Being that I run a web site extolling the virtues of the plug-in hybrid, it really is about time that I started to discover the perks of owning an electric car, namely free electricity. My main problem is that I don’t normally stop at motorway service stations and so have not seen the need to rush into it. Mind you, back in September I did report on towing my race car to a service station on the M1 where the trailer was transferred to Peter Godfrey of GRS, who was preparing the car for my next race. After the changeover, we stayed for a bite to eat, which would have been the perfect opportunity for a quick charge. But I did not have a card. Silly man!
This week’s journey home from Derby was fraught with traffic, and I forgot to visit the gents before departing. By the time I passed the M62 I was desperate for the toilet and so stopped at the next service station, parking in a normal parking bay while ignoring the free charging spots. On my arrival another Mitsubishi Outlander had just been plugged in, so after my own pit stop I went over to the owner and had a natter. I spent about half an hour talking and was impressed at the speed of the charge; while I was there it went from 3% to 73%.
It is worth pointing out right now that these charging devices are fairly brutal on the batteries and it is not recommended to use them as a matter of course. A quick charge once a month is fine, as that equates to only 60 charges over five years. Even fortnightly would only come to 130 charges over the same period, including the holidays. Weekly? I wouldn’t. It is for this reason that I also haven’t yet looked into having a charging system installed in my home. In fact, in seven months of ownership, I have only once been caught out by an only slightly depleted battery with the car parked on my drive. (Quick update: as ‘luck’ would have it tonight, while typing this article, became the second time).
So I have decided that it is time to sign up for both a charge card and a home charging station.
In total, it took me five minutes to sign up. This involved:
- Forgetting the name of the company and so googling for free electric car charging.
- This didn’t work, so I used this, my own web site, clicking on The Cars > Mitsubishi, and then the Outlander link. I scrolled near the bottom to a link to PHEV charging, and from there was a choice of providers
- I chose Ecotricity and include the link here:
- I filled in the form and sent it off.
All this was done in just five minutes. If a dope like me can manage that, then you should find it a doddle.
Charge Master The Mitsubishi page also listed Charge Master as their recommended installer of a home-charging unit. Charge Master’s web site was less professional, with too many typographical errors, but clear and easy to follow. Like Ecotricity, it only took a few minutes to sign up for them; I shall include this process in a separate article and mention them no more here.
Unfortunately I cannot testify as to how quickly the card was delivered. I was assured it would be two business days, but as I was away for a week I was unable to confirm that fact. Still, a week is good enough for me. Sure enough, on arriving home on Thursday evening, the card had been delivered. The covering letter stated that their ‘electricity pumps’ are located in most motorway service stations and all Ikea stores in the country. They also gave a link which includes a step-by-step guide to using Ecotricity’s facilities: http://ecotricity.co.uk/for-the-road
A twitter page of @elechighway was also provided, together with contact details.
And so it was just a matter of testing the card and reporting on the process. Luckily I had a long journey planned the very next weekend, where I was intending to stop for a break on the way home.
First of all I need to apologise for the poor quality of the photographs in this section; it was a cold, miserable day and I had driven a long way. I will re-take the photographs the next time I have a service-station charge up.
On entering the service station I found the charging stations very close to the main entrance. The parking bays were all empty so I just chose one. It is a simple matter of selecting the correct adapter and plugging it in. Just make sure that the grey collar is pushed up over the lever or charging will not take place. In the photograph, you can just about see the grey collar at the very base, with the black lever seated inside.
Once correctly plugged in, you need to go to the console, wave your Ecotricity card over the reader which is just below the console. The correct charging plug needs to be entered as this is not automatically detected, together with any options. I’m sorry to say that I did not investigate the options.
So it is time for a cup of tea to while away the charging period. Or a meal. So this is a very good way of the service station from gaining extra custom. Of course, you could always stay in your car with home-made sandwiches and a flask of tea. For a change, I was not stingy, treating myself to a cup of tea and a read of a good book (I took that with me, so maybe I was still a little stingy). I can imagine families spending quite a bit of money during their short stay, bu
t if they were going to visit the services anyway, then they will have the bonus of parking close to the entrance and leaving with a charged car.
After a half-hour break, I returned to my car to find the charging was complete. The process had only taken twenty minutes and 6.1 kilowatts of power was transferred into my car’s battery, leaving it 80% charged. I was expecting charging to continue up to 100%, but as the final 20% takes about four times as long to deliver, I can understand why it would not be provided automatically.
Maybe, if I had checked the options I would have seen a facility for further charging; again, I will investigate further and update this report accordingly.