The number of charging points for electric cars is ever-growing. Car dealerships, motorway service stations, supermarkets and kerbside parking bays all have them.
But of course, they’re only ever any good if they’re working. And, in London – where most of them are – the numbers out of action has caused problems. One difficulty has been that, although their upkeep is the responsibility of the 33 boroughs that make up Greater London, there’s been no one company or authority responsible for maintaining them.
Add to that the fact there are four types of car-to-charger connector and three charging modes (not all of which suit every car) and you’ve pretty much recipe-perfect confusion.
No surprise then that the number of out-of-action point rose to an extent that threatened the system. Help, however, is at hand.
A company called Source London is now close to signing maintenance contracts with every London borough. Ten are in the process of signing, while the others are expected to follow once they see how the new arrangements work.
Source’s parent company, Bollore, runs the charging network for Paris. One lesson learned from there is that the system becomes far easier to keep running if every charger is of the same design. This also helps electric car drivers.
The news follows a frustrating six months for owners in which up to two of three chargers across the capital were broken. Source London bought the network from Transport for London last year, paying £1m. It began operating it in September without the support of the boroughs.
While £500 per year per charger was budgeted for repairs, the work was previously left to the charger manufacturers.
Outside London, installation of charging points centre on cities and along motorway corridors, although shopping centres and retail parks are also beginning to install them – the giant Meadowhall complex on the M1 at Sheffield has just put in its first rapid-charge points, for instance.
Transport for Greater Manchester has 300 points up and running so far, although only a few are rapid-charge. Those across the city’s 10 boroughs are run by Charge Your Car, which has 1500 points in all across the UK.
Currently there are five other companies operating the UK’s chargers. The Polar Network has around 4000 points under its control but others, such as Ecotricity are relatively small, with only about 100 points. Others still, such as Zero Carbon World, specialise in providing chargers at hotels, pubs and health clubs. Finally, there’s Tesla, which is building a network or rapid-charge points, of use only for its own vehicles.