When it comes to electric car charging in the UK, there is a commonly held perception that the Tesla network offers a seamless service, while everything else is fundamentally flawed.
This isn’t true of course. While Tesla’s supercharger does set a high bar, the rest of the UK’s charging infrastructure is a mixed bag of brilliant, bog standard, and below par.
And with record investment pouring in to infrastructure, and a surprisingly (for some) rapid increase in electric car sales, the reality is dynamic, and can be difficult to get to grips with.
At Fully Charged we are familiar with what’s going on in the market globally, but even we struggle to stay on top of what is going on here in our home market.
For the car companies that are serious about electric cars, there is a simple solution: take destiny back into their own hands.
We were impressed when we spoke to one manufacturer about their work recently. Kia has put a lot of effort into offering a ‘roaming’ solution to allow their customers to easily use most public charge points in the country and across Europe.
I spoke to Jean-Baptiste Merkel at Kia about what they’re doing to make life easier for electric car drivers. If you read on, you will even learn how you can engage with Kia to further spread the word about what its charging solution is like to use:
Dan – What has the reaction been to Kia’s electric offering, especially EV6?
JB – Kia has been offering electric cars for many years in the UK and has become a leader in the field. The current e-Niro, which was WhatCar? Car of the Year in 2019, has made us the second bestselling electric car brand in the UK last year. More recently, we launched our EV6, the first of our models underpinned by our new E-GMP electric car platform. EV6 is very cutting-edge technologically but also very aspirational, and it’s really struck a chord with the press and public. It has made a lot of people discover Kia. It is a model that makes people realise the time is right for switching to full electric driving.
Dan – What is your opinion of the UK’s charging infrastructure and what is ‘Kia Charge’?
JB – There is no doubt that the infrastructure will need to expand markedly in order to enable a prevalent use of electric cars. However this infrastructure is very significant already and is growing very rapidly. What we see as the main problem though is how fragmented this infrastructure is and how difficult it can be to use. Prospective EV customers are often spooked by this situation. Kia Charge addresses these pain points. It consolidates the majority of the UK and Europe’s charging networks for location, access and payment in one solution so users can ‘roam’ freely between networks without the need for multiple accounts, apps, cards or subscriptions.
Dan – How many locations does it cover?
JB – It includes about 70 per cent of the UK’s public charging stations. That’s about 20,500 devices. The solution boasts the UK’s largest collection of networks in one solution, with 23 UK operators including Pod Point, bp pulse, Osprey, char.gy, Instavolt, IONITY and Source London, but it works across borders too. Users can travel to 28 other European countries using Kia Charge in the same way as they do in the UK. It takes so much of the complexity away when you travel far from home.
Dan – What charging speeds are available across the network?
JB – There is a variety of power levels available to suit different needs. Some networks featured in Kia Charge like Source London predominantly offer 7kW or 22kW, which is best for charging overnight or for a small top-up. We also have networks like IONITY with 350kW stations, which is fantastic for charging en route to a destination. Kia Charge offers options for all charging speeds.
Dan – How easy is it to use?
JB – With Kia Charge, you have a consolidated view of all networks. You can consult prices, availability and use the trip planner functionality to plan journeys with charging stops. Once you are at a station, you simply use the Kia Charge card or app to start a charging session. All costs are then billed to you at the end of the month in a single invoice.
Dan – How confident are you that it works?
JB – Kia Charge is really quite ground-breaking and it works. We have tens of thousands of active users across Europe. The UK service – which was one of the first countries to become available – has just celebrated its first anniversary and we are seeing exponential growth in the number of charging sessions performed every day. We are also constantly improving Kia Charge. In February, we launched our green energy mechanism in respond to customers’ calls for a charging experience that is more sustainable. With green energy, we commit to buying the equivalent to all energy supplied via Kia Charge as wind energy Guarantees of Origin certificates. This way, we increase demand for the generation of wind energy in the UK and European energy market. We are very keen to hear from our customers about their experience of the service and about other improvements they want us to work on. That’s why we started this discussion with Fully Charged to find Kia drivers willing to exchange with us.
If you are a Kia electric car driver and use Kia Charge, Kia wants to hear about your experience to feature it in their next customer newsletter. If you are interested in contributing, please let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in touch.