Drivers of electric cars will soon have to pay to top up their vehicles at most motorway service stations.
Until now, electric vehicle owners who use Ecotricity's charging stations have been able to charge up their cars for free. However, Ecotricity - which operates the majority of the UK's electric car chargers at motorway service stations - says it will now be charging motorists to use its stations.
Drivers will have to spend £6 for a 30min top-up, and will be able to pay using a new app, called Electric Highway. Ecotricity says it will begin upgrading its network of 296 charging stations across the UK next week to accept payments via the app, and aims to complete the work by early August.
The charge was originally set to be £5 for a 20min charge, but after outcry from drivers, the length of charge on offer was tweaked, along with the price.
The exact amount of 'charge' vehicles will receive during their 30min stint depends on the type of charger being used. Cars including the Renault Zoe, BMW i3 and Tesla Model S can use Fast AC chargers, while cars including the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-Miev use DC chargers.
It's worth noting that Tesla drivers already have access to a fast and free charging service via Tesla's own network of 'Superchargers'.
Ecotricity first started installing electric vehicle charging points in 2011, and now claims to cover most of the UK's motorway network. At that time, the UK's electric vehicle market was still very small - the sales of 'alternatively fuelled vehicles', which includes electric cars and hybrid vehicles, accounted for just 1.3% of the UK's car market in 2011, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). In 2015, that figure was 2.8%.
Ecotricity says that due to the growing popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles, the usage of its charging points trebled in 2015, and says it is "now neccessary to start charging for the service in order to maintain and grow the network."
As part of its upgrade plans, the company says it wants to double its number of charging stations to nearly 600 over the next two years, including introducing stations into cities.
Drivers who are already signed up to Ecotricity as energy customers can continue using the charging points for free. One of Ecotricity's biggest rivals, Chargemaster, already charges for using its stations via a price plan, which costs from £7.85 per month.
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