The Ecotricity Electric Highway is designed to enable electric vehicle owners to travel the length and breadth of the country
By Gavin Conway on July 27, 2011 5:27 PM
A scheme that will see charging posts powered by renewable
energy at motorway service stations right across the UK has been
Energy company Ecotricity,
which supplies a large percentage of its power from renewable energy
such as wind turbines, aims to complete 12 installations at Welcome
Break services by September.
The idea is that, theoretically, a pure
electric motorist could travel the length of Britain using the free
network, which would be fuelled by Ecotricity’s wind and solar parks
across the UK (for the record, Ecotricity also supplies energy generated
via fossil fuels and nuclear, though most is from renewables). That
would make any such journey genuinely zero emission, or close to it if
you want to count the emissions resulting from manufacture and transport
to the showroom.
Each charging point will feature a fast charger (32A) for a quick
top-up or a full charge in a couple of hours. There is also a 13A supply
option, which is good if you’re staying overnight at a services hotel.
It’s an intriguing idea, and is a welcome boost to public awareness
of EVs. But in purely practical terms such a motorway network is
probably premature, at least until we see significant improvements in
pure EV range. Even the best new pure-electrics – the Tesla Roadster
apart – aren’t capable of much more than 100 miles. And very
considerably less than that if you’re going at the legal limit on a
So while the idea of driving your EV from London to Edinburgh is a
pretty exciting notion, the reality is that you’d face running out of
range at least seven times on the 400-plus mile journey. Again, nice
idea but Ecotricity’s statement that ‘electric vehicles will be able to
travel the length and breadth of Britain’ is still something for only
the most adventurous.
Pure EVs are not meant for long cross-country journeys and it does
nobody any favours to suggest otherwise. At the moment, the scheme is
probably more relevant to extended-range EVs like the Vauxhall Ampera –
being able to take advantage of a rapid-charge top-up while you take a
services break would at least make the journey a little more fuel
The first three of Ecotricity’s ‘top-up zones’ are ready now at
Welcome Break’s South Mimms services at the Junction of the M1 and M25,
Green Park Business Park on the M4 and Michaelwood Services on the M5.
Each post will be located outside the main entrance, with two sockets
that can be accessed by registering for a free swipecard here. Within 18 months all 27 Welcome Break motorway services will have charging points.
If you use one, we’d love to hear about your experience. We also want
to know what you think about promoting long-distance electric motoring –
get involved in the comments!