My car has more than enough range for me, but on a recent journey I decided it would be prudent to do a splash-and-dash - shove a few kWh in the battery just in case. I fired up Zap Map and was pleasantly surprised to see that Shell had a rapid charger near me. So, here's my review. Can a station forecourt deliver the power I need?
The charger was clearly signposted and in a prominent location - no hunting around the back of the building. There was a dedicated parking space marked out as EV only, so hopefully it won't get ICE'd
The Recharge unit isn't under cover, but the petrol pumps are. Could be a bit grim in the rain.
This was perfect! I tapped my American Express card on the unit and the charge started. Proper pay-as-you-go. This is so welcome. Lots of EV chargers require an app, or a special card, or for you to prepay, or to subscribe to paid membership. Shell Recharge is EV charging as it should be - tap to pay, and pay for what you use, not the time you spend charging.
This is where things get a little tricky. The sign on the charger says 39p per kWh.
That's about 3 times what I pay at home for electricity. But, like bottled water, you're paying for convenience. According to my maths, the real fuel efficiency of an electric car is about 165MPG - so 3x electricity costs about the same as unleaded petrol.
But, there's also an app you can use. The weirdly named "Smoov" - that says the price is 25p/kWh.
I couldn't be bothered setting up the app, so I tapped with contactless.
£20 was reserved on my contactless card. It took 2 days for the final charge to come through: £1.85.
That's the 25p/kWh promised in the app. Obviously the sign is outdated.
Update! The 25p price was a promotion. The regular price is now 39p.
The interface is basically fine. A colour screen with fairly clear instructions, and push buttons to control it.
It took me a few seconds to figure it out - I doubt I wouldn't have enjoyed doing it in the rain.
Stopping the charge wasn't obvious. None of the buttons worked, and I didn't want to hit the prominent "Emergency Stop". Eventually I realised that I had to use the same payment card as I'd used to start. I waved my credit card, and the charge ended. Then I got this message:
This screen hasn't localised this for the UK; we don't use the comma as a decimal separator. I have no idea what "DTC:" means. The 78 at the bottom is current battery percentage - that's not explained anywhere. It also doesn't show the total cost.
Not a very helpful screen, it has to be said. But improvements are on the way.
Hi Terence, thank you for your feedback, I will forward this to the correct department! DTC stands for Diagnostic Trouble Codes, codes that report malfunctions to the vehicle. We hope to see you back soon! 😊— Allego (@AllegoCharging) May 7, 2019
I wanted a quick charge. Batteries usually charge fastest from empty. I got 7.5kWh in 10 minutes - that's about 45kW. Given the unit is rated at 50kW, I'm happy with that speed. Typically, a half-hour charge will take a battery from empty to 80% full, after which charging rates can slow significantly.
There wasn't much to do at the station - it's a fuel stop, not a motorway services. So we bought some sandwiches and ate them in the car. Glamorous!
I'm impressed! Shell are still, no doubt, a morally reprehensible oil company - but they can see that the future is electric.
The price for charging is fair, if a little confusing. And the user interface needs to be localised and properly tested with users.
That said, being able to tap to pay - without any intermediary apps or subscriptions - is a welcome addition to the UK charging market.