Renault Zoe Public Charging 101

150 miles later, and I am *really* enjoying my Zoe. The electric ride without a clunky, noisy ICE rattling beneath the hood is smooth and silent, and the tech on this little gem is great (keyless entry FTW!). Decent build quality and no evident compromise in practicality (we’ll address range later!) makes it clear that Renault is on a good wicket to make this the first electric car to find widespread adoption. There is little doubt that electric is the future of motoring, resistance is futile!

However, before we dash off to the future –  my home EV charger hasn’t been installed yet, and I naively discovered that one does not simply drive up to a public charge point and plug in… apparently an RFID card of sorts is required. Now call me a dumbass for not checking this out better before picking up my car (ok, don’t), but this still left me with just 50 miles of juice left and no way of charging. This electric car malarkey will start to get expensive if I simply discard each car at the side of the road when it’s run flat!

Thus begins my crash course in EV public charging…

Turns out there are a few different charging networks in the UK, typically working in the same way – they issue you a RFID card, and you wave this at one of *their* public charging points which will pop open a teensy magic door giving you access to the electric goodness your car thirsts for. Easy enough… except most networks run independently of the others and there is no sharing of RFID cards – you need the right card for the right network for the public charging point you happen to be at… or no juice for joo, señor :/

There are also a few different sites that try to aggregate the charging maps of these independent charging networks, and inevitably there are discrepancies in the accuracy and types of information they present… Early days I guess, things are a bit in flux and will be a matter of time before standards and/or integration and/or clear leaders emerge.

So, corroborate some info from the different maps, and I find that the Chargemaster/Polar network seems to have the points most appropriate for me (Zoe uses Mennekes Type 2 connector, with preference for 32A or above – oh, did I mention that there are a number of different EV plug/socket types, and you need to match your car to a charging point with an appropriate socket, NOT just the closest point ?).

Chargemaster it is then – I give them a call to figure out this RFID charging jol, and a very nice lady on the phone is very understanding about my dumbass charger-less situation, and offers to send me my RFID card by next-day delivery (registration on the web site, and £10 payment for the RFID card).

Schwweet, my card arrives as promised Saturday morning, and off I pop to the nearest compatible Chargemaster point at a Waitrose parking lot nearby. The RFID card pops open the preferred (32A Mennekes) door, and we’re charging baby!

Charge1  Charge2

After the first quick test (and then getting on with my day) I got back for a full charge from about 20% in under 3 hours, while I popped off for a pint (of shandy!) and some food at some of the local pubs.

Since then, I’ve also registered with Ecotricity who are creating an “electric highway” across the UK at Welcome Break service stations on major routes. RFID card arrived relatively quickly (4 days) and I tried their fast charge 43kW charger in Oxford (Peartree) charging from 24% to 98% in 50 minutes (a bite at KFC, some household shopping at the Waitrose, and time for an espresso at the Starbucks).

Ecotricity1

Also registered with Source London, Boris Johnson-backed scheme with 1300+ charging points around London, and yet to try out one of these points.

I guess Renault foresaw this charger-network-card-collection situation, and stuck a handy little cardholder slot in the centre console of the Zoe.. three cards and counting!

cardholder

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