You'll soon be able to charge your car at the pub, as long as you stick to the Diet Coke, but London's electric vehicle infrastructure is still in need of some juice

Steve Hogarty
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Go Ultra Low Electric Vehicle on charge on a London street
Source: Getty

One of the country’s leading pub chains has announced it’s planning to roll out electric vehicle charging points to boozers up and down the country.

For Londoners, it’s jarring enough to be reminded that pubs outside the M25 even have their own car parks, let alone ones that will soon dispense a fleet of perfectly silent electric cars at the end of each night, their drivers buzzed up on all those Diet Cokes they’ll no doubt have been drinking.

Of course, the decision to add plugs to parking spots is a responsible one. The innovation promises to remove 4.8 tonnes of nitrous oxide from UK roads annually, which must be a lot of nitrous oxide, because gas really doesn’t weigh much. It’s the main reason we use it in balloons, and why we’re not crushed to death by falling clouds whenever we step outside.

These new pub plugs can also get your battery-powered motor up to 80 per cent charge in just half an hour, which is ideal, as that’s exactly how long it takes to eat three bags of pork scratchings and lose a tenner on a fruit machine. If this rollout is successful, you can reasonably claim to be saving the planet every time you pop into the pub. Stay there all day and you might even start to reverse climate change.

But in London the path forward is less clear for electric vehicle owners. Our pub car parks have long since been turned into luxury new builds. To fulfil demand, dutiful cab drivers stepped up to the plate, bravely enduring our late night tales of arguments won, and our half-remembered jokes about 12-inch pianists.

In lieu of the vast tracts of parking available elsewhere in the country, London’s few electric car charging points have had to be crammed into wherever they can fit. In the suburbs it’s not uncommon to see several extension cords snaking their way out of a living room window, and winding across the footpath like some Lovecraftian health and safety nightmare.

By 2050, we might all live and work inside a 15-storey WeWork fortress, which will roll across the scorched remains of Britain on tank treads, collecting survivors and putting them to work in the Twitter mines

Around the city itself, the odd lamp post has been retrofitted to provide power to thirsty cars, but electric vehicle charging spots are generally still scarce, with drivers typically having to queue to use them. With the new technology comes charging etiquette, too. Owners leave helpful notes on their cars, letting other drivers know how long they’ve been parked there, and when it’s alright to yank out the charging cable to use for themselves. The brother- and sisterhood of electric car owners looks after its own – a powerful bond forged by a paucity of electrons.

Nobody can say for sure how London will manage to power the increasing numbers of electric vehicles on its roads, or whether we’ll even have to. By 2050, we might all live and work inside a 15-storey WeWork fortress, which will roll across the scorched remains of Britain on tank treads, collecting survivors and putting them to work in the Twitter mines, promoting menswear brands on what’s left of social media.

Less pessimistic is car-sharing company Zipcar, who recently unveiled its own plans to circumvent London’s lack of charging points. The company – which has 325 electric cars in its fleet – is trialling “mobile charging points” by strapping a set of wheels to a giant battery, and rolling that battery to wherever it’s needed. Zipcar has, in effect, created one of those clunky portable power packs for smartphones, but massive enough to recharge an entire hatchback.

If the idea works, it could usher in an exciting new era of portability for the electric car, allowing us to park them in all manner of places where we probably shouldn’t, not just at pubs but at wine tastings, gin distilleries and laser eye surgery appointments, too.

Steve Hogarty is City A.M.’s travel editor, technology reviews editor and electric car apologist

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