Beginning in 2011, England’s electric vehicle drivers were able to top up their car’s battery with renewable energy for free at a few locations along the country’s most used roadways.

Called the “Electric Highway,” the number of charging stations has increased to 296 (276 are rapid chargers), and the network has provided 30 million miles of free travel to nearly 40,000 members.

Free is a very good price but Ecotricity, the exclusive provider of the EV charging equipment, says now it must “start charging for the charging.”

Starting July 18, those who plug-in will have to pay £5 (US $6.50) for twenty minutes of electrons.

Ecotricity energy customers will still be able to use the chargers for free as part of their paid-for utilities home plan.

The clean energy provider cites one of the reasons it rolled out the Electric Highway was to help “kickstart Britain’s electric car revolution.”

It pointed to the chicken and egg scenario: People wouldn’t buy EVs if there weren’t enough public chargers available, and companies wouldn’t install chargers if there weren’t enough EVs on the road.

SEE MORE: Norway’s New Cars Sold Approaches 40 Percent Electrified

The chicken and egg dilemma is over and Ecotricity needs to begin charging for the service in order to pay for more charging stations and maintain them.

The $6.50 is still a good deal if you own, say an electric Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe. A twenty-minute charge will provide 50 or more miles from a quick charger.

It’s not such a good deal if your vehicle is a plug-in hybrid.

That same 20-minute charge for Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will get the battery to about 50 percent state of charge.

That’s about 15 miles worth of electric driving. The same distance would cost around $2.50 for gasoline.

While sales of plug-in vehicles are rising far quicker in the UK and Europe than in the U.S., they have a long way to go before they outpace diesel and gasoline cars.

That’s why many EV advocates are crying foul over Ecotricity’s new charge for charging.

Daily Mail