EV Public Charging

Getting Started: The Basics of Public Charging

The UK’s electric vehicle charging networks have grown exponentially during the last decade, providing convenient opportunities to ‘refuel’ whenever you park, and access is becoming easier all the time.

Here we answer your most frequently asked questions around public charging.

Are there enough public charging points?

A widespread network of public charge stations is vital; 40% of British drivers surveyed for the latest LeasePlan Mobility Insights Report [1] claimed insufficient charging infrastructure was a barrier stopping them going electric.

However, the UK already has one of Europe’s largest EV charging networks. There are 23,000 public charging stations at almost 15,000 locations, spanning from the Shetlands and the Channel Islands, according to data from Zap-Map [2]. With additional units going in every day, gaps and bottlenecks are disappearing quickly.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

That depends on the vehicle and type of charger you’re using. Charging networks tend to be distributed according to the sort of stops drivers are making, and there are essentially two types; either at destinations, or alongside major routes. There is broad coverage of both in the UK.

Destination chargers are typically found where vehicles stop for long periods, such as car parks in shopping centres, hotels and train stations. Most are ‘slow’ chargers, so can restore between 15 and 30 miles of range per hour plugged in, so take several hours to fully charge the car. Of course, the advantage is there’s no need to wait – unlike a petrol or diesel car, EVs can top up while you do something else.

Rapid chargers are designed to enable longer journeys and provide much faster charging opportunities close to motorways and A roads. There are, on average, two rapid chargepoints at every motorway service area, which means drivers are never more than 25 miles away from a charging opportunity [3]. Most will add around 100 miles of range during a half-hour rest stop, and the UK has a growing network of ultra-rapid chargers which are significantly faster again. However, these are only compatible with a few of the latest models.

Will I be able to plug in – aren’t there loads of different connectors?

Not any more. Almost all of the UK’s destination chargers feature the same Type 2 socket, and the majority of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles are supplied with a compatible cable.

Rapid chargers are more varied, as there are three standards commonly used in the UK and the high-powered charging requires a much thicker cable, which has to be tethered to the unit itself. Most rapid charging stations will have at least two of these cables, compatible with the most commonly used connectors. Some will have an additional Type 2 cable, providing faster AC charging for vehicles such as the Renault Zoe which offer this.

How do I pay to charge an electric car?

Public charging networks have evolved as vehicles have offered longer ranges, but the legacy of the original local schemes is a reputation for needing a glovebox full of membership cards when travelling any distance. However, this is no longer the case.

Most network operators now have their own app, which allows drivers to find and access charging points and pay for access using their smartphone, avoiding the need to apply for a specific card. These will then log usage costs and produce a digital receipt for expenses claims.

Pay as you access is also becoming more common. The Department for Transport has required new rapid charging points installed since Spring 2020 to offer ad-hoc access using a contactless credit or debit card [5]. InstaVolt network has always offered contactless payment [6], while bp pulse (formerly BP Chargemaster) has retrofitted most of its rapid chargers to offer the same functionality [7].

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

As with traditional fuels, convenience costs extra. Some destination chargers offer free for customers of the businesses hosting them, whereas fastest ultra-rapid charging points can cost 69p per kilowatt-hour of energy supplied [4]. Cheaper rates are usually available for with a paid-for membership, suited to high-frequency users.

Where can I find local charging points?

It makes sense to plan ahead. Zap-Map provides a comprehensive map of the UK’s charging networks, filtered by operator, connector and speed, or according to the vehicle you’re driving. This also allows users to flag up faulty charge points, and to add information about accessibility or parking costs.

This can be accessed here: https://www.zap-map.com/live/


[1] LeasePlan Mobility Insights Report. (2021). [online]. Available at: https://www.leaseplan.com/corporate/~/media/Files/L/Leaseplan/documents/news-articles/2021/report-mir-evs-and-sustainability.pdf [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021].

[2] Zap-Map (2021). How many charge points are there in the UK 2020. [online] Zap-Map. Available at: https://www.zap-map.com/statistics/ [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021].

[3] Department for Transport. (2020). Government vision for the rapid chargepoint network in England. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-vision-for-the-rapid-chargepoint-network-in-england/government-vision-for-the-rapid-chargepoint-network-in-england. [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021].

[4] Ionity. (2020). How much does it cost to charge at IONITY? [online] Available at: https://support.ionity.eu/en/general-questions/how-much-does-it-cost-to-charge-at-ionity. [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021].

[5] Department for Transport. (2019). All new rapid chargepoints should offer card payment by 2020. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/all-new-rapid-chargepoints-should-offer-card-payment-by-2020 [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021].

‌[6] InstaVolt. (2020). UK EV Drivers [online] Available at: https://instavolt.co.uk/for-drivers/  [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021].

[7] BP Pulse. (n.d.). Polar Network Pricing. [online] Available at: https://network.bppulse.co.uk/pricing/ [Accessed 31 Mar. 2021].


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