Thinking about making the switch to an electric vehicle? Great, in which case you’ve probably also thought about the practical implications.
An electric vehicle (EV) needs regular charging, just like your mobile phone. That means having an EV charger installed at your home is the most convenient option. You can just plug in your car before you go to bed at night, then wake to it charged and ready to go in the morning.
But that also means when you’re away from home or planning a long journey, you need a handy alternative. In recent years, public electric vehicle charging stations have been sprouting up on streets nationwide, and there’s lots of information on how to find them in our simple guide.
How many public chargers are there in the UK?
In September 2023, there were over 49,000 electric vehicle charging points1 in the UK, across almost 30,000 locations. That’s 43% up on the total number of charging devices in September 2022.
And as you might expect, tracking one down is getting easier too.
How can you find a public charger near you?
You can use dedicated apps to sniff out a handy public charging point. They may include a route planner, so you can plot your journey with the network of public EV charging stations in mind. You can even search for locations on Google Maps and Bing Maps – just type in ‘ev charger’ and it’ll show you all the locations available near you.
Zapmap has 700,000 registered users and covers the widest choice of charging options. It even lets you check their availability, so you’ll know you can plug in as soon as you park up. And because different charging networks take payment in different ways, it also lets you pay via the app.
Are all public chargers the same?
Not exactly. They offer one of four different charging speeds – Slow, Fast, Rapid or Ultra-Rapid. So be sure to check the speed that’s compatible with your vehicle before you charge.
There are also five different types of charging plugs, of which Type 2 is the most common. Swiftly becoming the European standard, it’s ideal for fast charging and delivers around 75 miles of driving range for every 30 minutes of charge. On top of that, the make and model of your car and the size of its battery can all affect the time it takes to charge.
E.ON are currently building a network of Ultra Fast Charging Stations across the UK, with charging points that could give your electric car a 100 mile range in just ten minutes. You can see where they’re all located on their handy EV charger map.
How do you use a public charging station?
Easy. Just follow these steps:
Lift the charge point cable from its holder (or if there isn’t one you can use your own).
Connect it to your EV’s charging socket.
Select the socket type from the options on the charge point touchscreen.
When you’re ready to stop charging, push the stop button on the touchscreen. This also releases the cable so you can disconnect it from your car.
What does it cost to charge at a public charging station?
It could be nothing at all. There are thousands of free EV charging points in supermarkets, public car parks and service stations across the UK. Some will only let you charge for a set duration, while some require you to make a purchase before you use them. So always check before you begin charging.
If you can’t find a free car charging station, relying regularly on the kind you pay for may not be a great money saver. Paying-as-you-go using a Rapid charger currently costs around 71.3p per kilowatt hour2. That means your EV could work out more expensive to run per mile compared with a petrol or diesel car of the same size3. Learn more about EV charging costs.
Handy on the go, even handier at home.
Which means the most economical answer, as well as the most convenient, is an EV home charger. Our chargers can work out 50% per unit cheaper3 on average than using a public charger, and by signing up to our Next Drive tariff, you could take advantage of off-peak rates and save even more.
And when you’re planning a long journey, it’s reassuring to know that public charging options are available. And with the upcoming 2035 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, public electric vehicle charging stations look set to become an ever more frequent sight on our streets for years to come.
The Great British EV Road Trip - Episode 1
See what happens when our resident EV expert attempts to win over an EV sceptic and travel vlogger (aka Ben from @kombilife) usually seen globe-trotting in his vintage van. First up, the chaps travel from London to Devon, featuring some two-wheeled antics on Dartmoor.
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4 Average cost to charge based on an electricity rate of 63.29p/kWh at a non-subscription public charger v average domestic rate of 34p/kWh, including Energy Price Guarantee till 31 March 2023. Learn more.