IONITY rapid-charging network: new location opened at Leeds Skelton Lake

Manufacturer-backed IONITY rapid-charging network opens new Leeds location as UK expansion continues

The Europe-wide IONITY rapid-charging network has opened its latest hub – the fourth in the UK – at Leeds Skelton Lake Services, located at Junction 45 of the M1 motorway.

The Leeds locations is the first in the UK to feature IONITY's new and improved charger design, premiered at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. These use 'halo' lighting to display information about the charging status of the battery, while the illumination makes night-time use easier, too. In addition, IONITY says, the position and design of the charging cable makes attaching the cable to the car easier than current units.

Earlier in 2020, the network announced a new kilowatt-hour-based metered pricing structure for its 350kW electric-car charging points. Previously, IONITY had charged a flat fee of £8 for all charging sessions, regardless of how much electricity drivers consumed.

Since 31 January, customers without contracts have been charged an ad-hoc rate of £0.69 per kWh, or €0.79 per kWh for locations on the continent. Those who access the network through manufacturer contracts from the likes of Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche get a cheaper rate.

The ad-hoc fee translates to a 0-100% charge cost of approximately £27 for a 40kWh Nissan Leaf, or around £41 for a Tesla Model 3 Long Range, although rapid chargers like these are more commonly used for topping up in smaller increments, with full charges completed on home wallboxes overnight.

IONITY chargers in the UK

There are currently four IONITY locations in the UK. The fourth and most recent to open is Leeds Skelton Lake, while the second and third UK stations to open are at Gretna Green and Milton Keynes Coachway.

These followed the arrival of IONITY’s first facility on J8 of the M20 in Maidstone, Kent, in May 2019. By mid-2019, IONITY had secured deals for 30 sites across the country and the company plans to have a 40-strong network of rapid-charging stations in operation here by the end of 2020.

Eight of those will be at service areas run by Extra MSA Group. They include the already-open Leeds Skelton Lake (M1, J45), along with Cobham (M25), Cambridge (A14/M11, J28), Beaconsfield (M40, J2), Cullompton (M5, J28), Blackburn with Darwen (M65, J4), Baldock (A1M, J10) and Peterborough (A1M, J17).

Energy technology company Octopus Energy – backed by Octopus Investments, which claims to be the UK's largest investor in solar power – provides the electricity for every IONITY charging station in the UK. The firm promises "100% renewable energy", giving drivers "peace of mind" regarding their impact on the environment.

IONITY has indicated that it'll meet demands to allow contactless card payments at rapid charging stations. During 2019, the government said it was “prepared to intervene” to ensure greater convenience for electric-vehicle drivers. Previously, drivers wishing to use IONITY’s chargers had to have an RFID card, or pay directly on a smartphone using the firm’s app or website.

Ionity chargers charging

What is IONITY and the Shell-IONITY fast-charging network?

IONITY was created following Shell’s acquisition of charging company NewMotion – one of the largest charging providers in Europe – and builds on the portfolio of the Shell Recharge fast chargers already located around the UK.

It’s the second example of a major oil company investing in electric vehicle charging, after BP’s takeover of Chargemaster in 2017. IONITY is a joint venture involving Daimler (parent company of Mercedes), BMW, Ford and VW Group brands Audi and Porsche. Hyundai and Kia became shareholders in September 2019.

At the same time as bringing Hyundai and Kia on board, IONITY also debuted a new design of charging station for its network, dubbed the 'High-Power Charger'. The unit promises an improved user experience, incorporating an LED light ring to act as a 'beacon' at night, making it easier for drivers to find stations. The ring indicates the chargers' availability by its colour, as well as providing a well-lit area for drivers charging their cars during darkness.

Each station features up to six charging points, although most of IONITY’s sites have contracts for 10 years, which could see them expand as demand rises. All sites receive 24-hour support – both remote and on-site – with a network of 2,400 points across Europe planned for 2020. The number of live stations had reached 200 in 20 countries by January 2020.