Bookmycharge was in Glasgow for part of COP26 recently, and we made our way there by the power of electricity in our long-service BMW i3, a car we still love after almost five years and 50,000 miles.
As ‘EV evangelists’, we at Bookmycharge are loathe to give negative reports of our charging experiences but on the 400 miles each way to Glasgow the true story is not entirely the one we really wanted to be able to tell.
Savvy EV charging folks will tell you how to plot a clever route where the charging always works using special apps and the latest status updates, but that’s surely not how the average new EV owner will approach this process going forward. Accordingly, we kept it simple and planned the most straightforward route northwards; M40, M5, M6, M74 and there you go; right into the heart of Glasgow and the gates of COP26.
The range of the i3 is ‘only’ 140 miles or so, depending on temperature, weather conditions and driving style. So, we knew we’d be in for several charging session on each leg of the journey and planned the logical sections on the map.
First stop was a Gridserve chargepoint at Stafford services northbound. No-one at it. Pouring with rain and happily, a completely straightforward, quick charge on their CCS point with debit card payment. Complete in well under the hour taken for breakfast, so a happy experience.
The second stop was much more of a challenge. Tebay services near Penrith is the best service station in the UK, and that view was clearly shared by many other EV drivers. When we got there, there appeared to be four Gridserve charging options, two points on two stations. We went to the unoccupied one, it failed to charge and we spent some while on the phone to the customer service team, who rebooted it twice, but no luck. So, we had to wait for the other chargepoint and by now there was a second person in front of us. There was only one cable actually working and it then turned out that two of the four hadn’t yet been connected to their electricity supply. Our initial pleasure at arriving was replaced by the realisation that we’d be waiting ages. In the end, we were there for no less than two hours 15 minutes while two people in front of us completed fairly long charges.
We arrived in Glasgow with very little remaining charge and naturally looked up Bookmycharge to see if there was a Glasgow chargepoint registered near us , but unfortunately there wasn’t, as it would have been ideal.
The 32 chargepoints at nearby BBC Scotland, which appear on chargepoint maps, turn out to be available only to BBC employees, so we went up to the Chargeplace Scotland installation in nearby Sauchiehall Street, and found two 7kw charging stations, each with two untethered sockets.
There was an Audi charging on one of them, but one point was free, so we plugged in. This was the most frustrating experience of all. The Chargeplace Scotland app says that you can use their app to set up a charge, but although we followed all the steps and put in the correct chargepoint number, the app wasn’t having any of it and wouldn’t start. And all the while, it repeatedly said ‘show card’, meaning use the physical plastic Chargeplace Scotland card, which of course we didn’t have as we’d only just arrived in Scotland.
Meanwhile, the driver of the neighbouring car turned up and began to unplug. We approached him and asked whether he knew if that second chargepoint was working and he reported that it had power issues and that he would reverse and let us use the chargepoint he’d just been using. We then plugged in and he just waved his Chargeplace Scotland card and the power flowed. And it was free!
However, when we returned four hours later to collect the fully charged car, because we didn’t have the Chargeplace Scotland card, we couldn’t detach the cable. The helpful chap, of course, was nowhere to be seen. We phoned the help team and fortunately they answered and were able to disconnect us remotely.
After doing a couple of local journeys, we wanted to top up to full before setting off on the long journey home , so we returned on three occasions to Sauchiehall Street and every single time , both the chargepoints stations were occupied with four cars. We then went to the multistorey car park near Bath Street, and there were six chargepoints. We tried two of them and neither worked, we spoke to customer service at Charge Scotland three times and after resets and restarts, they concluded that they didn’t think any of them were actually working, so we gave up. It was particularly galling because we had to pay the standard multistorey parking fee for nothing!
Eventually we resorted to driving several miles to a wonderful chargepoint at the Jennie Burn restaurant, operated by Osprey. Full marks to Osprey – a completely straightforward contactless payment fast charge and somewhere to go to have a coffee while it was filling up.
Replenished by the excellent Osprey, we started the homeward leg visiting Tebay services again, despite the previous experience, as there were no other fast chargepoints anywhere near. This time however it was textbook successful, with no other people charging. We plugged straight in with a contactless charge and no hitches. We got to experience the fantastic Tebay catering a second time and look out onto their wonderful lake.
The second stop on the way home was at Keele southbound services. A dire experience. We plugged in, carefully following the on-screen instructions, and the chargepoint, operated by Ecotricity, one of their older ones apparently, told us that it had taken a £12 charge fee, but it then didn’t deliver a charge.
So we phoned customer services and twice the phone rang and then appeared to be answered, but there was no one there. A third time , there was an actual person on the line. They spent about 15 minutes while they tried various fixes, and this included us pressing the emergency stop button several times, which was very exciting and unprecedented.
To the guy’s credit, he finally made it work, thank goodness, and we were able to charge to full in just under an hour. That got us home after 15 hours, which also included two cat naps. We were listening to Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets most of the way, so it was a very cheery journey despite the challenges.
We are still talking to Ecotricity about them repaying the £12 taken for the first phantom charge…
So all-in-all a variable charging experience (including a total of a dozen helpline calls). We at Bookmycharge are big on booking ahead being a necessary part of the EV adventure going forward and will continue to push hard in that direction, thereby fulfilling a need whether you’re staying in an apartment in the middle of Glasgow, or planning ahead on the M5.
The aim, as we keep saying, is Charge Assurance and not Range Anxiety!