New fast EV charger scheme comes with ‘sting in the tail’

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March 29th, 2019

This week’s announcement of Ireland’s first private fast-charging network for electric vehicles comes with a sting in the tail – the cost of ‘filling up’ at the new network will be comparable or even higher per kilometre than running a conventional petrol or diesel car.

The company behind the launch, EasyGo, says it wants to challenge the ESB’s dominant position in the EV charging marketplace. However, its press release and subsequent media pickup provided little information about the costs.

The Green News submitted a series of questions to EasyGo, and the company confirmed that its network would charge 35 cent per minute for users to access its 50kw ‘rapid chargers’. This works out at an hourly charge of €21.

A typical EV would expect to receive sufficient charge for around 200km in a one hour period. An average diesel car has a range of around 700km, with a fill of fuel typically costing €60-€70, much of which is government duties.

To purchase 700km worth of range for an EV via the EasyGo network would, we estimate, cost around €75. In comparison, the ESB’s charging network, much of which currently runs on slower speeds, is free to users.

Also, Tesla, the luxury EV manufacturer, currently has four supercharger stations in Ireland. At 120kw, these are much more powerful than either the ESB or EasyGo’s chargers. As part of its after-sales package, Tesla makes this service available free of charge to its Irish customers.

Gerry Cash of EasyGo told The Green News: “Across Europe, the amount of time people spend on average on a Rapid Charger is 12 minutes”. However, a 12-minute charge on an EasyGo 50kw unit would only add around 40km of range for the typical EV, at a cost of €4.

“Rapid chargers are advanced and expensive units and people use them when speed of charge is their priority.  On chargers, drivers can see the amount of range added in real time as they are charging”, Cash added.

“People typically use them when they are on a long journey and want to charge quickly in order to continue their journey quickly. The charge taken can then be augmented by the supply they can get from their home chargers where they can enjoy night rate electricity which costs approx €0.08/kw”.

Filling up an average EV, such as a 40kw Nissan Leaf, from empty would cost around €3.20 to a home user on night rate electricity, rising to around €6.50 on standard tariff electricity. The same fill at an EasyGo station would cost an estimated €25-€27, indicating a very substantial mark-up versus the actual cost of electricity.

A key reason that EV users enjoy major savings per kilometre over petrol and diesel users is that the latter are subject to hefty duties, running to 59c/litre for petrol and 48c/litre for diesel. In addition, liquid fuels are subject to VAT. Electricity, on the other hand, is only subject to VAT.

EasyGo’s first charging point opens this week at the Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan. “We’re not going to break even on these chargers in year one or year two. This is a long-term project for us”, EasyGo founder Chris Kelly said.

Meanwhile, the ESB is pushing ahead with a major upgrade of its now outdated EV charging network. While overall numbers of EVs on the road in Ireland are still low, uptake is now growing rapidly, with a spike of more than 500% in EV purchases compared to the same period in 2018, and strong growth also in plug-in hybrids.

The 2019 Budget allocated €10m from the Climate Action Fund towards upgrading the EV network, a trivial sum when spread over 26 counties nationally. The ESB is likely to introduce charges for users of its upgraded network, which is expected to include 50kw charging units. No information has yet been released as to the likely level of usage fees.

By John Gibbons

John is an environmental journalist and commentator and an EV owner. He tweets @think_or_swim

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