The Pain of Public Charging 5

Volt charging at Bicester Village (Image: Duncan/
Volt charging at Bicester Village (Image: Duncan/

At the risk of these posts becoming repetitive, I have another tale of woe to relate. As twice before we took the ZOE from Northampton to Oxford to visit family, this time on Christmas Day. Previously I had popped out during the visit to use the fast charger at Peartree, but this time it was not to be.

On arriving at Peartree early in the evening it was obvious that the charger wasn’t operating as the screen was dark. I rang the Ecotricity support number only to hear that support is provided 24×7 every day of the year – except Christmas Day! I went into the services cafe and got on the free WiFi to look for other charge points. Unfortunately the area is not well catered for, and the closest fast charger was at Cherwell services on the M40, so I headed off there, keeping my speed below 50 to conserve range.

Arriving at Cherwell I found the charger easily and it was illuminated which seemed encouraging. I plugged in and started charging – but almost immediately the charging stopped, the charger turned itself off and the screen went dark. Again I went into the cafe to plan my next move. Unfortunately my range was now down to about 8 miles (and the WiFi cost £4).

I used to look for nearby chargers – at this point any chargers at all, not just fast ones, so long as they were within my very limited remaining range. It indicated two at Bicester, one at a Little Chef and one slightly further away at Bicester Village retail park. So I headed to the postcode given for the Little Chef with my speed limited to 15 mph, and my hazard lights on.

I found no Little Chef at the postcode given, nor one at the location given for it in the ZOE’s TomTom satnav, so I had to conclude it was an error and/or the Little Chef had gone. I now had just a few remaining miles of charge left so headed for Bicester Village at about 12mph. I found it easily enough but of course the site was closed for the night. At this point I had just 2 miles of range left, so I had no options.

Undaunted I parked up and explored through the site on foot, first past cones in the road and then further on past a barrier into a low multi-storey car park. There in the far corner I found a pair of slow charge points. I tested one with a charge point card and it was active, so I went looking for security staff. I quickly found a security guard and a charge was agreed by walkie-talkie – I walked back to get the car while he got the key to open the barrier.

The charging process went fine once connected, and then I was invited to have a tea in the management office reception. To cut a long story short, given it was a slow charger, I sat there for most of 3 hours. After that I was given a lift back to the car and minutes later I was heading back out with a nearly full charge, and very grateful to the Bicester Village staff for their help. After picking up the family we headed home and arrived without further incident.

This experience pretty much confirmed my conclusions from last time – the ZOE’s flexibility in charging is hugely useful, while the dependability of the public charging infrastructure is rubbish. It has, however, changed my mind about the ZOE having a domestic charge cable and I can now see how sometimes it could be invaluable.

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This topic contains 29 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  mojo36 6 years ago.

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    Trevor Larkum

    At the risk of these posts becoming repetitive, I have another tale of woe to relate. As twice before we took the ZOE from Northampton to Oxford to vi
    [See the full post at: The Pain of Public Charging 5]



    I get; “The page cannot be displayed because an internal server error has occurred.”


    Trevor Larkum

    Sorry – I haven’t finished and published the post yet (the creation of this forum post is automatic).


    Trevor Larkum

    Fixed (post published).



    Trevor, Merry Christmas and glad to hear you made it to the New Year.

    I live 5 miles from Bicester Village and, had you known, you could have come and scrounged the use of my 16A wall charger. That assumes your car will take the captive plug that suits my Fluence. Just as well you didn’t though, my charger went down just before Christmas and I am waiting to get the New Year out of the way before attempting to get it sorted. Rumour (other posts) have it that Renault, British Gas and Chargemaster like blaming each other and success when it comes is more by luck than anything else.

    I tend to charge my Fluence from a 13A socket through a window using the lead with a brick in it, that way I can have a timer in the circuit, something that the Fluence doesn’t possess.

    If you find yourself this way and have a few minutes to spare, pop in to compare notes and check suitability of my gubbins for the Zoe. You can ring me on the home line 01869 242847 or mobile 07552 789239.

    New Year’s Resolution: Find a working charge point and cultivate it.



    Trevor Larkum

    Paul, thanks for the offer!


    Trevor Larkum

    Some additional information that may be of interest. After I found the Pear tree charger broken I checked the Ecotricity map and it showed red, so if I had checked in advance I could probably have saved myself a trip. However the Cherwell charger showed as green, and did so even after I ‘broke’ it. I monitored the map and it was not updated until at least 28 December (the update date is shown below the map).

    Today the map finally shows Cherwell as red. Those of us struggling with charger availability are really not imagining it – look at it today to see how many charge points are red:



    A problem we were not expecting so soon is that in our area there appears to be too many electric vehicles for the available charging points. Twice we have visited a space in Kingston Upon Thames to discover someone has beaten us to it, and although it is good to see the point being used, we end up having to park elsewhere with no charging available.

    Today was interesting too. We had driven to RHS Wisley where there are 2 charge points, (both charge master points with 2 different sockets) and as we returned to our car, we noticed that there was a Nissan Leaf parked next to us although not plugged in. Suddenly, a man ran up to us who turned out to be the driver of the Nissan, who did not have a ChargeMaster card himself, but had tried to use the cards the RHS lend out which had not opened the flap. He had driven further than originally expected today and the car had suggested it could not manage the remaining 6 miles home! At that moment he was waiting for the RAC to arrive but had been told it could involve a 2 hour wait. He asked if we could use our card to open the flap and thus start to charge his car. Since you also need to use the card to stop the charging, we were unable to help unless we hung around……which we then did, for the next 30 minutes whilst we sat in the café and discussed EV cars! In that time his car charged hopefully enough for him to get home, and we drove home feeling quite pleased to be able to help a fellow EV convert.

    What is especially interesting however is that the chargemaster cards the RHS lend out did not seem to work. We spoke to the lady on duty in the office who said she would look into the matter. She said that they have been used extremely rarely so far, but with the apparent acceleration of EV vehicles out there, there will no doubt be more potential users of these points and they need to work!



    Have had my Zoe for a few months now I’m finding that the infrastructure and technology don’t seem to be quite complete yet.

    I spent a few days in London at the weekend but I found there were not enough charging points because existing EV were parked; I went to 3 charging points covering 7 bays and all were full. I did manage to get in spot late at night to top up. I did find out that EV’s have free parking in the City of Westminster. As more EV sell, this may get even more difficult for us.

    Also I have noticed that quite a few charging points (CP) (in the last 4 weeks) are broken or my card(s) won’t work; this include M25 Clacket Lane (East), ASDA (Margate), Wallington Library (Surrey), Albemarle Street (W1S), Waitrose (Esher). I noticing that the LCD panels on the ChargeMaster posts seem to be broken often although it’s still possible to charge.

    Then we have the accuracy of the database of CP’s in Zoe, ZAP-MAP and ChargeMaster; this does not help. I have reported many issues to RLink support on Friday including database faults which they said an update is coming that would improve this. One of these nearly caused me to be trailed back as the database said the Renault dealer has 3 Phases Fast Charge but instead was a 3 KV overnight charge!

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by  dbdb.



    with the chargemaster cards you have to call them and ask to be given “roaming” access to the other PIP schemes. I actualy had to list out which ones i required (all of them).

    Also i can say i agree with your comments about how many times other EV’s are either already at a charger when you arrive or how many are queing up to use a charger that you might be using. like yesterday i was at the ecotricty rapid charger at Leicester forest east south bound M1 and 3 leaf’s turned up during my 30 mins charge time to use the chargers!

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