UK motorway services get EV charging points

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 launched.

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 motorway.

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 efficient.

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!