Bumps in the road for the EV transition?

Just finished a 450 mile drive from Scotland to the south coast in my Onto ID3. My route is well-served by Ionity charging stations and I do 3 stops at Alnwick, Leeds and Milton Keynes.

I’ve been doing this drive in a variety of Onto EVs for about 2.5 years. Obviously we’ve only had access to Ionity and the Shell card for about 2 of those years.

I was really struck today how things have changed over the last 6 months.

6 months ago, I could almost always be guaranteed an available charger on arrival at each of the Ionity locations. Today, all of the stations were full on arrival. Although I didn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes, by the time I left Leeds there were about a dozen EVs waiting for the 6 units, all in use.

I guess this is the result of factors including:

  • Increased EV numbers on the roads
  • Increased Christmas travel volumes
  • Increased charging demand in cold and wet conditions
  • Ionity still being priced at 69p/kWh (which was once eye watering but is now below market rate)

What is annoying is that there was a lot of charging to very high SOC (well beyond 80%), including two cases of unattended vehicles sitting at 100%.

Compared to an ICE, today’s EV journey felt like more of a compromise than it has in the past. It was a hark back to the days of driving the Zoe at 65mph and hunting a rare working polar unit in a hotel car park.

In the mobility transition, it feels like we’ve just taken a bit of a step back over the last 6 months. We need a bit more infrastructure and innovation to keep powering on.

Hmm…

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I think we’re going to see a lot of this playing catch-up between the charging infrastructure and EV sales until well after mass adoption unfortunately.

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I think there will always be bumps in the road, when moving to a better way of driving…

Skelton Lake is a mess, and anyone who uses it regularly, me included will tell you stories of woe, and slow charging speeds…

Increased traffic I don’t think helped coupled with the rail strikes…

And most people don’t pay 69p /kWh … when my P*2 arrives its 30p / kWh same as Elli

But to give a bit of context, I saw mile long queues for a Petrol Station in Sheffield (CostCo) over the Christmas Week, 2 petrol stations closed this week, with no fuel, and others again with people queueing…

Yet I got to the chargers I use, and no queue, just plugged in and went shopping and got on with my day…

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The biggest bump in the road in the bit of North Manchester I live has been British Gas and Openreach equipping their fleet with EV vans. They don’t half bing up the chargers. It’s rendered my nearest Instavolt nigh on unusable. Thankfully EV power seem to be coming up trumps and there are several new forecourts being built/waiting to come online in Oldham where I work. Rochdale is an absolute desert though, the council seem determined to stick with be.ev and no-one uses them because it’s a right faff that involves accounts and direct debits.

Be.ev seems to be a Greater Manchester wide issue - it’s the same in Wigan. Fortunately (for now) there’s a couple of Instavolts at McDonald’s that I tend to use when I’m up here.

I’ve had a couple of similar experiences in December on journeys from Oxford to Wigan, where I’ve had to queue/wait/find other chargers to use, and again at the MFG units at Wrightington where speeds were very slow and there was a queue. I do think it’s partly rail strikes combined with increased seasonal travel. But, I agree… it feels like we’re reaching the limit of the infrastructure we’ve got and we’re now at a point where a lot more public charging points are needed, and soon.

As an aside, it does’t help that I’m in a Zoe at the moment and it’s unusual to get more than 25kW charging even on DC charging units. I feel like charging speed is the next thing that really needs to see improvements, tech-wise (or at least I need to find a faster charging EV for my next car!).

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Some things I think would make improvements to public charging, before it is possible to install lots of new infrastructure:

  1. Fix charge points that are broken in a timely manner (or remove them). Too many charge points break and then sit like that for months. Here’s looking at you, BP and Shell.

  2. Make universal roaming possible. The Shell card is pretty good… but the networks are still too fragmented.

  3. Make it really easy to see accurate, live availability of charging stations in an app that also does journey planning with live traffic. ABRP and Zap Map are good, but not quite there.

  4. Implement pricing that penalises over-stayers on rapid and ultra chargers. Price per kWh could increase above 80% (potentially on a sliding scale) and a penalty charge per minute when the car is charged to 100% and still occupying the station.

  5. Enable pre-booking/ reservation of charging points. It could rely on a similar penalty charge system for overstayers choosing to use a charge point that has an imminent booking. And the customer reserving could be charged a premium (refunded if the charge point is in fact blocked, non-refundable if the session is not used, cancelled after 15 minutes of no-show).

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:point_up_2:

Yup. All of the above (although some reservation that “booking” chargers might really work.

Plus make the design of units and locations:

  • Easy to find / signage …. Which could easily include little lights signifying operational and availability

  • Accessible to all - regardless of physical restrictions

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Only other thing that needs to be in place is a queueing system, or a FIFO (first in first out) traffic flow through the chargers.

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Why not get rid of RFID and bleeding Apps and just make it like at a Dino Juice station, Debit or Credit Card, or a Fuel Card, nothing else…

Its need to be simple…

This might sound controversial, but why people are paying for a service, and they dont need to move from a Fuel pump at 80% so why should they at an EV Charger…
yes a lot of us EV Nerds understand it, but others will say why not Im paying for it…

And there needs to be destination chargers so if people do need to go to 100%

No, you dont need to book a fuel pump, so why and EV Charger, this will lead to people been more chuffs than owt.

I noticed that the Ionity in Chippenham was continuously busy on a run to Wales just before Christmas. Also the 4 Instavolts at Three Trees farm off j15 on the M4 seemed to be continually in use. Definitely an increase in EV’s on the road these days and although the charging infrastructure is growing it’s not keeping up.

I think charging to a high SOC is mostly driven by EV’s with a fairly short range combined with the poor distribution of chargers and risk of not getting on a charger at the next planned stop.

Even in the summer when I was travelling to Cornwall in an ID3, I found that my charging was far from ideal both from a point of view of efficiency and freeing up the charger. If I took the approach of getting down to around 20% and charging to 80% and then I would be at a point where there was only one or two rapids and a long way out of my way to any alternative. Add to that the amenities to ensure you could combine the stop with lunch / coffee break and many locations were less convenient. Also my destination in Cornwall had very few rapids and the ones closest (20 minute drive) were continually having problems so I had to ensure I arrived with a decent level of charge to let me get around for a couple of days and reach a charger when I needed it. I did notice that the number of chargers in some places had increased significantly from the previous year though.

I swapped to a Zoe after that trip and this took the charging issue to a new level. I thought there was something wrong with it at first then realised that the best you can get from a Zoe is about 44KW below 50% charge then dropping to maybe 30KW. Zoe is a great runabout but isn’t really a good long distance car unless you are happy to add a lot of time to your journey for charging. I felt very guilty using an Ionity with a Zoe!

I think the combination of charging speed and the number / distribution of chargers is the key to this as the number of EV’s on the road increases. If you know you can get on a charger for a quick stop at a convenient point in your journey then people will see that it’s much better to do short boosts than long full charges.

I think the biggest bump is that the benefits of EV are being eroded before we see cost parity with ICE. It used to be a fairly clear model that the ongoing cost of running an EV would offset the increased upfront cost. The only thing left seems to be the lower cost per mile for electricity vs petrol but with the increased cost of electricity and removal of the incentives you need to do a lot of miles to justify the £10K premium for the upfront cost of an EV. I always used to hear that there are fewer moving parts so maintenance is cheaper with an EV. That doesn’t seem to be true as they still seem to be charging the same or more for a service.

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They are most definitely a magnitude fewer parts in an EV, very much simpler to service with next to nothing to do yearly. Brake pads/disks last probably twice as long. Tyres can be the same, or at least more than ICE before needing replacement. The only thing that needs regular replacement is brake fluid and that’s only after several years and the 12v battery.

Dealers are left with vastly less income from servicing so some are more than inflating what should be the normal low cost.

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You need to check out the fastned charge curves for a heads up on this for each car you might consider.

The best to my knowledge is the Audi etron… lot more money of course.
Only applies in optimal conditions, which is unlikely in the real world.

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Thanks. I think that’s where I found the info about the Zoe. My first thought was that it was just a bad BP Pulse charger and was only giving 30KW -strange how that would be my first assumption :grinning:.

I’ve swapped back into a 208 GT now (the first car I had with Onto). So much more fun to drive and faster charging but not quite as efficient as the Zoe. Also the range estimation was far more accurate with the Zoe than with the 208.

ID3 has been my favourite so far. A good balance of range and charge speed and a really comfortable, spacious car.

That’s one thing I really love with Onto. Trying different EV’s has really given me a view on the quirks of different brands and the things that make a real difference to the experience like range estimation. The differences in regen approach are remarkable. Took me a while to get used to the predictive regen / coasting in the ID3 but once I did I loved it.

I looked through a few of the manufacturers service plans again and they are mostly cheaper for EV’s but I was originally looking at the VW site which has a more expensive plan which includes a few extra bits. Dealers must be really fealing the pinch with lower maintenance and manufacturers setting up direct leasing / subscriptions.

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Yeah, the longer I live with the Zoe the more I’m considering switching it up for the Fiat 500e. I don’t do a lot of long journeys, but when I do (Oxford <-> Wigan) charging the Zoe adds 1h10 on to the journey. By contrast, with the 500e that would come down to 25 minutes. Might not be a huge time saving in the grand scheme of things, but on a 3h journey it feels like a lot.

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One of the reasons why I switched from the Zoe to the eC4. When I travel to Wigan that 100kw charging really negates the range of the car.

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Interesting data from ZapMap in the Guardian today on this subject:

Some electric car owners reported queues for chargers between Christmas and the new year, during one of the busiest periods for long-distance journeys. However, Melanie Shufflebotham, Zap-Map’s co-founder and chief operating officer, said “en route” rapid and ultra-rapid chargers were “going in at a pretty good rate” with nearly 1,000 additions during 2022.

I wonder what the solution is for the extreme variability in demand for en route charging?

To cope with Christmas or holiday travel you might want double the number of charging points, but they’re going to be unused most of the rest of the time.

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It’s great to see that so many more are being rolled out. I think it’s difficult and maybe even misleading to measure this by counting the number of chargers though as it’s so different to filling up with petrol so maybe some kind of comparative to explain the numbers. In 2019 there were articles celebrating that we had more chargers than petrol stations which implied that a single charger could provide the equivalent fuelling capability of a petrol station.

Filling a petrol car probably takes less than 10 minutes. By contrast, even the fastest charging EV’s on an ultra rapid are probably going to spend maybe 15 minutes minimum and more likely 30 to 40 minutes. Add to that the time it takes to get started with the various apps and payment methods,
a broken charger and having to move to the next bay. All this means that by contrast we will need to see a lot more chargers than we see petrol pumps in order to have the equivalent throughput.

A further issue today is that most EV’s struggle to get half the range of any ICE car so are going to need to charge more frequently than an ICE would need to refuel. A motorway service station may have 18 - 20 fuel pumps. The best examples of EV locations may only have 16 chargers and would need to have double the equivalent number of petrol pumps to get anywhere close to the throughput of the petrol station even with best case charging.

Having manufacturer dedicated EV charging stations is also absurd today and not surprising Tesla is starting to open this up as they must be embarrassed by it. Can you imagine pulling up at a Shell garage with your Ford to find that it was reserved for VW use only!

I think we will see a lot of forward and back with the charging as more chargers are rolled out but more EV cars are bought. We’ll also see improvements in charging capabilities such as speed and capacity as well as wireless charging. As we get a better distribution and reliability of charge points we will also see charging behaviour change from the anxious grab it while to can to sipping when you need it. Maybe there was a strategy behind the government pull back of incentives to slow down the take up of EV’s and let the charging networks catch up. :wink:

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Remember that for most people, using a rapid charger is rare event. They charge overnight at home, or at a convenient public destination charger, and their daily mileage is well within their vehicle’s range.

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This isn’t going to continue to be universally the case though. If I think about the area where I live, the whole neighborhood is flats/apartments… if EVs are to be accessible to everyone (like we need them to be) we need to recognise that a sizeable number of people - and in areas like mine, most people - will never be able to charge at home and so will be completely reliant on public, rapid charging.

The 80% thing is outdated, as a lot of cars will still pull a decent rate right up to 95%

We aren’t all in leafs…

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