The Pain of Public Charging 2

Wolverton’s Dead Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)
Wolverton’s Dead Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)

In The Pain of Public Charging I described some of the general problems with the UK public charging infrastructure, and these were brought into sharp focus for me recently. Early in the day that I planned to attend Robert Llewellyn’s talk on electric cars in Bedford I knew that the range would be a stretch since it would be after a day at work in Milton Keynes. Therefore at lunchtime I headed out to top up, thinking I could get enough charge in an hour or so to give me some contingency.

First of all I went to a charging location that I had seen in Wolverton, in front of a supermarket. There were two parking spaces in front of the charging post, with a Nissan LEAF belonging to a local electric car club in one of them. Unfortunately, the other had a combustion car in it, so I was ICE’d.

Next I drove to nearby Stony Stratford which I had heard had a public charging point in the market square; in fact I had seen it marked on an online charge point map. After driving around the square a couple of times I parked up and walked into the public library. There I asked the staff about the charge point and they contacted the council staff only to report back that no charge points had yet been installed; the process had only got as far as designating a couple of parking spaces as suitable for a charge point.

The library staff, in an attempt to help, passed me the address of another charge point in Wolverton though they weren’t sure if it was operational or not. Of course, I eventually found the charge point only to find that it was unpowered.

Since by this time I was nearly back to the first charge point I decided to check it again. As I approached I could see it had an empty space. However, as I got close I saw an ICE car pull into it – nonetheless after a quick word with the driver, he relinquished the space and I took it. I tried my charge point cards on it, though, only to be told they weren’t recognised.

I called the telephone number on the charging post and explained the problem. They promised to look into it and call me back. Fifteen minutes later, having heard nothing, I called again only to be told that the charge post was exclusively for the use of the electric car club. I pointed out that it had no signs at all indicating that, but to no avail. They did offer me a charge if the situation was an emergency but I couldn’t honestly say it was, and told them that.

And so I gave up having exhausted my lunch hour, and then some, and having used up a fair bit of my precious range. That was the end of my attempt to charge up in the Milton Keynes area – a complete disaster, in fact, with a full mix of non-existent chargers, exclusive-use chargers, and non-functioning chargers.

The story doesn’t end there entirely, though. I drove carefully in Eco mode back to Northampton, and then on to Bedford for the talk. As ever, ZOE came through and I was able to stretch out the range so that as I left there was just enough range to get home. However, at the event I heard of a local charge point and decided to try it out. In fact, it turned out to be on the way home to Northampton, and was clearly visible at night as it sat in a car park next to the main road and gave out a blue glowing light.

Bedford’s Welcoming Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)
Bedford’s Welcoming Charging Post (Image: T. Larkum)

I plugged in, waved one of my charger cards at it, and was immediately charging. I stayed connected for 10-15 minutes to give me 10 or so extra miles of contingency range and then headed home.

Bedford had showed how easy it can be to have straightforward, working charging infrastructure – something that Milton Keynes could learn from.

Home Forums The Pain of Public Charging 2

This topic contains 9 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Deejay 5 years, 5 months ago.

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • Author
  • #5383

    Trevor Larkum

    In The Pain of Public Charging I described some of the general problems with the UK public charging infrastructure, and these were brought into sharp
    [See the full post at: The Pain of Public Charging 2]



    this is another one of the issues… until there is a ‘single’ network with one card and all posts report on their live status perhaps to the r-link with charge types (speed and connection type) we got to get through the pain barrier for the next few years (5+) with using multiple sources and trial and error…

    my growing collection of rfid cards…

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 5 months ago by  jit187.


    How come you have 2 ecotricity cards? Oh and the PiM card will work on ‘Electric Highway’ Ecotricity chargers, as I discovered the other day by accident when I used the wrong card 🙂 I’m going to hold on to my Ecotricity card though as I’ve used the charger at Hopwood services rather more than any other charger and so may not renew my PiM card if it continues to be £24/year. Not seen any sign of my Polar card yet. Did consider registering for a PodPoint card but realised that all the PiM points are actually run by PodPoint anyhow and so there are no non-PiM PodPoint chargers in the midlands.

    I strongly encourage everyone to register with OpenChargeMap (unfortunately requires a twitter account but that doesn’t mean you actually then have to use twitter itself – I don’t). If you actively update OCM and even swing by local chargers every now and then to check they exist etc. then everyone benefits. I’m going to see if I can find a way to extract all the OCM data for the UK into a POI file for TomTom (as I’m making progress on editing the content of the SD Card).



    Last night I had my first experience of Public Charging (Chargemaster at my local ASDA Superstore). Unfortunately it wasn’t a good one. I used my Polar Card to eventually open the correct flap on the charging post (after asking a very helpful member of ASDA staff for help). I connected the cable up but no charge began. Zoe was just showing “Ongoing Checks” for a while before I gave in. The ASDA staff said that the charging point door flap needed to be closed and locked before the charge would begin (so the cable could not be removed). I didn’t see how this would be possible as the charging cable handle would be in the way. I have since contacted Chargemaster and they are getting an engineer to contact me back. Can anybody on here possibly see what I missed or did wrong? Thanks for any help in advance : )

    Fortunately on this occasion I didn’t desperately need the charge, it was more of an initial experiment for me.



    Hi Andy

    Had a similar experience at my local Waitrose using a Chargemaster system which is only around 12 months old. When I plugged in the dashboard went from ‘ongoing checks’ to ‘impossible to charge’. After phone calls to Chargemaster they promised an engineer would come out and if I didn’t mind he would phone me so I could meet him at the chargepoint. This never happen so I chased them again all the reply I got this time was that the charger had been used on previous days and recommended that I use another chargepoint. I don’t find this very helpful. We all need confidence if you are going to travel very far but these networks are not good at giving that! Need to put this on Twitter to stir it up.



    Open Charge Alliance Officially Launches To Make Public Charging Easier
    September 27, 2013 By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield Leave a Comment

    If you’re one of the many EV drivers who occasionally makes a trip beyond the range of your car, you’ll know how utterly frustrating it can be to arrive at a public charging station to find you don’t have the right RFID or ‘smart’ card to replenish the battery pack of your parched EV. If that sounds familiar, you’ve probably wondered why you can’t easily roam between EV charging networks like you can with your mobile phone — or pay for what you use with your credit card.

    The Open Charge Point Protocol Could make it easier to charge your EV in Public.
    The Open Charge Alliance agrees. Officially declared an organisation yesterday, the OCA exists to promote and facilitate interoperability between EV charging networks and consists of representatives from many different charging providers and charging equipment manufacturers.

    “The biggest challenge facing the adoption of EVs today is no longer related to ‘range anxiety,’ but rather stems from access limitations to the public charging station that line our highways, streets and communities,” the OCA says in its first ever press release. “Many of these early stations are accessible only via proprietary, subscription-based networks. Unfortunately, the closed nature of these networks has generated deep frustration for both EV drivers, who expect the same accessibility that they enjoy at the gasoline pump, as well as charge station owners, who as a result of proprietary protocols are locked into a network system that prevents them from making changes as their needs evolved or price points get too high.”

    Essentially, while there are accepted standards for the way in which a charging station connects to your car and delivers power, the the way in which the charging stations authenticate who can charge and who can’t, as well as how they handle any communication protocols back to a central server, are essentially standards-free.

    That’s where the OCA comes into play. Although it is only officially a day or so old, many of the OCA’s founding members have been working for years on developing a free and open standard which defines not only how charging stations authenticate users, but how different charging networks communicate with one another. The result is the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), a set of peer-set standards which many charging providers in mainland Europe and parts of the U.S. already adhere to.

    Just like other open source standards and open-source ideas, no one person owns copyright to the OCPP and the standard itself is free to examine and adopt. Just like open-source operating systems, the OCPP slowly evolves as features are added and new technologies emerge, making it a continually improving standard.

    If adopted OCPP could make carrying rival network cards a thing of the past.
    At the moment, OCA claims around 10,000 charging stations around the world already work to OCPP standards, many of them in Northern European countries where it’s easy to drive from one country to another in an EV without worrying about having the right card. Sadly for the British residents of the Transport Evolved team, the standard has failed to make much of an impact on U.K. charging networks.

    However, with version 2.0 of the protocol due to release in the next few months, which includes much more advanced support for pay-as-you-charge and inter-network status reporting, the OCA is confident many more tens of thousands of charging stations will adopt the standard.

    But with way too many closed networks still operating a ‘members-only’ policy resulting in EV drivers carrying around wads of access cards, the OCA is faced with some tough campaigning and educational work within the industry before charging station access truly becomes as easy as filling up at pump number four with regular.



    Electric Highway links London to Leeds
    24 September 2013

    The Electric Highway has now linked London to Luton, Leicester and Leeds for electric vehicles (EV) after green energy company Ecotricity and EV market pioneer Nissan installed new fast-chargers all along the M1 motorway.

    Powered with 100% renewable energy from the wind and the sun, the Electric Highway fast-chargers allow EVs (such as Nissan’s all-electric LEAF) to re-fuel in 20 to 30 mins or about the time it takes to have a cup of coffee – matching the so-called “dwell-time” that motorists tend to spend at motorway services, according to industry research [1].

    Ecotricity founder, Dale Vince, said: “The growth of the Electric Highway across British motorways has just kicked into overdrive; we’ve added 20 fast-chargers in the last month alone and will continue at this rate until April next year.”


    Trevor Larkum

    I’m a little sceptical of the OCA/OCPP as it has been suggested it’s just a way to move from free (card access) charging to an agreed standard for fee-paying charging.

    The Ecotricity fast chargers are great – I used the one at Peartree today and it was brilliant (and using renewable energy is the icing on the cake).




    i have 2 ecotricity cards becuase one is their old one (that still works) and the second is their new one that also works. i figured i best keep hold of both (just in case!).

    regarding the podpoint card – there are some chargers which are not part of any PIP schemes and for these you must have the PP card. also a little trick i learnt is that PP can remotely ‘open’ their charge points if you ask nicely but you need their PP card if you dont have the local PIP scheme card e.g. if there is a podpoint post fitted under the plugged in midlands scheme, and you do not have a plugged in midlands card but have a pod point card you can ask them very nicely to open that charge station for you… 🙂



    Hmm, just checked out 2 Source London charge points comprising 6 bays between them, and they all had a maximum stay of 2 hours. Not useful when I need to do a day’s work!

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.