If you own an electric car, you’ll most likely be charging up at home overnight most of the time. However, if you’re out and about in your EV or plug-in hybrid, the chances are that you’ll need to use a public charging point.
Luckily, there are plenty of chargers all over the UK, so no matter where you are, there’s bound to be a charge point near your current location. In fact, there are more charge points than petrol or diesel service stations.
Using a charge point once you’ve parked your vehicle up next to one is easy – you either have an RFID card linked to the correct network or a smartphone app that you use to make the payment. Some points have contactless payment so you can just tap your credit card, and this tech is being rolled out to more and more charge points to make paying the tariffs a bit easier.
Charge times depend on your car, so you may need to look up what size battery your vehicle has, and how fast it’s able to charge up. Some chargers are faster than others, too, even for the same vehicle. Similarly, the costs differ depending on the charge rate and the company you’re using, but it’s likely to cost about £1.50 per hour or double that for a rapid charge.
The public charge point infrastructure in the UK is growing all the time, and in this guide, you’ll find all the main networks that electric or plug-in hybrid car drivers need to know about.
Tesla owners are able to use the company’s own charge points. They’re free for early adopters but owners who bought after 2017 have to pay to use them. There are fast chargers and rapid chargers available, with the former typically found in car parks at travel destinations and the latter available at service stations for a fast top-up.
Ecotricity chargers are found at motorway services all over the UK, so this is one service that could be handy for many EV owners. You can pay and activate the chargers via a smartphone app, and customers of the firm’s home energy plan pay less. It’s worth signing up on the app in advance just in case you need to use one of these chargers, which charge by the kW.
Pod Point offers home chargers, so EV owners may have heard of the brand. Its public charging network is extensive and many points are free to use, though some you need to pay for (per hour or kW) via the smartphone app. Pod Point chargers are often found at supermarkets.
As you might have guessed, Shell Recharge is the petrol station brand’s own charging network, found at each of the company’s service stations. They’re easy to find as a result, and you don’t need to sign up for a membership. You just use the smartphone app to pay for the amount of kW you’ve used.
BP Pulse used to be called Polar. It’s one of the most extensive charging networks in the UK, and one of the longest-running. You can use an RFID card or smartphone app to pay, and the rates (per kW) are cheaper if you pay a monthly membership fee. You can still use them without being a member, but it costs a little more. Contactless credit or debit card payments are largely available too.
Source has charging points all over the UK but most are branded as Source London, and of course, are located in the capital. You need to be a member to use these charge points, and there are two types of chargers – fast and slow. The former costs more, and both are paid for per minute. You can pay a membership fee and be charged less, or be a free member and pay more if you’re only an occasional user.
Ubitricity has many public charge points on the streets (as opposed to in service stations), and access is through your smartphone. There are membership and pay-as-you-go options, and it costs more for the latter. Membership is usually for residents as the chargers may be outside their homes. You pay per kW used to use these charge points.
Osprey used to be called Engenie. There’s no membership fee to pay to use these chargers, and you can easily pay using a contactless transaction, or via a smartphone app. Some units have a fixed cost per charge, but most charge you for the kW you’ve used.
Charge Your Car
Charge Your Car has thousands of charge points across the UK, but rates differ at each charge point, so check before you plug in. There’s a £20 annual charge for an RFID card or you can use a free smartphone app instead to pay. It’s possible that these could be free but most charge either per kW or a flat rate.
ChargePlace Scotland is operated by Charge Your Car, and as you would expect it’s for Scotland only. You pay an annual membership cost, but once you’ve got your RFID card you can use it to get free charging at many of the public points. There’s also a smartphone app, and some of the charge points are pay-as-you-go.
You’ll most likely see a Genie Point charger at a Morrisons supermarket. It’s free to register to use these chargers, but once you’ve done that there’s a connection fee to start charging and then you’ll pay by the kW for the amount of electricity used. Rapid charging stations tend to cost more than the slower ones.
Instavolt has a user-friendly approach, as you don’t have to sign up for a membership, there’s no RFID card and all payments are done with a contactless payment with your debit or credit card. You simply pay for the amount of kW you use.
Ionity isn’t a huge network at the moment but it’s expanding and offers some of the fastest chargers around, along major routes in the UK and throughout Europe. You can use an RFID card or your smartphone to access the chargers, where you’ll pay per kW. This charge network is one to watch as it’s part of a joint effort by BMW, Mercedes, Ford and the Volkswagen Group.
Zero Carbon World
Zero Carbon World’s ZeroNet chargers are most often found in the car parks of hotels and restaurants, where you’ll usually be able to access free charging. Some locations do charge a fee, though most will not if you’re a customer of the establishment you’re visiting. You don’t need an RFID car or smartphone app even for the paid ones.
ESB operates in England, and there’s also ESB ecars for Northern Ireland. The latter requires a membership fee and then charges per kW, and the former has this option but also has a pay-as-you-go function. ESB’s charge points have contactless payment in England, plus the usual RFID card and smartphone app.
E.On Drive is a growing network and it offers rapid charging points with no membership cost. There’s a smartphone app or an RFID card to access the chargers, where you’ll pay for the kW used.
Carwow Electric Car Charging Point Finder
You can use our handy tool to find an electric car charging point near you. Simply zoom in on the map to find many of your local charge points, or type in a town name or postcode to get a more specific search.
You can clock on each charge point on the map to find out more, including which network it belongs to, how many parking bays there are, what kinds of chargers it offers and how much it costs. You can even see whether it’s pay as you go or via a membership. There’s an address on each point so you can find it via your car’s sat-nav, too.