IONITY rapid-charging network: second 350kW UK station opens

New IONTY rapid-charging station opens in Milton Keynes, as firm targets 10 UK sites this year

The IONITY rapid-charging network has opened its second UK station at Milton Keynes Coachway – near Junction 14 on the M1 – with four bays capable of charging at rates of up to 350kW.

It follows the arrival of IONITY’s first facility on Junction 8 of the M20 in Maidstone, Kent, back in May.

A third station is expected to open in Gretna Green soon, and a spokesperson has told DrivingElectric that 10 locations will be operational in the UK before the end of the year.

The spokesperson also confirmed that IONITY had secured deals for 30 sites across the country: the company plans to have a 40-strong network of rapid-charging stations in operation by the end of 2020.

Eight of those will be at service stations run by Extra MSA Group, which signed a deal with IONITY earlier this year. They include Leeds Skelton Lake (M1, J45), Cobham (M25), Cambridge (A14/M11, J28), Beaconsfield (M40, J2), Cullompton (M5, J28), Blackburn with Darwen (M65, J4), Baldock (A1M, J10) and Peterborough (A1M, J17).

Meanwhile, IONTY has indicated that it will meet demands to allow contactless card payments at rapid charging stations by next spring. Earlier this week, the government said it was “prepared to intervene” to ensure greater convenience for electric-vehicle drivers.

Asked if this was feasible in the timescale outlined by the government, an IONITY spokesperson said: “Absolutely. Our system here, you can see that we have the contactless pads there. That’s absolutely in keeping with what we want to do.”

Currently, drivers wishing to use IONTIY’s chargers must have an RFID card, or pay directly on a smartphone using the firm’s app or website.

IONITY has also said that that its pricing structure will evolve later this year, with a “kilowatt-per-hour” system in the pipeline. At the moment, it charges a flat fee of £8 for all charging sessions, regardless of how much electricity drivers consume.

No details have been revealed at this stage, although testing is being done on a software update that will allow the firm to more accurately measure the amount of charge running through its DC chargers.

What is IONITY?

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.

What is the Shell-IONITY fast-charging network?

Currently, there are no cars on sale capable using the full 350kW potential of IONITY’s chargers, although the forthcoming Porsche Taycan is set to become the first when it arrives in 2020. With up to 350kW delivered through a CCS charging cable, the company claims top-up times "as low as eight minutes", although this will depend on a vehicle's battery capacity.

Each station will initially feature 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 are expected to receive 24-hour support – both remote and on-site – with a network of 2,400 charging points across Europe planned for 2020.

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

Why is Shell opening fast-charging stations?

Given Shell’s core business in the oil industry, its interest in electric charging may come across as odd. But as Shell's David Bunch explains, the company perceives itself as an energy provider with an opportunity to grow its business.

“A customer who drives an electric vehicle, hydrogen vehicle or diesel vehicle is equally important to me,” he says. “So we have a vested interest in enabling and supporting energy transition and the move to cleaner fuels. I’m absolutely committed and focused on this, and obviously we want to take a big role in this both from serving our customers and creating a sustainable business model for our shareholders.

“What’s most important is that we do what we can, and do everything that we can, because it’s going to take everybody pulling in the same direction to affect - as our colleagues from IONITY said - a speedy transition. That’s very much where our energy is focused. The thing that we really value about this partnership with IONITY is that we’re able to satisfy customers today, but we’re prepared for the customers of tomorrow as well. That’s a nice position for us to be in.”