#evdriver to the test...

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Hello everyone, this is a co-written blog entry by Steve Bailey and myself, Charles O'Donoghue. We will flip between the two of us as we go, Steve in normal text and mine in italics form, we hope you enjoy the ride.

The scene was set, we were to travel 404 miles in one day, in a BMW i3 with a range extender, type 2 and CCS socket, 30kW battery and a 12-litre extender tank. We as a network for EV charging were going to play 'consumer' for the day and see what it is like out there in the East/Midlands landscape of public charging. Steve, our head of Sales and Business Development was our driver and I, the technocrat, was the passenger. We were aimed at the e-Motorwerks installers meeting. A very important meeting because we like to pride ourselves on knowing about the latest and best tech out there and boy, the JuiceBox is a serious contender with just about everything you can think of. Steve, will elaborate on the car and how we found it and I shall elaborate on the app aspects of the journey. 

Attending the eMotorWerks UK Installer training day at a hotel in Stoke-on-Trent.

The challenge to drive a Plug in Electric vehicle from our office in Melton, Woodbridge to the venue attending a training session starting at 10.30 am and then returning that afternoon at 4.30pm.

202 miles each way and a 6-hour meeting.

What time do we set off?

How far will the BMW i3 travel between charges?

Where do we stop to charge?

To start with, I was responsible for setting up all the apps we would need for charging along the way. I figured I would use ZapMap for looking up the charge points as we work with them for our chargers and I have only ever worked with the backend, the data and technically related things of the service. So, I identified Polar Instant for rapid charging at the Holiday Inns and Ecotricity’s Electric Highway at service stations as the two services we would use. That meant I needed the ZapMap, Polar Instant and Electric Highway apps. I wanted it to be like what a new-ish user would experience, so I didn’t download the apps ahead of time or anything, I wanted to do it on the fly, just like you might if you were going on a journey with an ICE. I use an android phone, so I was working in the Google Play Store.

Do we have the internet application for each of charging points we are expected to stop at?

Will the charging points be available to use?

ZapMap was pretty easy to find in the app store as the name is quite unique, and it isn’t too big an app, 7.2MB. Depending on your data plan, this may or may not hurt. My data plan is 3GB, so I didn’t mind. I opened the app and let it turn on my location and skipped the intro. I hit the filter button and selected CCS and then apply. All looked good, the app honed in on the rapid chargers across the country. I tapped on the ones I thought might be good and had a look at them and everything worked fine. I really liked the little button at the top right which links you to Google Maps and you hit the directions button and start navigating directly. I left the app and carried on. On our return journey, I loaded the app again and noticed it was showing all charger types again, so tried to re-apply the filter for CCS and the app crashed. I then reloaded it and tried to apply the same filter and it didn’t seem to register the filter, so I cleared all and re-applied the filter. It worked, and I created my directions in Google Maps. It worked well as a whole, but it was not as easy and reliable to use as I thought it would be.

We were very kindly loaned a BMW i3 by Lancaster BMW Bury St. Edmunds for our planned journey. Some expert advice was given by Dan Mabbett on the handover of the car so, Charlie and I were at least prepared to be able to use this amazing cars features. “How exciting this little – not so little car is” – it seems very sporty and quicker than expected!


After collection the car was put to “Bed” and charged the night before so it was ready for the 1st phase of this journey. However, I did learn the charge lead was only just long enough to reach my garage 3 pin plug socket as the car was left in my driveway. I realised after a few failed attempts to charge, the car needed to be locked!!

Decided to leave at 05.10 am to hopefully arrive at 10.10 am -yes allowing 5 hours to include a full rapid charge enroute. The car was indicating 124 miles from a full charge and 52 miles of petrol which was the reserve for the vehicles unique “extender range tank”

Once on the A14 and after settling down for 10 miles to our surprise we noticed the electric range had dropped already to 82 miles but, guessed this was adjusting to the speed we had started at- enjoying the cars performance but, within the legal limits of course!!

Following some fiddling with the cars amazing “information centre” and working out the car ought to be driven in Eco Pro mode to save on the electric and maximise the stored energy, we were planning to enjoy this fine English morning and make our 1st stop after about 80 miles in the Rugby area at the Holiday Inn.

……arrived at the Holiday Inn at 08.15 am.

Charlie was able to use the app on his mobile and link our bank card to allow us to use the Rapid 50kw Polar charger. The need for a coffee …. thank you, Holiday Inn we were able to find a coffee and some very needed biscuits, to comfort our needs until we arrived at the hotel venue, where for sure we would get a “bacon roll” as normal for these days!??!

Polar wasn't so bad to find in the app store because there is Polar Instant and if you skip over the polar bear apps, you can find your way quite easily and quickly, and the size of the app isn't too bad either, 5.33MB. Then you create an account and register your email and your card and so on. Then I found using the search map hard on a smart phone and so I went for the ‘list closest chargers’ option, as I had looked up the charger on ZapMap and found the one we wanted. This brought up the charger I was standing next to quite quickly – I hope Polar are GCPR ready, using my location and all the rest. At that moment in time I just wanted to press go because we had somewhere to be. I selected the charger and the nice new touch screen responded and it was easy to read and it showed me what to do, not that plugging in a massive plug is complicated or anything and then plugged in the car. But before I could charge I had to preload £20 pounds, which irked me a bit because I knew I wouldn’t use all of it and I actually didn't, so I have £12 on my account. I don't know if the credit will expire or anything, but yeah, I'd rather pay for what I used. Then I had to reselect the charging type (picture of a CCS) on the touch screen that I had chosen after choosing 'socket 1' on the app, so I guess that was like a secondary confirmation, to make sure you are using the right plug you say you have on the app. I touched the CCS plug image and the safety checks started and the app in the meantime sort of froze and tried to start a timer but then didn't and then reset itself, so I thought, best watch the charger at this stage. The charger went through its checks and the car started charging and I saw the ‘rapid charge’ white light around the socket in the car. Then the app sort of caught up and showed a timer that was about 2 or 3 minutes ahead of what the charger was showing. The charger showed the percentage of charge and then kWhs and elapsed time, but not rate of charging or voltage or current or the cost of the electricity being consumed. The app, as simple and reasonably quick as it is, was really basic in terms of information. All you get during the charge is a timer, nothing else, like percentage or kWhs or anything. I guess it could be argued they are saving data. Anyway, we were in a rush, so I ended the charge at 80% and we got 70 miles or so in the tank. Ending the charge was quite good and quick but very basic info presented after the charge and even the email receipt was just the money, no kWhs or anything. None the less, the charger was good looking and using it was pretty easy and the whole charge cost £7.27 which was pretty good. I won't go into the other charge we did, but to say that the app crashed, and I had to phone customer service who were quite friendly and they asked me a lot of questions and then told me to reinstall the app, which I did and then it worked again. Slightly annoying when it is cold outside but, I guess they need to learn why things aren't working and it's good to help improve these crucial services.

33 minutes later and at a cost of £7.27 the car was 80% charged and with enough to get us to our destination, where we would charge again for the return leg!!

The M1/A50 were mostly clear apart from the congestion as expected at Castle Donnington area. Expected time of arrival was now indicated on the very usable “Info Centre” for 10.15am……. thoughts…. would we get a “Bacon roll” when we arrived, or should we find a fast food drive-thru while navigating our way? At times we both mentioned the car seemed like an aircraft due to the amazing amount of glass this car has allowing so much light and greater visibility.

Charlie, bluetoothed his favourable music choice and we listened to James Brown via the “Harmon Karden” speakers speeding very quietly through the Midlands.

Wow…arrived at the Moat House at 10.18am with tummies rumbling…. surely bacon rolls and then get the car on charge for the next leg.

Oh no…on 2 accounts the Hotels charging point had been reserved and we had to make do with a couple of packs of biscuits and a coffee, as clearly somebody had forgotten the bacon rolls??!! On a serious note I was more concerned that we would not be able to charge the car sufficiently to return home in a similar fashion.

The mornings training session was very informative, and the proposed offering will benefit any EV Driver should they invest in the “Juicebox Pro “unit which will attract users in the premium sector of the EV charging market. I was encouraged by this go-ahead company who have been a revelation in the United States and now entering the growing European market.

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Not having a charging point was a disappointment to us but, more importantly the Hotel reception not being aware of the location of the hotels charging point was even greater. We were told at lunchtime the reservation of the CP had not been used and we could now use it …. but could not find the allocated space. Finally, we do find a coned area in front of a standard 3 pin socket, surely this wasn’t the hotels charging point?? No wonder the previous reservation hadn’t used the facility.

4.30pm after a well delivered session we were to find our BMW had been charged for 2.20 hrs but had only received enough charge to allow us to find an alternative station. If a customer satisfaction questionnaire was needed to be completed following our visit to the Best Western Moat House Hotel, I would have been unsatisfied as the hotel reception offered no alternative means of charging or empathy towards our now expected 5-hour drive home.

Hotels should now embrace the Marketing initiative and get at least a fast charging station to allow an increase in dwell time and even attract a new market of EV Drivers.

Finally, at an M6 service station we find a “scruffy looking “Ecotricity 50kw station and was able to charge again to 95% getting 90 miles at £8.00. We had to register as a new user at this point prior to charging. This unexpected stop was adding another 1.30 hours to our already long journey.

The Ecotricity app was harder to find on the Google Play store because Ecotricity are also a provider of electricity, there are a lot of versions, like for looking up your subscription and so on. That said, they do have a QR code for taking you directly to the app on the charger, but then have you got a QR code reader app installed as well? Once I got the Electric Highway (13.49MB – biggest of the lot) downloaded, also not too big an app so safe on data, I signed up, but the app crashed a lot – I like to think my phone the OnePlus 3T is a good stable phone running Android like millions out there, but it could have been my phone I guess. Then eventually I added my card and scanned the QR code to ID the charger, which made the app crash again. Then I ID’d the charger and I selected the CCS and it wanted my CVC number of my card and we got started. During the session, I had so much more info which was great. I got the state of charge, volume of kWhs, voltage, amps, and time elapsed. Then at 95% the charger slowed down from 75A charging to 32A, which is normal for a charging cycle and so I stopped the charge as there was another EV needing a charge. The charger responded well to the app’s commands and all was good at the end, I was satisfied. The cost of the charge was £8.31, @ 30p/kWh, which was good, slightly more than Polar, but the electricity is from green sources, so I was happy to pay for that privilege. The receipt after charging was also like a normal invoice which I appreciated – full of detail. Sadly, the charger was beaten up (not Ecotricity’s fault – but could do with some TLC) and the other one of the two at the car park was broken - nerve wracking when you are desperate for a charge! All in all the Ecotricity experience was good.

175 miles to do, so another stop was planned in the Kettering area.

We arrive at the Rockingham area service station and attempt to use the very smart Polar charge point but, unable at first to link the app in the cold evening air was proving to be very frustrating. Charlies conversation with Chargemasters customer services was less than helpful so decided to download the app again, this time success so we charged to 28kw gaining us 90% but, didn’t get a cost, only a £1.20 admin fee??

Apart from A14 closure at Cambridge and a detour showing Charlie the lights of this marvellous city…. adding time to our incredible journey the BMW was a pleasure to use and getting us back to Suffolk after 11pm ……over 6 hrs!!!

I certainly did not want to return the BMW i3, probably one of the most exciting Electric vehicles to use.

 The importance of having a charging infrastructure in place is vital to the economy and the motor industry with the demise of Diesel engines. Any company that has a retail outlet with a private car park may be surprised whom may wish to pay them a visit and spend some money at their business.

So one of the things when it comes to charging that we find hard to convey to customers from home to business and public charging, is that charging is something that will become mainstream, we are only at 3.3% of the market right now, as in there is only a tiny number of EVs out there right now and if you want to have a charger installed, it is something that will be used often and if you want to compare researching a new latop against a home charger, you'd be on the right track. The charger can go from just filling up your car to providing you with a revenue stream by having grid response built in and there are so many features out there to have a look at. We want users to think about these things and so if you are prepared to pay a little more for something you will use a lot soon, get in touch with us because we are here to help. Just know this about the JuiceBox, it is extrememly advanced and so simple to install that you could buy one off Amazon and put it in yourself! It is made out of metal and feels great in hand, the app is so functional and reliable, I have tested the app and haven't been able to crash it once yet. We will be a channel through which to acquire one of these awesome things, so call us. 

Over 400 miles covered for less than £20!

The time element will be improved with education, experience and an improved infrastructure. Certainly, an interesting journey and we did get to see our wonderful countryside at its best.

If you would like any information regarding the products eMotorWerks UK offer, please let us know.

@eMotorWerks @LancasterBMW

A blog by EV Driver Ltd, written by Steve Bailey and Charles O'Donoghue.