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UK's Electric Highway rollout includes world's first wind-powered EV charging post


August 22, 2011

Green Energy innovator Ecotricity has unveiled plans to install a national network of electric vehicle charging points powered by renewable energy, one of which is the first in the world to get its power directly from a wind turbine

Green Energy innovator Ecotricity has unveiled plans to install a national network of electric vehicle charging points powered by renewable energy, one of which is the first in the world to get its power directly from a wind turbine

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Ecotricity has unveiled plans to install green-energy-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging points at selected motorway service stations running up the UK's automotive backbone. Aiming to help ease range anxiety and speed up the adoption of EVs in Britain, the national network of charging posts will be rolled out to every Welcome Break service station, as well as other key locations, in the UK by the end of the year. Each charging post will receive its power from the company's wind and solar parks across the country, and one of the first three to go live is directly connected to the resident wind turbine at Reading's Green Park business park - offering electric motorists true zero emission driving.

Ecotricity's Electric Highway support structure for EV owners in the UK began with the installation of double-socket charging posts at Welcome Break's South Mimms services (at the Junction of the M1 and M25), Michaelwood Services on the M5 and the Green Park Business Park in Reading. The green energy company will add another nine by the end of September and follow this with installations at all of the remaining Welcome Break motorway services in the UK by the end of the year.

The new network aims to break away from the concentration of charging facilities available in cities like London (which is home to around 250 of the nation's 400 charging points) and expand availability across the length and breadth of the country. The charging points will currently serve the estimated two thousand EV motorists now on Britain's roads and be ready for future adopters.

Each charging post features two power sockets. Drivers will be able to use the 7-pin 400v/32A supply to top up in 20 minutes or leave the vehicle for a couple of hours to fully charge the batteries. There's also a slower 3-pin 220v/13A supply for a more leisurely top-up of two hours, or for those motorists looking to charge overnight while staying at motorway services hotels.

"It's worth saying that all the practical usage to date shows that people charge their cars like their charge their mobile phones - little and often," Ecotricity's Mike Cheshire told us. "So it's about a change of thinking too from the old petrol tank approach of running it down to red on the needle, then filling up to the brim. Instead, people will charge them wherever is convenient - at home, at work, at the supermarket and - like these - on the road."

Use of the charging posts is currently free-of-charge. "Ecotricity genuinely has no plans to charge for topping up in the near future," says Cheshire. "We may charge a one-time GBP10 (US$16.50) for a swipe card in the future, but right now there's no plans to do that either."

The company says that a typical electric car can do 5,000 miles (8,046 km) on one MW h of electricity and quotes Transport Direct, calculating that a driver traveling an average year's mileage of 8,500 miles (13,679 km) could save almost GBP1,200 (US$1979) in petrol costs at today's prices.

The charging point at South Oak Way, Green Park, Reading - Junction 11 of the M4 motorway - represents the first charging post to receive power directly from a wind turbine. As other Ecotricity wind turbines are located in remote areas, the Green Park installation is also likely to remain unique for some time to come. The turbine - which has an 85 meter hub height and a 70 meter rotor diameter - has been turning since 2005 and is said to generate some 3.5 million electricity units per annum. Energy flows directly from the wind turbine to the charge post, after being converted to the correct amperage en route.

"The Green Park top-up point is connected to the windmill side of the substation, so all the power for it genuinely comes straight from the Green Park windmill as it turns at that moment," says Cheshire. "It's also topped up with a solar panel on the top of the post. On the rare occasions that the windmill isn't turning at all, the energy needed will be made at our wind/solar parks elsewhere on a 'like for like' basis, so will still come from Ecotricity's own green sources."

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

wow this looks like it\'s going to be a stunning waste of money and a huge failure. no question it will be funded by tax payer backed loans.

Facebook User

I wonder why the UK doesn\'t setup a battery swap for EVs like Israel did.


They obviously expect to make money from people\'s impulse buying while their car charges.


This is a good idea - it\'s practical.

It\'s the networked access of and to power supplies.

Punch in your account number / swipe your card and in doing the shopping / eat at a diner, stop in a national park etc., for an hour or three....

Big top up.

Sure a pile of batteries IS good in a car, but so are smaller more energy dense batteries, with shorter range, in a lighter vehicle, with more chargers in more locations - for the longer commutes and occasional long distance trip.

Immensely practical.

Mr Stiffy

Jeddy, don\'t be so pessimistic. While I share some of your reservations, this may be a positive private/public venture. Unlike the money sinkhole of rail transport, there will be fewer public employees involved and it will be much more flexible. Add to this they can tell Saudia Arabia to go screw. For all the negatives, I see many positives. Especially if battery and capacitor technology keeps progressing like it is.....


I might argue the point that it\'s the world\'s first, not by a couple years. On October 18, 2009, 8 Tesla Roadster drivers went to the Wild Horse Wind Farm in Washington State and charged their cars there. http://www.saxton.org/galleries/0910wildhorse/index.php


Love the bit about \"The Green Park top-up point is connected to the windmill side of the substation, so all the power for it genuinely comes straight from the Green Park windmill as it turns...\"

If the wind drops, get up the pole and turn it yourself, guys!!

(OK I understand that it\'s also attached to the grid!)


I am going to agree with Jeddy on this one. I think that electric vehicles are the future but I just don\'t think the future is today. As mobile electronics and other advances in energy storage occur, when the private sector can build an electric car and charging stations/methods that do not involve the public sector tax money, then the tech will be ready.

Rann Xeroxx

agulesin what you and the writer of the article do not seem to understand is this is not a windmill but a wind turbine, there is a difference.


Re dgate What difference? Wind pushing blades to tap wind energy to human use.


Amazing how many people post comments without thinking about it first. Yes, there is a wind-farm in Washington but if I live in Atlanta it is not very convenient. The whole point of this story was the network of charging-stations, not the source - which could be anything solar, wind, waves, water and so forth.


At least you have the option in the UK, here in the great USA with gas(petrol) station in every other corner, plus good snack foods.

Justin Schetrompf
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