ecotricity launches free-to-use electric recharging point network for UK electric vehicle drivers

August 3rd, 2011 by ecotricity

For first time electric vehicles will be able to travel the length and breadth of the UK using the world’s first national charging network at motorway service stations across the country.

Every charging post will be powered with 100% green energy made at Ecotricity’s wind and solar parks across the UK, and means that electric car drivers (and motorcycle riders) will be able to drive from London to Edinburgh or Exeter completely free and with vastly reduced emissions.

This breakthrough in electric car infrastructure removes one of the main barriers for people wanting to buy electric cars – range anxiety – which currently restricts people to driving within their own city.

The Ecotricity car charging point at the M5 Michaelwood Services (click image to expand - @Professional Images)

The first ‘top-up zone’ will be installed at Welcome Break’s South Mimms services [at the Junction of the M1 and M25] in July, and the first phase of the network spread across 12 motorway services will be completed by September. Each post will be located outside the main entrance, with two sockets that can be accessed by registering for a free swipecard. Within 18 months all 27 Welcome Break motorway services will have charging points.

Electric cars can top-up in just 20 minutes using rapid recharge points (32 Amp supply) or fully charge in two hours; while those using the slower (13 Amp supply) will be able to recharge fully if staying overnight in adjoining hotels.

Dale Vince OBE, founder of Ecotricity, said “until now, charging posts have all been in city centres like London, but this is where you need them the least. Statistics show that it’s not in towns and cities where electric cars need to recharge, but on longer journeys between cities – and that means motorways.

“We’re creating the infrastructure to get Britain’s electric car revolution moving. This marks the beginning of the end for the old combustion engine. With world oil prices going through the roof, you’ll now be able to get around Britain using only the power of the wind. It costs one pence per mile in an electric vehicle, compared with ten pence per mile in a petrol car (at today’s oil prices).

“We consume 25 million barrels of oil every year in the UK to do the 250 billion miles we drive every year. But we could power all that with 10,000 of today’s windmills, or just 5,000 of tomorrow’s.”

Rod McKie, CEO of Welcome Break, said “we are very excited about working with Ecotricity. There is no doubt that the electric car will arrive on Britain’s motorways and Welcome Break wants to be at the forefront of giving the modern motorist what they want, when they want it. As hybrid and electric cars become part of everyday life, Welcome Break will have the facility to fast-charge these cars, giving electric car drivers the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the UK.

“Welcome Break operate throughout the UK with locations as far afield as Scotland and down to the south-west and south-east of England, serving 80 million customers a year.”

Richard Dyer, Transport Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said “Ecotricity’s Electric Highway is a fantastic project which shows we can get to work or head off on holiday without pumping out planet-harming emissions.

“Electric cars are only as green as the electricity that powers them so it’s great to see Ecotricity providing green energy from wind and solar sources.

“This is a great example of how green energy can meet our needs – and save on soaring fuel bills.

“Along with action to encourage cleaner, healthier travel options like cycling and taking the bus, green powered cars can help get us off the ever more expensive oil hook.”

A driver doing a year’s typical 12,000 miles of motoring could save almost £2000 in petrol costs at today’s prices, and save around 2500kg in CO2 emissions1:

Electric car owners who want to register for a free swipe card can visit Ecotricity’s website

As well as its Welcome Break network, Ecotricity has also installed a charging post at its windmill next to the M4 motorway at Green Park in Reading. It is the first charge post to be powered directly from a windmill.

In November 2010, Ecotricity launched the Nemesis, a wind-powered sports car that can reach 0-100 mph in 8.5 seconds and with a top speed of 170 mph. The first electric supercar to be designed and built in Britain, the Nemesis was created by an A-team of ex-Formula 1 engineers with the brief to “blow the socks off Jeremy Clarkson” and show that electric cars can be sexy, fast and fun to drive. It will be the first electric car to drive from Land’s End to John O’ Groats this summer.

Since then, 2011 has been dubbed ‘The Year of the Electric Car’, with major manufacturers launching all-electric mass-market models including the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi MIEV and Peugeot iOn. Ford will also launch an all-electric version of its Ford Focus, on sale in 2013.

Map of Electric Highway (Phase 1) to be completed by September 2011 (Source: Transport Direct)

Ecotricity was founded 15 years’ ago when, in 1996, it founded the UK’s green electricity market and movement. A ‘not for dividend’ company with no shareholders to answer to, it now powers 50,000 homes and businesses in the UK from its fleet of 52 windmills, it invests more per capita in building new sources of green energy than any other UK electricity company and is the only energy supplier supported by Oxfam and the Soil Association.

UK electric motoring facts

  • There are currently around 2,000 pure electric vehicles in the UK; on top of that there are a few hundred plug-in electric hybrids. There are around 30,000 petrol hybrids that have a battery fitted, but these batteries cannot be plugged into a socket, their charge either comes from the petrol engine or from energy stored during braking.
  • There are around 400 charging points in cities around the UK, with a concentration of around 250 in London which belong to a number of networks.
  • The Department for Transport predict that by 2015 they “expect to see tens of thousands of plug-in vehicles on the roads in the UK”.
  • With a total UK grid demand of 378TWh (in 2009) that means a 16% increase in output – equal to just four years of annual demand growth
  • Most car charging would happen overnight, when grid demand is traditionally lowest so may not need a corresponding 16% increase in capacity
  • A electric car can typically do4,000 miles on one MWh of electricity
  • The UK would need an additional 59TWh of electricity to power those journeys
  • That is equal to the output from 12,000 wind turbines (assuming their current design)
  • This would save 72 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually


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