Diesel generator not powering electric vehicle chargers at Welsh service station

28 November 2023
What was claimed

A video shows new electric vehicle chargers with a generator operating nearby which is using diesel to power them.

Our verdict

This is false. The generator is using hydrotreated vegetable oil and is facilitating the installation work. Once operational the chargers will power electric vehicles using renewable energy.

A social media video has falsely claimed that “brand new” electric vehicle charging points being installed at a Welsh service station are powered by a diesel generator.

The Facebook video, which has been shared more than 9,000 times, shows a number of new charging stations for electric vehicles at the Cardiff West services off the M4 motorway.

During footage of the charging points, which are fenced off and not in use, the person apparently filming the video says they can follow a cable running underground to the “power source”. The video then shows a generator running behind more fencing.

The video’s narrator says the generator is required because “the power supply haven’t [sic] got the infrastructure to run the chargers. So your electric cars are still running on diesel”.

Although the government has confirmed that there are occasions where a diesel generator can be used as a temporary measure until chargers are connected to the electricity grid, it is not true that the power for these charging points to charge the batteries of electric vehicles (EVs) comes from a diesel generator.

Moto, the company that operates the Cardiff West services, told Full Fact that the EV chargers are not currently open to the public, but will be powered by “100 percent net zero carbon energy” when they begin operating.

They told us that the generator shown in the footage is a hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) generator, which is being used to facilitate the installation work. HVO is a type of renewable liquid fuel produced by processing waste oils, often left over from the agricultural and food industries.

The EV chargers are being installed and will be operated by the company GRIDSERVE, which produces electricity through solar energy farms and battery storage.

A Moto spokesperson said: “The Ultra Rapid chargers at Cardiff West are currently not open to the public. When they are live, they will be supplied with 100 percent net zero carbon energy, in line with other GRIDSERVE Ultra Rapid chargers at Moto’s charging locations.

“Currently, hydrotreated vegetable oil generators are being used to facilitate the installation works on site and to ensure that the chargers are able to operate in standby mode, whilst we await our final connection works to take place. These generators produce 90 percent less carbon emissions than traditional generators.

“GRIDSERVE are currently undertaking a range of tests and commissioning processes on site that rely on the power created by a HVO generator.”

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Are diesel generators ever used to power EV charging stations?

According to the government, as of October 2023 there are around 49,220 public charge points in the UK, of which 8,908 are ‘rapid’—able to charge an EV in around 30 minutes

The charging network is made up of different types of charge points, from high speed en-route chargers and charging hubs, to destination chargers and on-street provision, as well as a person’s home charging point.

There are a range of different public EV charging networks in the UK, which each provide different access; some require a membership, while others allow for pay-as-you-go charging

The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed that most charge points are connected and powered by the National Grid. But there are occasions where a diesel generator can be used as a temporary measure until chargers are connected to the electricity grid.

The government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles has admitted that connecting new charge points to the electricity system can be both an expensive and slow process, and chargepoint operators have reported poor grid capacity in some areas being a barrier to projects, especially in more remote rural areas.

A spokesperson for the DfT told Full Fact: “The government is committed to supporting the roll-out of robust chargepoint infrastructure across the UK’s network and we continue to work with the energy and chargepoint industries to ensure they can be supported by the electricity grid.”

We have previously written about myths involving electric cars, including false claims that only drivers of electric vehicles are exempt from London’s ultra low emission zone, and that a ‘boneyard’ of electric cars had been abandoned because of failed batteries.

Image courtesy of Ivan Radic

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