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 and cost.
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. As of April 2022, there are more than 31,500 charging points in the UK across over 19,700 locations. That's an increase of 35% on the previous 12 months. So where can you find them and how do they work?
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.
Charging stations can also be found on the side of the road, often on quieter roads where there's plenty of space to park. Charging when you're on the motorway can be trickier. Ecotricity is the main provider of charging points that are convenient for motorway users.
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 Zap-Map, PlugShare, and Chargepoint. 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
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 cost for a rapid charging point is around £6 or £7 for a 30-minute charge. It could cost up to £10 to use a rapid charger but the cost will depend on various factors. For other chargers, you can expect to find prices of around £1.50 per hour. 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.
Many of the charging networks will offer a discount if you sign up for their services. Ecotricity offers a discount to people who use them as their home energy provider. Polar, which is owned by BP Chargemaster, has memberships that give you access to free charging points and lower rates. Audi has a scheme with Octopus Energy when you purchase one of their electric vehicles.
You can find some tools that help you to compare the cost of charging your EV. Smart Home Charge has one tool for chargers at supermarkets and other destination chargers and another for comparing the price of rapid chargers while on the road. Zap Map has a public charging calculator that will help you to work out both the time and cost of charging your EV using a public network. You can also find that your vehicle's sat-nav or several apps will provide you with pricing information.
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 - Out of the more than 31,500 charging points and 19,700 locations, over 5,700 charging points and 3,501 locations offer rapid and ultra-rapid charging. Other public chargers will be fast chargers, which will charge your vehicle faster than a slow charger (which you might have at home) but won't be as fast as rapid charging points. Fast chargers are about twice as fast as standard slow chargers. They can get your vehicle to a fully charged state in a few hours. 7kW outlets can give your car around 20 to 30 miles of range per hour and 22kW chargers will charge your car faster.
Rapid charging and ultra-rapid charging points are excellent for a fast charge. These can typically give you a full charge in around an hour, although many people will choose to use them for no more than half an hour to give their vehicle a quick top-up. These chargers will likely get faster over time, and some are already faster than others.
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.
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.
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.