ‘top up’ [plug-in hybrids] and [electric cars],” Sharpe clarified in a discussion about why the firm wasn’t implementing rapid charging protocols in its charging stations. “The intention is not to range extend [electric cars] that are being used above their range capacity regularly - a use to which [plug-in hybrids] are far more suited.”

In other words, if you’re planning on using the level 2 charging stations to give your car a full recharge, you might be considered to be abusing the system. 

And while owners of cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2012 Mitsubishi I say it is rapid chargers that they really need, Level 2 chargers are what charging companies are focusing on. 

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

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The Polar network joins yet more charging networks already in existence in the U.K. Rather than charge a nominal yearly membership fee and providing free electricity, Polar follows a subscription scheme similar to the one already run by NRG Energy in Houston, Texas, in which customers can choose a level of access depending on their needs. 

Starting at the equivalent of $30 a month, customers are given a charging card which enables them to unlock the polar network charging stations. Every time a member uses a post, their account it debited an additional $1.40, regardless of how long they plug in. 

Costs rise to $46 a month for U.K. customers who want Polar to fit a charging station in their home as well as provide access to its network. On top of that, there’s a one-off installation fee of $150, and customers will have to pay for the electricity used at home to recharge on their own utility bill. 

Polar’s premium package, including charging stations at a customer’s home and office, raises the price considerably to $62 a month. 

Traditionally, lower-power level 2 electric car charging networks have been most use to businesses which don’t really care about the costs incurred because it is classified as an expense, or long-distance electric car drivers who don’t mind waiting around while their cars recharge.

In reality however, until large numbers of rapid charging stations are included in membership-only charging schemes like this, we expect most private electric car drivers to be a little more resourceful in finding the right place to plug-in.

Are schemes like this a good or bad idea? Are they overpriced or would you pay for them? And if electric car charging stations aren’t for long-distance drivers, who are they for? Let us know in the Comments below. 

 [EDIT: Since posting this story, the original post at the leaftalk.co.uk forums has been edited by Mr. Neil Sharpe to a not-so-strongly worded alternative. In the interests of transparency, here is the new section, verbatim:

"The POLAR network is designed to provide available 'top-up' charging in local areas where you will park for a period of time which means privately owned car parks such as Supermarkets and Rail stations. We are also paying for all this ourselves, with an initial £10m being invested."

We would like to publicly invite Mr. Sharpe to discuss the his modified post and the reasons for changing it here on Green Car Reports]


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Comments (9)
  1. they are for people with too much money

  2. In order for adoption to really take off, DC (level 3) charging is really needed for commuters, fleets and long-distance drivers. A comprehensive network, like EVGo in Texas is what the consumers demand. In most jurisdictions, this will mean assistance from multiple governmental levels and utilities. Overcharging the early-adopters is not helping one bit.

  3. The mere idea of level 2 chargers in public charge stations makes little, if any, sense. First off, it's a stupid way to make money, since it is so inefficient. Of course, if the govt is involved, that explains that. So exactly who is this aimed at? It's obviously not aimed at those who have no ability to plug in at home, or those on a trip. The billing procedure is obviously
    aimed at short charge times, since it's on a per-use basis. I
    would say that this whole stupid setup is illogical and so poorly thought out that it could only have come from a department of some govt. My prediction is that independent gas stations will be the logical location for quick recharge stations. Nowhere else makes much sense.

  4. Ramon,

    The down vote was a mistake. It was supposed to be a thumbs up.

  5. Level 2 charging is a dead end. It has very little practical use except in places where cars are parked for a long time like home and work. For EVs to really take off a level 3 fast charging infrastructure is needed + batteries that can handle fast charging on a regular basis. Until that happens charging will be done mostly at home and investment in a level 2 charging infrastructure is mostly a waste of money.

  6. I spend about $45 per YEAR on electricity to drive my EV about 3,000 miles. No way would I pay anyone $46 or more per month for a charge or charger access. A total non-starter for me.

  7. The Polar Network business model sounds a little sleezy in my opinion. But this article brings up an important related issue. I am concerned with all the government subsidies for level 2 public charging stations. I don't believe they will be much help to EV owners and it wastes public money. What we need is just a few strategically located rapid chargers. A Level 2 public charger at Walmart is nice but, it is more of a marketing/PR tool for the Corporation than a needed piece of infrastructure. Free EV charging while you shop is perceived by the customer as having more value than it actually does. The EV owning customer would be better served with a $1 off coupon. I would prefer my tax dollars not just subsidize Corporate PR.

  8. I've been working to get a Level 2 charging station installed in the City parking garage in which I park all day when I'm at work. The City has been kind enough to allow me to plug into their 110V (for just $5/month, their actual cost) until they install a Level 2, but I'm pushing the range limit on my Th!nk, and will make full use of a Level 2, every work day (120 mi round-trip).

    If there is going to be tax dollar subsidies used, rather than benefit a corporation, keep the benefit in the city (county, State) where the money is coming from. A City parking garage/lot is a perfect spot. (BTW, I'm not a City employee, my firm's office is attached to the garage; and I pay to park there, so this isn't a 'freebie')

  9. As a Leaf and G-Wiz woner in the UK I would have to say that it is highly unlikley that I would buy this service. Although ambitious (and that is what we need) the guddle of different charge facilities that is developing in the UK may mean that you have to pay several subscriptions for national coverage.

    Interestingly I can't find anything on the Polar web site that says you have to pay each time you plug in - if that really is the case then this is a no-no for me. I would pay a subscription if it covered every scheme and the whole country or I would PAYG but not both!.

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