This is the second part of an occasional series covering national charging networks (the first was Ecotricity’s Electric Highway).
POLAR Network (including Charge Your Car and Source East)
“We run POLAR, the UK’s biggest public charging network. It links over 5,000 public charging points, not limited to just Chargemaster units, giving EV drivers a convenient and reliable nationwide charging system. The POLAR network is growing all the time, making the future of electric motoring possible for more and more drivers.
POLAR Plus is our unique subscription service that offers members better value and special benefits. With the first three months’ membership free, you pay just £7.85 per month thereafter. Members enjoy unlimited access to over 5,000 charging points, most of which are then free to use. For the others, they just pay for the electricity consumed (at only 9p per kWh, which is cheaper than the average cost at home). There’s no long term contract or nasty notice period to worry about. If you decide for any reason to cancel, you can do so. Immediately. It’s as simple and painless as that.
POLAR Plus members earn ‘POLAR Points’ when they charge in a different town each month. Points can be used to borrow one of our fleet of 20 EV Experience cars for free for a week, including our BMW i8 and i3, Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf.
POLAR Plus Ts & Cs: To receive three months’ free POLAR Plus membership, you must first sign-up for the scheme and provide your Direct Debit details. From the start of month four you will automatically be charged £7.85 each month for membership on an ongoing basis, until you cancel. New customers only. You can see whether a charging post is free or chargeable using our live map. Please note that during the free membership period you will still be charged for any electricity used.
POLAR Instant is a smart phone app that is available for both iPhone and Android smart phones that enables you to use hundreds of charging points across the country directly from your smart phone without the need for a RFID card or pre-registration to a “scheme”. iPhone App will be available from Mid April,2014 and Android from early May.
You can view where all the charging points are across the country, check if they are free to use in or what tariff they are charging, see what type of socket and output they have, see if they are available for use in real time, get directions to the charging point and then simply start and stop the charge from your phone with simple instructions.
POLAR Instant Ts & Cs: All charges are subject to a £1.20 admin fee which is deducted from your balance once the charge is complete. Some chargepoints will also incur a cost for the electricity used. To check the costs of individual chargepoints, please view our map. You may set up your account, make credits, view charging point check locations and tariffs as well as check your charging history and account balance on line at www.POLARinstant.com in the same way as on your smartphone app. If you need any assistance when charging call the POLAR Instant Help line on 0845 5280 289.”
POLAR is the biggest network of chargepoints around England. If you have seen chargepoints around your town, at supermarkets, town centres, car parks and public buildings, then chances are they are part of the POLAR network. Most of the points are low power and will charge an electric car in 3-8 hours (for these you will need to provide your own Type 2 cable – there is usually one supplied with each car). However, some are rapid chargers that can charge to 80% in about half an hour (these have their own tethered cables); the majority are manufactured in-house by Chargemaster.
There are two ways to pay – by subscription on POLAR Plus or Pay As You Go (PAYG) on POLAR Instant. The POLAR Plus subscription costs £7.85 per month (including VAT) which gets you an RFID access card. Most charging is then free, though some is charged per unit of electricity (kWh). On POLAR Instant you use a Smartphone App and you prepay into your account. There is a £1.20 ‘administration fee’ per charge and most charging is then either free or charged per hour (for example, £1.50 per hour on the ones I use in Milton Keynes). Note, however, outside Milton Keynes the majority of Chargemaster rapid chargers are only available on POLAR Plus. If you charge regularly on POLAR, more than a few times a month, or you want access to all the rapids, it’s generally worth joining the POLAR Plus scheme; you will also get additional benefits such as ‘POLAR Points’ allowing you to borrow from Chargemaster’s pool of electric cars.
Reliability of the POLAR charge points is generally good, and as the maps are real-time you can check in advance if a particular one you want is working. Further, you can check to see if it’s actually in use.
The POLAR network continues to expand and develop. In January 2017 Chargemaster completed the acquisition of Elektromotive and its Charge Your Car network (though access is not available via Polar Instant). In March 2017 it took on some parts of the Source East network. In July 2017 it announced that it was switching to 100% renewable energy.