The Electric Highway

Electric car drivers can now travel from Birmingham to Liverpool and Manchester without fear of running out of power after Ecotricity opened two new charging points on the M6 at Keele services – as part of the world’s first national charging network.

The Electric HighwayThe Electric Highway now has charging points at Welcome Break motorway services on the M6, M40, M1, M5, M4 and M25 – all powered by the wind and solar farms of green energy company Ecotricity.

This breakthrough in electric vehicle infrastructure removes one of the main barriers for people wanting to buy electric cars – so called ‘range anxiety’ – with people afraid to leave their home town or city and drive on the motorway for fear of running out of power.

Twelve motorway ‘top-up zones’ have now been installed at Welcome Break motorway services, including:

  • Keele services  – M6 north between Birmingham and Manchester/M6 south between Manchester and Birmingham
  • Charnock Richard services – M6 north between Liverpool and the Lake District/M6 south between the Lake District and Liverpool
  • Sedgemoor services – M5 north between Exeter and Bristol
  • Hopwood Park services – M42 east and west between M5 and M40
  • Membury services – M4 east between Bristol and London/M4 west between London and Bristol
  • South Mimms services  – M25 and M1 junction – north of London
  • Michaelwood services – M5 north between Bristol and Birmingham/M5 south between Birmingham and Bristol
  • Oxford services – M40 North London and Birmingham

A thirteenth ‘top-up zone’ is also located at the base of an Ecotricity windmill:

  • Green Park windmill – M4 at Junction 11 near Reading

Fifteen ‘top-up-zones’ in total will soon be located at motorway services around the country to complete the first phase of the network. Each post will be located outside the main entrance of Welcome Break, with two sockets that can be accessed by registering for a free swipe-card.

Within 18 months, all 27 Welcome Break motorway services across Britain will have charging points.

Electric cars using rapid recharge points (32Amp with 7-pin socket) can top-up in around 20 minutes or fully charge in two hours; while those using the slower (13Amp supply) will be able to recharge fully if staying overnight at the motorway services hotel.

Dale Vince OBE, founder of Ecotricity, said: “People have asked why we are building this Electric Highway when there are only about 2,000 electric cars on the road today. In fact that’s a big part of the reason – a lack of demand.

“It’s often said that one of the reasons more people don’t buy electric cars is because of a lack of charging facilities – while the reason more charging facilities aren’t built is because not enough people are buying electric cars  – classic chicken and egg stuff.  We’re hoping to break that impasse.

“We’re creating the infrastructure to get Britain’s electric car revolution moving.”

With world oil prices going through the roof, you’ll now be able to get around Britain using only the power of the wind. It costs just over 1p a mile for electric vehicles, compared to 15p in a petrol car (at today’s prices).

The UK consumes around 23 million tonnes of oil every year in the UK to do the 250 billion miles we drive every year. But we could power all that with 12,000 of today’s windmills, or just 6,000 of tomorrow’s.”

A driver doing a year’s typical 8,500miles of motoring could save almost £1,000 in petrol costs at today’s prices, and save around 2,000kg in CO2 emissions.

Electric car owners who want to register for a free swipe card can visit Ecotricity’s website at

2011 has been dubbed ‘The Year of the Electric Car’, with major manufacturers launching all-electric mass-market models including the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi MIEV and Peugeot iOn. Ford will also launch an all-electric version of its Ford Focus.