ESB DfI Committee

Earlier this morning representatives from ESB ecars presented to Stormont’s Infrastructure Committee.

You can watch the full presentation below (from around 19:10), plus the question and answer session that followed. Here are some of the things we learned from todays meeting.

The Existing Network

  • As we know, ESB have 177 chargers in NI (160 x doubled headed ACs, plus 17 DC Rapids)
  • ESB were asked how many of 177 chargers are working today. They replied that the NI network has a 69-70% reliability rate. They pointed out that the 30 chargers upgraded earlier this year have had a 96% reliability rate since their installation.
  • They were then asked what the figure was when the network was at its worse point. ESB did not have that information to hand but said they would send it to the Committee. The chairman told ESB that their service has been “abysmal”.
  • When asked how this reliability compared to RoI ESB said it was 98%. The chairman replied – “I find it startling that that is the difference. NI is the poor child in this relationship.”
  • ESB told the Committee they run the NI network at a loss, spending between £500K and £600K per year. They also stated that “we’ve all been quite uncomfortable with the state of the network over the last 2 years”
  • ESB also stated that they are not the only charger network in NI and other operators are present
  • When asked how NI compared to RoI in numbers, ESB said that there are around 1,170 chargers in RoI, which lead the committee to suggest that NI should have something more like 450 to be comparable.
  • ESB said that the business case remains “very challenging” with limited numbers of EVs here, although they did concede that numbers are rising rapidly. The chairman replied with “Build it and they will come”.
  • The ESB representatives said there are 50,000 EVs in RoI and only 4,600 EVs in NI, and that “half are plugin hybrids that aren’t a frequent users of network here”. EVANI can confirm that this figure is incorrect however, understating EV numbers here by over 40% (DfT figures show 6,491 plug-in cars in NI for Q2 and Q3 numbers are due to be published this week which will show another substantial increase).
  • ESB admitted that the poor network here is at least somewhat to blame for this low figure, saying that they “do recognise that the perception of the network is an inhibitor to EV uptake”.

The New Network

  • ESB talked about their project to replace the entire network here, which is part paid for by the Levelling up Fund and stated “We recognise there a lot of work to do”.
  • The £3.27M from LUF will pay for around 90% of the total capital investment required
  • ESB confirmed that the grid connection costs in NI are substantially more expensive than any of the areas in GB that they operate (London, Cambridge & Birmingham) and also the Republic of Ireland.
  • The 5 new Rapid Charging hubs announced by ESB will allow “4 to 8 vehicles to charge simultaneously” (we assume this means 2 double headed rapids at some sites and 4 at others?).
  • The ESB network replacement project will see around 25% of existing AC sites have their equipment replaced with DC Rapid chargers.
  • Installation will begin in Q1 2022, with works already started around gaining permissions etc
  • However, ESB told the committee there is currently a world-wide shortage of chargers
  • ESB’s London network has a reliability of over 95%, with 98% for their chargers in RoI over last 12 months. ESB envisage the new network in NI will be similar.
  • ESB are currently in the procurement process for a new maintenance provider for 2022. The SLA will have a best response time of 2 hours for the most urgent faults, ranging to a 2 days for lesser items like graffiti.
  • ESB envisage it will take 18 months to roll out the upgrade program across NI, finishing by “July/August 2023”.
  • When asked about the Faster Project, ESB said they expect it to go to the procurement stage in Q1/Q2 2022. They confirmed they intend to “bid strongly for this work”.
  • ESB confirmed they intend to Introducing fees for charging and over stays in 2022, as they had previously told EVANI in October this year

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