back to article Bring the people 'beautiful' electric car charging points, calls former transport minister

Britain's new network of charging points for battery operated cars should be "iconic and beautiful" just like the telephone box, according the ex-minister in charge of working out their place in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. This comes from the report and third reading debate of the AEV Bill, which took place in …

  1. John Robson Silver badge

    Like all the beautiful petrol stations?

    Yeah - make them nice to look at, but make them first...

  2. Chris Miller

    And they will all be powered by a mixture of unicorn tears and rocking-horse poo.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      I think you will find that Dalek poo gives a better power to weight ratio

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Dalek poo? Where would it ... sort of ... like ... come from? Before you say "that's the point" did Davros just dump in his can?

  3. smudge Silver badge
    Holmes

    And where will they be?

    Britain's new network of charging points for battery operated cars should be "iconic and beautiful" just like the telephone box, according the ex-minister in charge of working out their place

    All well and good, but where will they be? No one is going to dig up every street in the land to install them on-street. So that requires car-parks. Large long-stay car parks, very close to where lots of people live. How's that going to be done, and who's going to pay?

    I'm all for electric cars - though I don't have one because I drive between SE England and central/northern Scotland several times a year (let the downvoting begin!) - but it seems to me that the problems that could arise from mass adoption of them have not yet been considered.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: And where will they be?

      I went past some charging points in York the other day. Limited to one hour. Therefore, you'd have to park your car, go to work/shops, return after an hour, hope another parking space available.

      Still doesn't add up beyond a daily commute with charging at home, overnight.

      Like an earlier poster mentioned - shortage of unicorn tears is the problem.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: And where will they be?

        I'll play the "I'm alright, Jack" card here, and say that EV would be ideal for me. I generally clock <50 miles a day, and I park in my own driveway overnight. On the odd occasions I'm going further, I'm generally on a motorbike or somebody is paying me to be there (and can pay for my transport then).

        I reckon once a year I need a car that'll do >100 miles in a day.

        However, I was in one of the dormitory towns outside London last week, and there was not a parking space to be had. No driveways. Cars nose-to-tail on the streets. Narrow pavements. EV just isn't going to work there (even if the power supply were adequate) unless people can plug in at the station or the office all day. Or they all invest in armoured extension cords.

        1. smudge Silver badge

          Re: And where will they be?

          However, I was in one of the dormitory towns outside London last week, and there was not a parking space to be had. No driveways. Cars nose-to-tail on the streets. Narrow pavements. EV just isn't going to work there (even if the power supply were adequate) unless people can plug in at the station or the office all day. Or they all invest in armoured extension cords.

          That's basically the scenario I had in mind when I asked where these charging points will be, except that I was thinking of inner city areas rather than dormitory towns.

          And of course not everyone goes to an office or a station - or takes their car to an office or station. These streets are not going to be dug up. And they are sure as hell are not going to be allowed to have armoured charging cords running across the pavements.

          The problem is most acute in the areas which would most benefit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And where will they be?

            And they are sure as hell are not going to be allowed to have armoured charging cords running across the pavements.

            The other thing to consider in that situation is, what is there to stop people from unplugging the cables so the car doesn't get charged.

            1. really_adf

              Re: And where will they be?

              The other thing to consider in that situation is, what is there to stop people from unplugging the cables so the car doesn't get charged.

              In my limited experience of one (a BMW hybrid), the cable (or rather, connector at each end) was locked to the car and charging point.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: And where will they be?

              "The other thing to consider in that situation is, what is there to stop people from unplugging the cables so the car doesn't get charged."

              You mean the car manufactures never thought that cars may get charged in public places and included a method to lock the charging cable in place? I'd have thought that would be an obvious thing to do. I've never owned, hired or even had a ride in a leccy car, so have no idea if any of this is true.

            3. Keith Oborn

              Re: And where will they be?

              EVs have locks on the connectors. On a Leaf you can havre it lock until you manually release, or lock until the charge session has ended.

              Of course, the local <insert insult> might try and cut the cable. Once. Darwin award?

          2. Warm Braw Silver badge

            Re: And where will they be?

            The problem is most acute in the areas which would most benefit

            This seems to me to be the main use case for autonomous vehicles - taking themselves off to be charged at some compound and then coming back when summoned. Get rid of localised pollution of the atmosphere and of the visual environment and move it to Hounslow* where it belongs...

            *Or local equivalent.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: And where will they be?

              taking themselves off to be charged at some compound and then coming back when summoned.

              At least, if they haven't run out of juice halfway to the nearest charging point that's advertising as having slots available.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: And where will they be?

              "This seems to me to be the main use case for autonomous vehicles - taking themselves off to be charged at some compound and then coming back when summoned."

              So increasing traffic, then?

              My car doesn't mover once it arrives at work. Having it to travel another 10 - 20 miles a day is hardly efficient.

        2. WonkoTheSane

          Re: And where will they be?

          "I reckon once a year I need a car that'll do >100 miles in a day."

          From what I've read elsewhere, if you buy their Leaf EV, Nissan will loan you a petrol or diesel car for up to 14 days total in the first 3 years.

          All you have to pay is insurance & fuel costs.

          https://www.nissan.co.uk/vehicles/new-vehicles/leaf/savings-and-benefits.html

          1. Keith Oborn

            Re: And where will they be?

            We took advantage of that on our first Leaf, in the first of two years lease. The dealer was most surprised that we actually wanted to use the offer - in fact, I think it was the first time they'd had to honour it (and it's the dealer that pays, not Nissan). Anyway, we got to drive a mobile advert for a Basingstoke car dealer around the Isle of Skye for two weeks. I did say to them that they probably wouldn't get any new customers--.

            We are now on our second Leaf, and the offer wasn't repeated, so not sure if it's still there or not.

            However, it was a good idea - along with the free recovery if you go flat (they did say "don't use it too often"!)

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: And where will they be?

          "Or they all invest in armoured extension cords."

          Didn't you get the memo? Wireless charging is all the rage these days. Alll you need to do is dig up all those residential roads and bury charging plates all along each side of the road and wire them to the street lights. Profit!

      2. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: And where will they be?

        I went past some charging points in York the other day. Limited to one hour.

        That was my general experience in York last time I was at a Hotel there (nothing to do with car charging points). No Hotel parking, little nearby parking, I think a couple of days I had to go back to move the car a couple of times a day.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: And where will they be?

          "No Hotel parking, little nearby parking, I think a couple of days I had to go back to move the car a couple of times a day."

          That does seem to be the case in places with comprehensive Park & Ride schemes. York seem to have taken it to the extreme, but the Park & Ride is decent if you are visiting and want to go to the city centre. Not so much if you don't fit into the standard model though.

          1. AMBxx Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: And where will they be?

            There are no end of car parks in York. Most with pay by phone options, all with all-day parking available.

            Only issue I have is having a vehicle that's 2.1 metres high as some are height restricted to 2m or less.

            1. defiler Silver badge

              Re: And where will they be?

              Only issue I have is having a vehicle that's 2.1 metres high as some are height restricted to 2m or less.

              /me is jealous of your Unimog.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: And where will they be?

          I had to do some overnight upgrade work in York city centre a couple of years ago. I couldn't park in the city centre for more than an hour, and the Park & Ride was closed the hours I needed to be in town. So I ended up parking in a suburban residential street and walking 40 minutes into town at 8pm and walking back at 3am.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: And where will they be?

      > requires car-parks

      You mean like the ones outside every shopping center? Gee, I wonder if they could be used?

      Car parks by themselves to charge would be retarded. You need something nearby to do while your EV is charging where you can shop or have a bite.

      Malls in the US are *slowly* cluing into this. I've been to several malls I didn't even know existed, except my phone said they had a charger. So I stopped & shopped, where I otherwise wouldn't have.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And where will they be?

        "You mean like the ones outside every shopping center? Gee, I wonder if they could be used?"

        OK, so that would be the spaces that have just enough room for the car and no bloody great charge point.

        And who's going to pay for the loss of spaces during construction and and afterwards....what about the substation required, the extra HV lines needed?

        Hey Sainsbury's you're going to have to have your entire car park dug up, then lose 10% of you parking spaces. You know, the land you paid millions for. Is that OK?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And where will they be?

      Nobody is going to downvote you, it's fine to visit Scotland. In fact it's a lovely place.

  4. 0laf Silver badge

    New development near my office will have EV charging points for every house. Don't know the detail of where they will be or to what standard but they'll have them.

    I do wonder what the capacity of the local grid is to support them if every house was to actually use them.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      I do wonder what the capacity of the local grid is to support them if every house was to actually use them.

      It's fine. If there's a shortage in the grid, they'll just draw from all the car batteries... :-/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        New dystopian car paradigm...

        It looks to me like the end of personal car ownership. Cars will be held and charged at commercially owned storage centres on the outskirts of towns. For those that can afford not to use public transport, transport will essentially be an on-demand taxi service using autonomous driverless vehicles that will collect and deliver then return to the nearest storage centre - a bit like 4 wheeled Boris bikes. Non-electric vehicles will be banned for private ownership. Hardly anyone will learn how to drive because hardly anyone will drive anything. City travel and motorways will be Restricted to autonomous vehicles ‘for safety’ . The state will control everything and tax and ration the amount of travel you are allowed ‘to protect the environment’. All very sensible, orderly and boring as f**k.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: New dystopian car paradigm...

          Your New Dystopia looks as though it may have a use for the new Chinese passenger drones, summon one by phone and it can 'drop' you off wherever you want. They could use an Oystercard system, which has already been pointed out to Parliament as a way of tracking the public.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      "I do wonder what the capacity of the local grid is to support them if every house was to actually use them."

      Careful who you say that to. There are EV "evangelists" who get quite animated when you question the capacity of the grid to support their ambitions.

      1. Gio Ciampa

        "There are EV "evangelists" who get quite animated"

        In which case we'll just hook them up to a giant hamster wheel and generate the power that way...

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Seperate issues there.

          Does the local grid have enough capacity? No. Not even close if people want to carry on as normal. If your drawing 13 amps out of a socket for charging an EV without putting in a seperate supply then there are only 17 amps remaining in the ringmain until the ring main breaker trips. In other words, cook a meal in the microwave and put a kettle on to make a brew, and a breaker is likely to pop.

          You can solve that by running a dedicated supply to the EV, but most older homes only had 60 amp supplies installed in total. That's not a happy combination. Upgrading to a 100/200 amp supply won't be cheap or easy.

          Think about the amount of work involved there, digging up the entire road, everybodies driveway and then having a sparky install the new supply inside the house. Consider the new smart meter rollout, this is a gargantuan task in comparison to that and smart meters are something like a 1.3 million deployed, which is what, 2% of meters?

          Points by the side of the road next to lapposts would seem rather more acheivable, but it's still a massive infrastructure task.

          And if we ignore that and assume that we could install a new supply where needed this afternoon and gift everybody a new EV, then with thanks to Ledswinger for a more accurate estimate than my own back of the envelope calculation:-

          EVs typically get about 3.5 miles per kWh, depending on size, efficiency, ancillary load, driving style. So at 244m miles annually, that would be a total energy use of 70 billion kWh (excuse my non-SI approach to the units). In turn that's 191 million kWh per day, and over an assumed seven hour charging period we're talking an EV charging load (before network, and charging losses that total around 15%, maybe more) of over 27 million kW, or 27 GW.

          https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/4/2017/11/30/what_will_drive_our_cars_when_the_combustion_engine_dies/#c_3362810

          For context, we can generate 45GW minus unreliable sources of power such as imports and sources such as solar and wind, or 55GW including these at the 100% capacity they've never delivered. Adding an additional 27GW to the grid while similtaniously closing 10GW worth of coal plants and the older nuclear plants appears to represent a significant technical challange in 15 years, given that it took seven years to start construction of hinkley point C after it was approved.

          But of course, by all means let's come up with a nice design for charging points and argue over what we call them. Important things first, of course. We can ignore the minor details like the obvious need to increase generating capacity by a factor of 50% as insignificant and unworthy of consideration by our glorious elected officals.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Can't we just harness the power of lightning? It's 1.21 gigawatts per strike and are perfect for powering cars.

            I think by suggesting this I have just done more planning than the government.

            1. hoola

              Lightening Strikes

              Now that would be really efficient as it vapourises all the EVs, hopefully into small enough pieces such that they do. not block the road.

          2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
            FAIL

            Hmmmm so we need 37Gw of additional power generating capacity ...

            I know... lets use wind power .... its only 25 000 wind turbines dotted around the contryside....

            As for the stupidity of having to charge cars that are parked on street...... "well you could charge them at work" comes the bleat.... and I'm sure my boss would love that... having to put in charging points across our bit of concrete and paying for 20 cars to charge up...

            Only real solution is hydrogen fuel... either combusted or in a fuel cell..... reasonably cheap and easy to use, and could be generated by any source of electrickery you care to mention..

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Hmmmm so we need 37Gw of additional power generating capacity

              If you allow for replacement for 8GW worth of the 70's and 80's nuclear plant due to close in about a decades time then it's 45GW, but i'd be surprised if those reactors are closed on the predicted dates as they are in pretty good condition and minor refurb work would keep them operating for another decade if other reactors is any indication.

              http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/united-kingdom.aspx

              These somewhat messy estimates don't include any figures for power generation required to replace gas heating with electrical heating to reduce CO2 emissions that might be inflicted on the general public by militant activists.

          3. rh587

            If your drawing 13 amps out of a socket for charging an EV without putting in a seperate supply then there are only 17 amps remaining in the ringmain until the ring main breaker trips. In other words, cook a meal in the microwave and put a kettle on to make a brew, and a breaker is likely to pop.

            This is more than a bit of a straw man. Are people really going to plug their EV into the kitchen ring? Complaining that they will only have 17A remaining on the ring is a bit silly (actually 19A if it's a 32A MCB rather than a 30A fuse as in olden days).

            As you go on to say, most domestic properties have at least 60A on the main fuse. This is more liable to be a problem if people are running an electric cooker or an electric shower (typically on their own 45A fuse or 50A MCB). Most people shower in the mornings, when cars should be fully charged and in any case, most showers only pull 7.5kW, which is ~30A, but a cooker could pull as much as 40A (if you turn on both ovens and all 4 hobs). In most cases of course you'll only be using a fraction of the actual capacity, and may even have a gas hob and electric oven, in which case the electrical load is dropped further.

            So what we're really saying is don't plug it into your kitchen sockets or charge it whilst you're doing dinner (unless you're using gas, in which case go for it!).

            For what it's worth, I see many people charging at work. To play Devil's Advocate and go down the "I'm alright Jack" route, both my partner and I work on business parks, both council-owned as it happens. Hers has electric charging points, mine doesn't (yet). She only has to drive a couple of miles anyway and a modern EV could go at least 10 days between charges. I could likewise go a few days on my longer commute. We both park on the street at the moment but that is primarily down to me rebuilding our asbestos-cement garage and clearing it out so you can actually get a car in there, in which case one of us could be charging, whilst the other would probably have done it already at work.

            I'd suggest in many cases (though definitely not all), people parking on the street do actually have somewhere to park, its just their lock-up is full of junk. There are certainly terraces further down our road which do not have rear access and that represents rather more of a challenge, but our terrace does - and every property has a garage at the back, it's just no one uses it for their car!

            Far more problematic is the overall draw on the grid.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              This is more than a bit of a straw man. Are people really going to plug their EV into the kitchen ring?

              Probably the garage socket if going with the cheapest option, but any house with a 60amp breaker is going to be a really old electrical installation and will have a single ring main, and will be unlikely to be running a seperate ring just for the kitchen. It'll also be running fuses rather than MCB's unless the owner has upgraded.

              You also wouldn't want to be drawing 55+ amps constantly from a system with a design limit of 60. Electricial safety rules ask sparkies to keep below 80% capacity.

              But yes, that's a surmountable problem, preferably by adding charging points along the road. The overall draw on the grid probably isin't reasonably surmountable.

            2. Keith Oborn

              Domestic EV points are installed at either 3Kw or 7Kw, and *require* a dedicated spur from the fuseboard and specific earthing arrangements. For grant-funded ones (the cheapest way to go, cheaper than DIY!) they also *require* a separate GSM-connected meter to report EV power usage.

              7Kw is done on a standard 32A breaker. There is a bit of oversubscription in a house with a 60A board breaker if it has a full-fat cooker as well as the usual gubbins. I think 60A is becoming a lot less common nowadays (ours is 120A), and of course there is an awful lot of gas cookery out there.

              So there may be some places that are marginal, but only if they want a 7Kw EV point, have a 60A breaker and an all-electric cooker.

          4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Actually, most old residential supplies (old as in pre-war) have a 60A supply with a 100A supply fuse.

      2. Commswonk Silver badge

        There are EV "evangelists" who get quite animated when you question the capacity of the grid to support their ambitions.

        Isn't that the whole point of raising it with them - to watch them get upset?

      3. Chris G Silver badge

        @wolftone, I see one of them downvoted you.

        Tetchy little buggers ain't they?

      4. Keith Oborn

        Well, I might qualify--. National Grid has done some studies. I don't recall the exact figures but I think it was something on the order of a 10% increase in capacity. This if DISTRIBUTION capacity of course, where overbuild is not a huge deal, not GENERATION capacity.

    3. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      13A waterproof socket? Cheap, easy to install, and useless when the electricity network is overloaded with cars charging ...The local grids could probably cope, the national generation capacity is certainly not up to it.

  5. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Horses for courses

    Personally, I don't think grid charged personal EVs have a long-term future, infrastructure is a nightmare.

    Short-term there will be a roll-out of charging points, but they need to be of several types:

    1) fairly slow chargers, capable of a full 'fill' in 8 hours or so - long-term car-parks, offices, homes, hotels etc

    2) Fast top-up, 50% in a couple of hours - shopping centres, town car-parks etc

    3) Very fast - full fill in 20mins or so - motorway service stations etc

    Our community shop is just waiting for our super-fast to be installed - well, we're waiting for National Power to install the extra mains feed first. Then it'll be 80% fill in 20 mins or so, just nice time for a cuppa and a slice of cake in our cafe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Horses for courses

      Maybe massage therapists of the red light type will install fast charge points to attract customers as drivers at a loose end for the half hour or so the fast charge takes?

    2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: Horses for courses

      Very fast - full fill in 20mins or so

      As opposed to less than a minute to dispense a full tank of hydrocarbon fuel. Hmm. I'll leave you all to draw your own conclusions from that.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Horses for courses

      "Then it'll be 80% fill in 20 mins or so, just nice time for a cuppa and a slice of cake in our cafe."

      Is that the tea and cake you eat while it's charging, or the three cups of tea and slices of cake you get while the three people who got there before you gets theirs charged first? Has provision been made for queuing or might there be fisticuffs over who gets the cable next?

  6. Hairy Spod

    sod beautiful all they need to be is app free

    Seiously having had one for 3 years the very worst thing about EVs is the frigging smart cards and apps.

    Just make them ugly, reliable and add a chip and pin card reader for debit cards

    No way would ordinary punters put up with the same level of faff to fill up with petrol.

    1. Keith Oborn

      Re: sod beautiful all they need to be is app free

      Damn right. I have fulminated about that to many operators. Blank stare is the response.

  7. Commswonk Silver badge

    Be Careful What You Wish For...

    The Lincolnshire Tory MP has previously suggested the charging points be named after him

    Given the problems that are likely to arise from the widespread adoption of EVs, their need for charging, and serious doubts about total generating capacity and the ability of the infrastructure to cope with a massively increased demand, I would have thought that wanting the charging points to be named after him would fall into the category of "very high risk".

    Ah well; politicians meets technology with an outcome predictable by anyone with a genuine bit of technical understanding.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Terminator Future

    I wouldn't worry about "Taxinet" it'll be just round the corner and only five minutes away so it'll never arrive.

  9. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Flame

    The Lincolnshire Tory MP has previously suggested the charging points be named after him, in the same vein as London's "Boris Bikes".

    Egotistical git.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      The "Boris bike" name was a humourous play on BoJo's first name. Don't we already have convenient public utilities similarly named after John Hayes?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: humourous play on BoJo's first name

        Alexander?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not sure Tw*tMP Points would work to be fair.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What we need is contactless charging for vehicles, then we can just bury the charging points under urban streets, car parks etc.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    ""Hayes hooks"" The place for a hook up? Like "cottaging"

    Well, he is a Tory MP.*

    *You know where I'm going with this.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: ""Hayes hooks"" The place for a hook up? Like "cottaging"

      or in the case of those plying a certain kind of trade in the vicinity of these points - Hays Hookers.

      After all, the punters could make use of the time taken to charge the car by discharging themselves...

      (Yes, the car charging will still take a longer time)

      Slow charge, Fast Discharge

  12. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Well, it worked for Leslie Hore-Belisha.

  13. M7S

    Recent media stuff on electric car charging

    BBC Radiio 4, "In Business" http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09l21z2 which should be available for a few days after this post goes up and I'm looking forward to the video of this week's El Reg talk on the subject when this goes live, hopefully any day now

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