Charging Your EV in Public

Charging your electric vehicle at home can help you to prepare for many journeys. However, sometimes you can find yourself needing to charge when you're out and about. You might be on a particularly long trip away from home or perhaps you just forgot or didn't have time to charge up at home. Additionally, you might choose to use public charging stations to benefit from the speed of rapid chargers.

But how and where can you charge your EV if you need to do it on the go? Public EV charging is becoming easier, with more and more places to charge as the popularity of hybrid and fully electric vehicles grows. So where can you find them and how do they work?

Where Can You Charge Your EV?

There are thousands of places where you can charge your EV when you're on the go. These charge points are provided by different networks and take different forms.

Charging points can be found in a number of locations. They typically fall into two categories, either charging points where you stay with your car to quickly top it up or places where you can park your car and leave it to charge. The first type is often found in petrol stations and service stations. They usually offer rapid charging and are tethered, so you can plug in for a quick charge.

The second type can often be found in places such as supermarkets, shopping centres, gyms and other car parks where you're expected to stay for longer. These are more likely to be untethered, so you need to make sure you have your own charging cable, which your electric vehicle will come with.

There are now over 53,000 charging points in the UK, that’s more places to charge your EV than the are petrol stations!

Finding a charging point

The best way to find somewhere to charge your EV is to use an app or the system included with your car such as Audi’s EV&me or Volkswagens We-Connect app. It will quickly show you nearby charging points that you can use. Some of the apps you can use include PlugShare, Chargepoint and Zap-Map, we like Zap-Map best as they show you the status of the charging point so you’ll know before you get there if its in use. Google Maps can also be a useful app for finding charging points. Just search for "EV charging stations" and you'll get information about what's nearby.

You should be able to get information about how quickly you'll be able to charge your car, whether charge points are in use, and sometimes information about costs too. Some employers will also offer EV charging points, so check with your workplace.

How Much Does It Cost?

There are some places that provide free charging points for EVs, but most prices will differ. Some places where you might find free charging include some large supermarkets and car parks. If you own a Tesla, you can often use Tesla Supercharger Network charging points for free too.

Prices for EV charging will differ depending on the supplier, location, and type of charging. Costs can also vary depending on what fee model the provider is using. They might charge for time spent charging, a cost per kW, or possibly a flat fee.

The average cost to charge your electric car at a public network in January 2024 was 56p kWh on a slow/fast charger and 80p kWh on a rapid charger. Charging models can vary so what you pay differs across charging networks too. Some of them will charge for a set amount of time plus the electricity that you use. Others will charge a set amount for a certain time or will only charge for the electricity that you use.

Blue Volkswagen ID.3 charging port close up

What you need to know

Charging in public vs charging at home – which is better? - In terms of cost, you can expect it to be a lot cheaper to charge your EV at home. Of course, if you can access free charging points, you can save money by charging in public. It can all depend on how much you use your vehicle and how often you need to charge it. If you don't need to charge it often, you might be happy with using public charging points now and then.

EV Charging Times - Public chargers will be fast or rapid chargers, which will charge your vehicle faster than the charger your likely to have at home, but won't be as fast as rapid charging points. Fast chargers are about twice as fast as standard slow chargers. Your standard pubic charger will likely charge your car to 80% in around 30 minutes.

How to Use Public Charging Points - Now you know where and how to find public EV charging points, but how exactly do you use them? If you've never used them before, you might be a bit unsure about how to do it. And you don't want to have to figure it out when you're already running low on battery power and need to charge your vehicle quickly. Sam explains everything you need to know in the video below.

Tethered and untethered charging

If you're using a tethered charging point, it will have a cable attached. You can simply open up your charging port and plug in the cable. It should have different attachments so you can choose the right one for your vehicle. But if there's no cable, you'll need to have your own. It's smart to keep one in your car anyway, whether you're planning to charge when you're on the go or not.

Charging your EV on the go is easier than ever. There are more and more charging points popping up from different providers, so it's increasingly simple to find somewhere convenient to charge your vehicle.

Paying at public charging points

Before you can plug into a charging point, you need to know how to access it. Some charging points will require a card that you order online, and many of them operate with the use of an app. However, you can often just use contactless payment, which allows you to simply pull up and plugin. It's a good idea to check how a charging point works before using it for the first time. You might need to download an app or create an account, which could take you a few minutes to sort out before you're able to start charging. If you can do this at home, it will save you time and ensure you're ready to plug in your EV when you need to.

You also have the option of using an EV charge card, which can help to solve the issue of having different payment methods. A charge card can allow you to use one account to use charging points from different providers. They will support varying networks, so it's worth seeing which networks are more common in your area.

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