Even though 80% of all electric car charging happens at home, there will always be occasions where you want to plug into the growing public network of charging stations in the UK.
Right now, as the country really begins to get to grips with the demands of EV owners, the network is at a tipping point, with new facilities opening on a daily basis.
And because you can put an EV charging station pretty much anywhere you can tap into the grid, you’ll find that electric car charge points will become significantly more accessible than the shrinking network of old-style fuel service stations.
That’s why you’re as likely to see charging points tucked away in the corner of multi-storey car parks, shopping centres, workplaces and even in town centre lamp posts. Places you would never dream of finding a petrol pump…
UK Charging In Numbers
23,718 Public Chargers in the UK.
246,000 full Battery Electric Vehicles registered in the UK.
(All data May 2021, courtesy of Zap Map)
So How Many Charging Points Are There Right Now?
According to zap-map.com, one of dozens of useful apps you can use if you are hunting for a charging location, there are now 13,916 locations across the UK that offer electric car charging and you will find 21,901 separate chargers spread across those locations.
The biggest rise in rapid chargers continues to be found at sites that are more suited to serving drivers undertaking longer journeys.
That’s why you will find most rapid chargers within close range of all the country’s major motorways and trunk roads. As of mid-February 2021, Zap-Map counted 4059 rapid chargers at 2706 locations across the UK.
Because these rapid chargers offer the fastest potential charging times, you will need to pay for the privilege. Large parts of the UK’s charging station network are operated by a new breed of charge point suppliers and you may need to register or subscribe to their service before you can use them.
Many suppliers now offer smartphone apps that allow you to connect to their specific system and will even hunt down a charger for you on a journey.
Handy tip: while the charging network continues to evolve, it’s worth registering (for free normally) with more than one provider in case you find yourself in a part of the country that isn’t on your chosen charging network.
What Kind Of Public Charging Networks Are You Likely To Find?
More and more providers of EV charging are entering the market but here are some of the bigger players you will find right now, according to zap-map.com.
Formerly known as Polar, BP Pulse is one of the UK’s largest public charging networks, with over 7000 charge points ranging from three-pin units to rapid chargers available. Access is via contactless, smartphone app or RFID card, and there is both a pay-as-you-go or a subscription membership available. Their latest contactless system is really handy and the charging rates improve if you sign up as a member and get better still if you subscribe.
Charge Your Car
Charge Your Car is one of the largest public charging networks in the UK, with more than 2,000 devices available nationwide. These are either free to use or charged on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Ecotricity’s Electric Highway network has charge points at just about every motorway service station in the UK. The network requires users to register their account details via a smartphone app, which is then used to control the charging process. There is a simple pricing structure using a connection fee and then price per unit of electricity used.
ESB Energy offers a public network of rapid EV charge points in London and Coventry. All ESB Energy charge points offer membership, contactless and ESB app options.
GeniePoint runs a national network, primarily operating rapid EV charge points, though with some fast units available at certain locations. Points are accessed with an app or RFID card and are used on a pay-as-you-go basis.
InstaVolt operates a 50kW rapid charging network – with CCS and CHAdeMO connectors available – on a pay-as-you-go basis. There is no subscription, card, or app required. Instead all of its rapid chargers accept contactless payment from a credit or debit card.
Formerly known as Engenie, Osprey is a UK-wide network of rapid chargers which support all EVs available on the market and offer payment via contactless or the Osprey app. Signing up to the app means you will be able to access lower per kilowatt rates.
Pod Point aims to offer an EV charge point ‘everywhere you park’. With wide-spread coverage of fast chargers, Pod Point also provides rapid points for the likes of Tesco and Lidl. Units are accessed via the network’s smartphone or web app and are often free to use.
Shell Recharge is a rapid charging-only network, with points located at the company’s petrol station forecourts. No membership charges or smartcards are needed, with access via the Shell Recharge app for the rapid units, which offer CCS, CHAdeMO, or Type 2 charging.
Tesla operates two nationwide networks – Supercharger (which is for Tesla owners only) and Destination (open to all EV owners). Supercharger points are typically on motorway and main roads, providing rapid charger capability. Destination chargers are normally at ‘locations’ such as hotels, pub car parks and the like.
Non-Tesla drivers wishing to use ‘open-access’ Tesla Destination points can connect if the charge point comes with a tethered Type 2 7kW/22kW connector.
If you don’t have off-road parking then consider Ubitricity, which provides charge points often found lining streets, lamp posts and in car parks. Available on a PAYG basis with credit or debit card payments, ubitricity also offers access via its SmartCable, which allows you to use your own electricity tariff via their charge points.
Want to know more? Take a look at our in-depth guide on everything you need to know about charging electric cars.