Electric Car Charging in Melbourne

GoGet plug-in Prius chargingChargePoint Chargers

This morning I noticed some parking bays reserved for car charging in a car park at the corner of Sydney Rd and Glenlyon St in Brunswick (near Aldi). One of the parking spots was occupied by a Plug-in Prius from GoGet [1]. I didn’t even realise that you could get a plug-in Prius in Australia. The charging station is run by Charge Point [2].

The charging points are about 1.5m high and the cable is about 3cm thick (about as thick as the pipe used for filling a car with petrol), so it would charge a car much faster than could be done with a regular power point.

One big problem with the Charge Point web site is that they don’t give any information on pricing. They sell home charge points (which I guess means just an all-weather two-phase power point) but don’t give a price for that. They sell charge points that can be used by commercially but don’t give a price for them either. Also their infrastructure for billing is apparently based on companies installing charge points and setting a price for the service. Some charge points may offer free service (I guess staff car parks and some government agencies) and others will charge varying rates – none of which is available on the web site. Apparently they have an “online portal” which gives information on such things to registered users – so you have to register to discover what it costs. Of course hardly anyone is going to register before discovering the price, not even when registration is free. But while registration is free the web site demands the make and model of the electric car, so presumably one has to spend $40,000 or more on a vehicle before discovering the price and availability of charging it.

Charge Point can be used as an example of how not to design a web site that promotes a service, or at least how not to promote a service that is aimed at saving money (electricity is significantly cheaper than petrol so it’s of interest to people and organisations that want to save money). The Charge Point site seems to be better suited to showing that the concept can work than convincing people that they should sign up for it. It seems to me that the best thing that they could do would be to prominently display the average cost of all non-free charge points that are open to the public along with an explanation of the price of driving a desirable car (such as a plug-in Prius or a Nissan Leaf) with such an electricity cost.

The “contact” section on the web site only has a link for “careers”.

I don’t think it’s possible to get widespread use of electric vehicles without getting better information out there. It appears that Charge Point is relying on councils to do the work of promoting their business by installing their stations and reserving car parking as Moreland council has done in this case.

3 comments to Electric Car Charging in Melbourne

  • neonsignal

    I’m not sure if the pricing would be indicative of market rates at the moment anyway. I know Moreland council has been running a trial (there was a flyer in the mail a while back), and the charging stations were free or heavily subsidized. The council itself has an electric car, but the charging station at the council can also be used by the public.

  • etbe

    The current pricing probably won’t be a good indication of what the pricing will be in a year or two. Even companies that just want to make money from charging probably won’t aim to make a profit at this time and could sell at or below cost.

    But if I’m going to borrow or rent an electric car then I want to know the costs of recharging it now not what they might be in future.

    Thanks for the URL for the free trial. I wish all government web sites were half as good as that one!

  • Usually these charge a lot more than the market rate for electricity in the US, at least, when they do charge at all. Many of the stations are there for the convenience of customers of a particular business and just require you to tap something (prox credit card or a “chargepoint card” you get via the mail) to unlock the charging plug. Others just require you to pay the normal parking fee for wherever you are parking.

    There are alternative sites to find charging points for cars, without having to log in or sign up for an account: seems to have a bunch of them listed in Melbourne. Plugshare lists the cost of the stations when you click on one. I’ve used the site in the US and it’s accurate here at least.