ESB E-Cars has confirmed introducing pay-as-you-go costs for electric car charging in Northern Ireland.
The move comes as the ESB also confirmed a massive STG£10 million investment in new and improved charging systems for the North.
50kW chargers upgraded to 100kW
The biggest change will be a replacement of the older 50kW charging units with new 100kW chargers, which will be capable of charging two cars at a time. It's not the case that both cars will get a flat 50kW each in that case - the chargers are smart enough to vary the load from side to side depending on what state of charge each car's battery is at.
Just as importantly, the number of these fast chargers will be doubled. There will also be replacements for expanding the slower 22kW kerbside charging network.
The ESB has also said it's earmarking five sites for very high-speed charging hubs, with connectors for as many as eight cars at a time and chargers capable of 200kW charging speeds. These can add as much as 100km of range in as little as six minutes.
How much will all this cost? The charges are relatively reasonable. 49p per kWh for 22kW kerbside chargers (or a discounted rate of 46.2p per kWh if you're a subscriber to E-Cars for £4.99 per month). Rapid charging, up to 100kW, will cost 57.7p per kWh, or 54.3p if you're a subscriber. The high-speed chargers, above 150kW power, will cost 67p per kWh or 63.1p if you're a subscriber.
Previously, ESB chargers in the North had been free to use because they were originally installed under old legislation designed to encourage people to buy EVs. Clearly, that has worked - last year saw NI electric car sales triple from their 2020 figures.
Clean and affordable energy
John Byrne, Head of ESB ecars, said: "To meet the growing number of EVs on our roads, and support the delivery of clean and affordable energy, we need to ensure we have a reliable, accessible, Northern Ireland-wide public charging network. Pay for use for public charging is now the norm across GB and Ireland. This is a natural step in ensuring we improve the network and maintain high standards for EV drivers into the future.
"In the coming years as more people will be making the switch to fully electric or hybrid vehicles, it is imperative that we are able to provide drivers with the support they need. This includes the introduction of an overstay fee, widely supported by current drivers, which will help establish an acceptable etiquette for users to follow."
Byrne told CompleteCar that the network's reliability in Northern Ireland had fallen to as low as 70 per cent - compared to 98-99 per cent in the Republic - because some of the manufacturers of the original chargers had ceased the production of spare parts. Byrne assured us that a comprehensive backup and servicing programme has been agreed upon for the new chargers and that the NI network should be running in the high nineties, in percentage terms, for reliability in short order.
"The legacy infrastructure will be replaced with the fastest, most reliable and advanced technology available," said Byrne. "The new chargers that EV drivers will see being rolled out have proven to be highly reliable with a 99 per cent uptime."
More rapid charging hubs for the whole island
The Republic will not be left out, either. Although the ESB has been slow in rolling out its high-speed charging hubs, Byrne said that a new eight-car very-high-speed hub is planned for Barack Obama Plaza on the M8 motorway and that high-speed chargers with multi-car points are planned for Killarney, Tipperary town, Waterford and others, with three new very-high-speed charging points due to open in north Dublin in the coming weeks.
The plans in Northern Ireland are being funded by a STG£10 million investment by the ESB, STG£3.27 million of which is coming from the UK government's 'Levelling Up' programme. Byrne wasn't prepared to say which locations are being considered for high-speed charging hubs but admitted that works for the first one - located near Belfast on a major primary route - are due to start imminently.