ROTHERHAM Council has announced that all electric vehicle charge points installed in council car parks will be free to use for the next six months. This is welcome news, but it doesn’t hide the fact that electric vehicle drivers will still be stuck with a second rate system.
Imagine what you’d say if you tried to fill up your petrol or diesel car at a local filling station only to be told you needed a membership card before you could use the pump and, by the way, when you apply for a card, you’ll have to wait for around four days for it to arrive before you can refuel! Sounds crazy, but that’s what electric vehicle drivers are expected to do if they want to charge their vehicles in Rotherham Council car parks.
Rotherham Council has teamed up with NewMotion, a European charging network operator owned by Shell, the controversial fossil fuel giant. NewMotion charge points are installed in 11 council car parks, but you can’t use any of them unless you’re a registered NewMotion customer. So how do you join the NewMotion club? Well you won’t find much help on the council’s web site which is remarkably tight lipped on the subject. Go to ‘Find a car park in Rotherham’, select a car park and you won’t find any mention of charging facilities or how to use them. To find out how, you must go to NewMotion and follow a procedure that involves setting up an account, applying for a charge card, and handing over your debit or credit card details.
When you’ve done all of this, you’ll be ready to charge your car, but you may be disappointed by what you find. To begin with, there are no rapid chargers installed in any council car park, so if you’re expecting to be able to recharge a low battery during a one hour stay, forget it. Plus, many of the charge points are no better than charging at home where a full charge might take six hours. NewMotion also say you can use the system from your smartphone if you don’t have your charge card handy, but don’t risk it. If you can’t get a phone signal you can’t charge.
Within a few years, most of us will be driving electric vehicles, and we’ll want to top up when we’re out and about just as easily as using a petrol station, and that can be done today. For example, if you head up to Sycamore Road in Rotherham, you’ll find four rapid chargers — much faster units than the council offers. They’re operated by one of the UK’s favourite networks, Instavolt. At an Instavolt charger it’s straightforward pay-as-you-go using a contactless payment card. Tap your card, plug in, go for a coffee. That’s it. No smartphones, no accounts, no charge card, and you don’t have to hand over your credit card details.
When you see how complicated and underpowered the council’s system is, it makes you wonder just how much research they put into this project to come up with the half-baked solution they’ve lumbered us with.
Phil Aisthorpe, New Meadows, Rotherham