Catalytic Converter Thefts – Prevention Tips

There seem to be a spate of catalytic converter thefts happening at the moment in North London. We’ve seen several reports on community website Next Door. We’ve pulled together the essential facts, including some prevention tips.

What is a Catalytic Converter?

Catalytic converters breakdown harmful compounds and are designed to remove toxins from vehicle emissions. Inside are two ceramic blocks coated with precious metals: platinum, palladium and rhodium. There is value in these metals so that they are a prized item and the theft of a catalytic converter can provide a substantial return to a thief. If your catalytic converter is stolen, you’ll soon know about it because your vehicle will sound different.

What vehicles are being targeted?

Top brands being targeted include Transit/Sprinter vans and other high clearance vehicles, Toyota Prius and Honda (2003 – 2009). So if you own one of these listed, please do take a look at our prevention tips below. Catalytic converters aren’t cheap to replace and can range from £700 – £2000 depending on the make.

What to look out for?

If you see any suspicious people crouching behind cars, go and disturb them (if it is safe). Thieves often double park next to cars and can be seen with car jacks.

Another tell-tale sign is the loud noise the equipment makes removing the catalytic converter. Don’t assume it is builders, go and investigate.

These thieves aren’t work under the cover of darkness but hiding in plain sight, in daylight with many cars and pedestrians around.

Prevention Tips

We’d like to thank both We’d like to thank both Sergeant Leon Christodoulou and PC Jonathan Eldred from Haringey Police for contributing to this list of prevention tips.

1. Understand the issue – Research has identified that taller vehicles, including 4x4s and vans may be more vulnerable as their catalytic converters (CATs) are more accessible. These vehicles often have larger engines and larger CATs also.

2. When away from your home try and park in well-lit busy areas. This may make your vehicle a less attractive target for a criminal as there is greater chance of them being seen and disturbed.

3. Catalytic converter thieves will often target an area over a period of time. Be aware of local media to see if there are reports in your locality.

4. If you can park your vehicle in a garage. This is an extra level of security for a thief to beat if they want to steal your catalytic converter.

5. CAT thieves don’t want to be seen. Effective security lighting could help put off a CAT thief. A range of solar security lights which are great where there is no main power can be found here security lights to help prevent CAT thefts

6. Consider installing a Thatcham approved alarm to your vehicle. Ones that activate if the vehicle is lifted or tilted are particularly effective

7. Fit a catalytic converter anti theft device such as the Armacat. The Armacat is fitted to the catalytic converter using stainless steel collars, high strength dome head bolts and temper proof shear nuts. This product uses an ultra strong 8mm diameter 7×19 stainless steel cable and a high temperature PVC sleeve. An alternative could be the Catloc, this is slightly cheaper in price. The manufacturers claim that the Catloc can be fitted to 99% of at risk vehicles.

8. Consider installing CCTV devices. Modern CCTV has night vision capabilities and can be viewed on smartphones. A system like this will be a major deterrent to a criminal and could cost less than replacing a CAT.

9. The metal shell of your CAT can be marked. If it is removed and the Police seize stolen CATs this may make it easier to return to you as stolen property.

10. Be aware and encourage awareness amongst your community. If you see people working under vehicles be aware they may be attacking the CAT or stealing fuel.

11. Report suspicious activity to the Police. Obtain as much information as possible, including any vehicle registrations

12. Raise awareness of the issue. Get sharing of this article!

If unfortunately your catalytic converter is stolen, do get in touch about a replacement 020 8807 0668.

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Ultra Low Emission Zone

Back when we researched New London Mayor’s “T Charge” two years ago, we wrote that “London’s new mayor also wants to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) as far as inner boundary of North and South circular roads, almost doubling it in size (original plan was to have the ULEZ in just the congestion charge zone).  He has also hinted that it could be brought forward by one year to 2019 as opposed to the original proposition of 2020.“ Well, Mr Khan has kept his word and the ULEZ is coming!

When is it coming?

From 8th April 2019, cars and vans will need to meet ULEZ standards (tighter exhaust emission standards) or pay a daily charge when driving within the zone.

Is North London affected?

Not immediately but from October 2021, the zone will be expanded to the North and South Circular roads boundaries. See map below:

How much does it cost now to drive in London?

Currently you could be charged a Congestion charge (Mon-Fri, 07:00-18:00) for driving in central London – £11.50. In addition to this, if your vehicle does not meet Euro 4 standards then you can add on an extra £10 (same zone and times apply). However from  8th April 2009, the ULEZ replaces the T Charge and you need to pay £12.50 if Euro 4 petrol or Euro 6 diesel standards not met (at all times within the congestion charge zone). More details can be found here.

How do I know if my vehicle is affected?

Please check the Transport for London website’s tool to see if your vehicle will incur a charge.

Are there any exemptions?

Yes, some drivers and vehicles will have a temporary discount whereas others will be completely exempt.

  • Residents living in the congestion charge zone currently registered for a discount will have a 100% discount from 8th April 2019 to 24th October 2021 so that they can change their vehicle to meet the ULEZ standards. If they don’t change their vehicle then from 25th October 2021, they will have to pay 100% of the ULEZ charge
  • Disabled or disabled passenger vehicle tax class owners will be exempt from the ULEZ charge until 25th October 2025. Blue badge holders will unfortunately have to pay the charge from 8th April 2019 unless their vehicle meets the new ULEZ emission standards or are registered with the DVLA as disabled or disabled passenger vehicle tax class
  • London-licensed taxis should already meet new emissions standards. In fact from 1st January 2018, all newly licensed taxis need to produce zero emissions
  • Historic vehicles (anything built more than 40 years ago) are already enjoying savings by not having to pay VED but the even better news is that they are also exempt from the ULEZ fee

You can see the full list of exemptions and discounts here.

What else you need to know

Here’s a list of quick ULEZ facts:

  • Failure to pay results in a fine of £160 (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days)
  • Lorries will be charged £100 per day and a massive fine of £1000 if not paid
  • There is a £23m scrappage scheme available to businesses with 10 or fewer employees to trade in their dirty vehicles for cleaner models
  • Signs will notify you of where the ULEZ starts

Keep checking our blog for more details on ways to ensure your vehicle meets the new ultra low emissions standard.

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Dutch Reach

When we were looking at new driving laws for 2019, we came across a campaign for Dutch Reach to be included in the Highway code, in order to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorbike riders from being “car doored”. Like many of you out there, we were unfamiliar with this method and thought it worth investigating for our blog.

What is the Dutch reach method?

The “Dutch reach” method is a practice used by both drivers and passengers to use their far hand to open the car door. In 5 simple steps, those in vehicles can help avoid collisions by:

  • Reach
  • Swivel
  • Look out
  • Look back
  • Open slowly

Drivers and passengers reach across for the door handle, using their far hand. They are forced to swivel and therefore you automatically look out, and back for oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Once the view is all clear, you can then open the door slowly whilst remaining vigilant.

For over 50 years, Dutch children have learnt this method from parents and in schools. It is also taught in driving lessons, so it is about time the UK learnt it too!

Why Introduce it to the UK?

In October 2018 it was announced that a set of measures were going to be introduced to the Highway Code in order to protect cyclists on UK roads. Unfortunately “car dooring” is on the rise in cities including London. It was first brought to the wider-public’s attention in 2016 when Chris Grayling (transport secretary) was caught in his own “car dooring” incident when he knocked a cyclist off a bike in Whitehall.

With the public being encouraged to walk or cycle more, measures need to be put into place to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, and this includes using Dutch reach.

Cycling UK Campaign

UK Cycling charity, Cycling UK are long-time advocates of this method.

The organisation also recommends the code should require vehicles to give way to pedestrians and cyclists when turning. They also want rules on cyclists attire to be changed. Cycling UK think that If the general advice is for cyclists to wear fluorescent clothing and helmets then it deflects the responsibility from drivers when there is a collision and promotes “victim-blaming” if the cyclist wasn’t wearing something bright and reflective.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advice

According to RoSPA there were 18,477 cycling casualties in 2016. A number of these could have been avoided if Dutch reach had been put into practice. Here are some tips for drivers:

  • Check your rear-view mirror and side-view mirror before opening your car door with your far-side hand. The ‘Dutch Reach’ forces your body to turn, making it a habit to look for cyclists.
  • Open your door slowly at first, do not fling it open.

So it looks like adding Dutch reach to the Highway Code can only be a good thing if it is going to improve road safety.

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Smart Motorways

smart motorways

Smart motorways (used to be called managed motorways) includes sections which use active traffic management methods to reduce congestion and increase capacity in busy areas.

Methods can include:

  • using the hard shoulder as an extra lane
  • using variable speed limits to control traffic flow

Smart motorways have been developed as a way of increasing capacity on the roads but without being detrimental to the environment.

Different Types of Smart Motorways

There are three different types of traffic management currently:

  • controlled motorways – comprising of three or more lanes (but retaining hard shoulder to be used in emergencies), variable speed limits are displayed on overhead signs. If no speed is shown then the national speed limit applies.
  • dynamic hard shoulder running schemes – this opens up the hard shoulder as an extra lane at busy periods. Overhead signs indicate if the hard shoulder is open to traffic. If an X is shown then you must exit straight away.
  • all lane running schemes – this removes the hard shoulder permanently and instead provide regularly spaced refuge areas to be used in emergencies

Safety Concerns

Smart motorways’ safety has been discussed at length in the media; how safe can they be if there is no hard shoulder?

Highways England though carried out a study from the traffic on the M42 motorway (opened in 2006) and has found that:

  • journey reliability improved by 22 per cent
  • personal injury accidents reduced by more than half
  • where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured

Fines and Penalties

There is a higher risk of you receiving a speeding fine on a smart motorway due to the increased number of cameras (there to enforce the variable speed limits) and you might be fined up to £2500!

As mentioned in our new driving laws in 2019 article, you could face a fine of up to £100 and three points on your licence if you drive in a lane closed on a smart motorway (designated with an X).

Driving advice on smart motorways

Here are some quick tips from the government’s guidance:

  • Never drive in a lane designated with “X”
  • Keep to the speed limits as shown on overhead signs
  • A solid white line will indicate a hard shoulder (so don’t drive in there unless indicated)
  • A broken white line shows that it is a normal lane
  • If your vehicle shows signs of trouble (warning light etc) then head over to a refuge or exit the smart motorway asap and if you break down don’t forget to use your hazards

Where can we find a smart motorways in UK?

Now that you know all about smart motorways and how to drive on them, you’ll be looking to put all this advice into practice! Here is a list of where you can find them in the UK.

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New Driving Laws in 2019

In 2017 and 2018 major changes to motoring laws took place. It seems that 2019 is a little quieter but it is still worth looking at what might happen.

 Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure(WLTP)

The catchily name worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure or WLTP for short aims to deliver more accurate test results for electric and combustion-engine cars.

The positive is that it should give buyers more reliable information on fuel economy and battery range; the downside being that it may bump some vehicles into higher tax brackets meaning owners paying more road tax.

However if you are buying a new car in 2019 then the manufacturers plan to introduce WLTP-friendly models.

MOT

Despite the major shake up of 2018, it looks as if the MOT test is set to change AGAIN!

Currently there are many cars on the UK’s roads with outstanding recall notices and it is thought that the tougher parameters of the new MOT will encourage vehicle owners to get these problems associated with their cars sorted.

It is estimated that 1 in 13 cars has an outstanding recall on them and if the databases for MOT tests and recalls are merged, this will help lower the number as cars with recall notices will be deemed unroadworthy and fail the MOT test.

The MOT will now be categorised into 5 outcomes:

  • Dangerous – Fail (direct risk to road safety or environment – can’t be driven on road until fixed)
  • Major – Fail (Could affect risk to road safety or environment)
  • Minor – Needs to be repaired ASAP (No effect on road safety – to be noted on MOT certificate)
  • Advisory – No action (Could lead to a problem in future)
  • Pass – No action (Meets current standards)

Recently qualified drivers

In Northern Ireland there have been various pilot schemes testing graduated driving licences. The next phase will take place between 2019 and 2020, and if successful, could be rolled out to the rest of the UK.

Currently newly qualified drivers only face stronger penalties if caught using mobile phones whilst driving. Other restrictions could be imposed such as:

  • Driving curfews – only allowed to drive on roads at certain times
  • Passenger numbers – limiting the number of passengers
  • Speed limits – lower speed limits compared to other drivers
  • Blood alcohol limits – lower threshold on the amount of alcohol in the blood
  • Engine sizes – restrictions on power output limits
  • Mandatory usage of P plates (currently optional) of up to 2 years

Learn more about the graduated driving licence here.

Brexit

Yep, even Brexit affects motorists. After 31st March, if you are driving in Europe you may need to apply for a new driving licence. There are two possible types:

  • 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic International Driving Permit (IDP) – a paper permit allowing drivers to drive across EU member states
  • 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic IDP – this may be relevant to commercial lorries and vans

Highway Code Amendments

It looks like the “Dutch reach” method might be added to the Highway Code in order to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorbike riders from being “car-doored”.

According to Driving.co.uk, the Department of Transport is considering imposing mandatory passing distances when overtaking cyclists. Currently the Highway Code states drivers should give “as much room as you would when overtaking a car”. Drivers could also be educated on how to give way to cyclists and pedestrians when turning left. These new guidelines would being the UK inline with the US where pedestrians have priority over drivers.

Motorways

  • Learner drivers are now allowed to have lessons on the motorway when accompanied by an instructor with dual controls in the car. Previously they were only allowed on the motorway once they had passed their tests. It is thought that this won’t be a compulsory part of the test.
  • Smart Motorways – You could face a fine of up to £100 and three points on your licence if you drive in a lane closed on a smart motorway (designated with a X that are used when there is a blockage or accident to prevent further incidents).

Electric and Hybrid Car Costs

If you are buying an electric or hybrid car in 2019 then it will probably cost you more than it would have done in 2018. This is because the government grant encouraging the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles was cut from £4500 to £3500. Furthermore the hybrid car grant of £2500 has been cut entirely.

So even though there aren’t any major changes to the driving laws in 2019 there is certainly lots to be aware of. Don’t forget if your car is due a MOT or service then we are here to help 020 8807 0668.

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4 Tips for Keeping your Car Running in Winter

As the temperature starts heading to zero or below, you are going to have to think about changing your car maintenance habits to ensure that your vehicle is winter-ready. Here are our top tips from MEB:

Fuel Tank

Keep fuel levels topped up over winter, ensuring you have at least a quarter tank of fuel at any one time. This is because temperature fluctuations in winter can create condensation build up in the tank causing the fuel lines to freeze if the temperature drops low enough. You also need to keep the fuel pump cool as when you run low on fuel, the fuel pump may start sucking in air. This could heat up and cause expensive future repairs.

You might also want to read 5 reasons why you shouldn’t run on empty.

Oil

One thing drivers can maintain is the condition and level of the engine oil. It can be a minefield trying to pick the right type and grade of oil but this article by Auto Express talks you through finding the right grade of oil for your car. In short, in winter you need an oil which has a lower viscosity that flows more easily through your vehicle so that it runs smoothly and stays lubricated. Winter-rated oils all have “W” in their grade ie 15W40.

A reminder also that you need to make regular dipstick checks on your oil levels to avoid long-term damage to your car’s engine.

Battery

Your battery works hard in winter, to start the car, the heating is on full-blast, you are defrosting your car and the engine is idling.

If you do find your battery is flat then you might need to jump-start your car. Read our article on how to use jump leads safely first.

Antifreeze

Antifreeze (also known as coolant) is a liquid that mixes with water in vehicles to stop the radiators from freezing or overheating. The last thing you want is things freezing on the inside of your car!

Whilst we are at it, here are some more winter driving checks.

If you wish for a professional opinion on whether your car is winter-ready then we’d love to hear from you. Book an appointment today on 020 8807 0668.

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A Motoring Look Back at 2018 with MEB the Motor Centre

It’s that time of the year when we take a look back at what news and motoring tips we’ve shared with you on our garage website blog.



January 2018

In January we focussed on the winter weather and did a round up of the types of weather you might encounter on a winter’s day and how to cope with fog, sleet and snow, rain, ice and hail. We hope you don’t have to experience too many of these types of weather this winter but if you do then be prepared!

We also took a look at three driving law changes that would come into force in 2018: the driving test, MOTs and drones (odd we know but new rules stated that owners had to register their drones and also take a basic online safety test in order to use it).

February 2018

In February we provided advice on how to avoid damage from those pesky potholes, what to check for if you do hit one and most importantly how to claim!

On a more positive note, we looked forward to Spring  (ever the optimists) and how to get out and about to enjoy your car.

March 2018

In March we looked at the new driving test rules in more detail – The major changes being:

  • Following directions from a Satnav
  • Independent driving
  • Answering a vehicle safety question while you’re driving
  • Reversing manoeuvres

We also shared information on the upcoming changes to the MOT that were introduced in May.

April 2018

In April, we celebrated “Drive It Day” which raises awareness of the UK’s classic vehicle movement.

We also talked about the fate of the diesel car. We concluded that it may not have had its day yet, but it certainly looks like it will do in the future.

Finally, have you ever wondered whether those stories about cars are true. There’s so many car maintenance myths out there that we picked our favourites!

May 2018

Ever wondered how car scrappage schemes work? We look at the various deals and our advice in our May article.

Since diesel looks like it might be heading for the exit, we took a look at the different types of fuel available and options to power vehicles.

June 2018

As the tables turn on diesel cars and the need for zero-emission driving, there is more and more talk about electric and hybrid vehicles. In June, we explored the differences between these newer, cleaner energy choices.

We also followed up on our article on the different types of fuel, and looked at what happens if you use the wrong fuel in your car or misfuellingas it is otherwise known as.

July 2018

July was a sad month at MEB in Crouch End as we started winding up our business until we found new premises.

Our last article before our move was about the world of Car Share.

October 2018

It may have looked like we had taken an extended summer break but in October we were finally able to announce the address of our new premises. As a reminder, we are sharing workshop space with body repair specialists Volante in Edmonton, N18.

Since relocating from Crouch End to Edmonton, we were getting used to the new sights and surroundings of Edmonton.  If you were to bring your car up to N18 for a service or MOT then what were you likely to find around the Landmark Commercial Centre? Here’s some fun facts about Edmonton N18!

November 2018

In November we looked at whether speed bumps were the best traffic calming method, and what the alternatives were.

We also retouched on the world of electric vehicles. It seems that North London are slowly waking up to the fact that petrol and diesel cars will cease production in 2040 (with a plan to bring this forward to 2032).  We investigated how London boroughs are making efforts to install new electric vehicle charging points.

So now of course we have reached the end of the year. We would like to thank our loyal customers from both Crouch End and Edmonton for entrusting their cars with us for MOTs, services and general checkups throughout 2018.

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MOTs at MEB the Motor Centre

MEB the Motor Centre in Edmonton has some lovely neighbours in Landmark Commercial Centre.  When we were situated in Crouch End we were often competing with Kwik Fit for MOT customers.  Here are some reasons to try your local garage a try rather than using a large fast fit centre!

4 good reasons to switch

good garage scheme1 – Good Garage Scheme

MEB the Motor Centre are part of the Good Garage Scheme which basically means that we are a local garage that can be trusted for a car service, MOT or car repairs.  All Good Garage Scheme  members perform services to a strict Code of Conduct and have the customers best interests in mind.

2 – Quick and reliable

MEB the Motor Centre is an approved MOT test station.  We are approved by the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and all our tests are completed MOT testers nominated by VOSA.

Whilst we’re carrying out your vehicle’s MOT, we might discover that some repairs need doing.  We will contact you to explain what needs to be done before carrying out the repairs.  Plus, you will not be charged an MOT retest fee if the repairs are carried out by MEB.

MOT3 – The Cost

Generally an MOT costs around £54.95 but we ours start from just £34.95.  Book your car in by calling 020 8340 0656.

4 – Don’t take our word for it

Here are some recent feedback posted on the Good Garage Scheme:

This is the best garage I have ever used!

Totally brilliant, I had almost gave up on our car until we found this garage. No other garage could help us!

mot-testingI had problems with my clutch and was really nervous about taking it to a garage myself as a female who knows virtually nothing about cars! MEB were amazing, they were really friendly and helpful. It turned out it only needed adjustments to a chain and they didn’t charge me anything for their work! Really wonderful service and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

So if you have historically taken your car to a large fast fit chain, why not reconsider and use your local garage as an alternative.  We’ve given you four good reasons to try us at MEB!

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A Piece of Crouch End History: Lotus Showroom

Lotus showroomWe’re not sure how many of our customers who brought their cars in for a service or MOT at MEB Motors know that Tottenham Lane (where our garage is situated but further down the road) was also home to the original Lotus showroom.

According to Wikipedia, the first Lotus Cars factory was set up in stables behind the Railway Hotel in 1954.  In the beginnings, Lotus sold cars primarily to privateer racers and trialists.  Early road cars could also be bought in kits to save on purchase tax!  Next to the pub was the first Lotus showroom which moved to Cheshunt in 1959 (to a new purpose-built facility).

Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Engineering Ltd in 1952, not only has a memorial plaque in his name at the site of one of the original Lotus office buildings but his very own museum (albeit in the cyber world at present).   In 2004, 7 Tottenham Lane was added to the Haringey Council’s register of Local Listed Buildings.

However, the Lotus showroom has recently been in the press, under threat of demolition by current owners Jewson.  Graham Arnold’s son, Chris Arnold lodged an objection, as reported in the Ham and High Broadway:

“I’ve grown up with Lotus. I’m very sad that it’s going to be demolished when it could be transformed into a fantastic museum to commemorate one of Britain’s greatest car engineers.

IMG_0192“In its heyday, Lotus was the best car racing company in the world – it all started in Hornsey. Just last week Hornsey Baths were pulled down; I think we should treat our history with a bit more respect. This is another piece of history demolished.”

To further the campaign, Arnold appealed to Lotus owners to take part in this year’s Hornsey Carnival.  Take a look at our photos of the Lotus cars joining the Hornsey Carnival parade.

However, this story does have a happy ending.  Due to overwhelming support, the planning application has been refused!

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Electric Vehicle Charging Points

electric vehicle charging pointsIt seems that North London are slowly waking up to the fact that petrol and diesel cars will cease production in 2040 (with a plan to bring this forward to 2032).  With this in mind London boroughs are making efforts to install new electric vehicle charging points.

Haringey Consultation

MEB (formerly a business operating in Haringey) and other local businesses/residents were consulted in February/March 2018 about the possible introduction of 75 Electric Vehicle Charging Points (EVCPs)/bays in 23 locations within Haringey.

As part of the consultation, Haringey Council took on board Transport for London’s advice to provide 152 EVCPs to meet demand. The council’s Transport Strategy encourages the uptake of electric vehicles and it contributes to their commitment to improve air quality.

The new charging points are operated by Source London, accessible to Source London members and all others users on a “pay as you go” basis.  These charging points should be operational before the end of December 2018.

Edmonton and Enfield Charging Points

Since we are new to the Edmonton area, it isn’t entirely clear what Enfield Council’s plans are as yet regarding these electric vehicle charging points.  However it is interesting to know that there was a key decision back in June 2017 to appoint a single provider to replace and manage existing electric vehicle charging points in the London Borough of Enfield, although we cannot find which company has been awarded the contract.

If you are looking for a charging point in Edmonton then two can be found within the Tottenham Ikea premises operated by Ecotricity.

For a wider look at charging points in Enfield, take a look at Zap Map (indeed any location in the UK), the majority of which are run by POLAR.

Electric Charging Networks

If you have bought (or thinking about buying) an electric car, most of your charging will happen at home or at work.  However, there will be times when you will need to use public charging networks.  Below is a list of the major UK charging networks (most offering a mix of slow, fast and rapid charging options).

Charge Your Car

ChargePlace Scotland 

E-Carni

Ecotricity

ESB ecars

ESB EV Solutions 

GeniePoint

InstaVolt

Pod Point

Polar

Shell Recharge 

Source London

Tesla (Supercharger and Destination)

Zero Carbon World (ZeroNet)

MEB the Motor Centre service all types of car including electric vehicles.  Call us on 020 8807 0668 to book in your next service or MOT.

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