Airlines may be keen to demonstrate their green credentials by adopting bio-fuels and more efficient engines but at ground level, drivers of electric cars using Britain's busiest airport are discovering a major charging network has been switched off, with neither airport nor the charging company prepared to say why.
Heathrow Airport was used by 62 million people last year. To cater for those arriving or leaving by electric cars, it hosted a Pod Point network numbering more than 25 chargers at short-stay car parks. However, in recent months, drivers have found the chargers no longer work and have taken to social media to report the problem.
They include Jonathan Whelan, a Tesla Model 3 owner, who wrote, "Looks permanently shut now. All powered down". Another suggested it was because "Heathrow failed to renew the contract"; Pod Point wouldn't tell Autocar why its chargers have been switched off and instead referred the magazine to Heathrow.
The airport's spokesperson also declined to provide a reason but added, "Heathrow is developing plans to meet the growing demand."
Heathrow's Pod Point chargers may be switched off but fortunately, there are other chargers provided by networks including BP Pulse and Polar, most of them located at the major hotels and some car parks bordering the airport. There are also Tesla Supercharger sites at terminals 2, 3 and 5.
Some valet parking services now also offer EV charging. The first to do so at Heathrow was Park Giant UK, a meet-and-greet parking operator.
It launched its EV charging service in January 2022 and charges around 40 cars per week, some of them via the slow, three-pin sockets in its storage compound or, where requested by customers, at the Tesla Supercharge facility nearby at the Hilton, at Terminal 5.
"We're very pleased with the demand and expect it to increase as the ULEZ expansion takes effect and more people drive EVs," said Bob Gill, director of Park Giant UK.
Beyond Heathrow and around the country, airport charger provision is equally mixed with many chargers distributed in car parks and hotels on an apparently ad hoc basis. Of the UK's 10 busiest airports that Autocar contacted for an outline of their charger provision, only two – Luton and Gatwick – responded.
Luton confirmed that it has 10, 7kW chargers located in Terminal Car Park 1 while Gatwick has 24, 22kW charge points across its public car parks. However, later this summer it will gain a dedicated EV charging facility.
Provided by Gridserve, Gatwick Electric Forecourt will be located on the approach to the airport's South Terminal and feature 36 medium and high-power chargers. Another airport set to gain a dedicated EV forecourt is Newcastle. Created in partnership with charging operator Fastned, it will have up to 12 charging bays when, assuming planning permission is granted, it opens in 2024.