How do you pay for electric car charging?

December 15, 2022 by

If you’re gearing up to ditch your old diesel or petrol car for a newfangled electric car, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself thinking about the many ways in which you can keep its batteries topped up. And if you live in a busy city such as London and don’t have access to off-street home charging, or are someone who spends a lot of time driving on the motorway, this is probably going to be one of the biggest concerns you might have about making the switch in the first place.

At a glance, it can all seem pretty overwhelming. Not only do you have to consider charging speeds and the location of the actual chargers themselves, the sheer number of providers that are available for you to choose from can also cause a few headaches. Do they all accept card? Will I need a subscription or membership, or do I need to download an app? Sometimes, it all looks like a bit much – but that’s where this guide is here to help. So then, how do you pay for electric car charging?

So, how do I pay for electric car charging?

Although EVs are still a relatively new phenomenon, there is already a pretty large number of electric car charging providers out there for you to choose from. In terms of supply, that’s a good thing – because the more charge points there are, the easier it should be for you to plug in and top up.

As with any industry, the players in the electric car charging game range in size. There’s the more traditional big-name players such as BP Pulse and Shell Recharge, as well as newer outfits such as InstaVolt and Ionity that have very quickly built up sizeable charging networks across the country. 

Where it can get a bit confusing for people is that all of these outfits will effectively have their own systems that allow you to plug in and pay to charge your electric car up. But while these might all look different and operate in their own way, chances are you will end up paying to charge your electric car either through an app on your smartphone, or by tapping your contactless credit or debit card on the machine itself.

Here is a list of some of the largest charging providers in the UK and the payment types they accept:

  • BP Pulse: Subscription, pay via app, contactless payment
  • PodPoint: Pay via app, contactless payment
  • InstaVolt: Pay via app, contactless payment
  • ChargePlace Scotland: RFID access card, pay via app, pay via web
  • GridServe: Contactless payment

Can I save money on charging by using an app?

You certainly can save money on a charge by using an app, but more often than not you will have to sign up to a subscription service to actually make the most of these discounts. BP Pulse is one provider that offers discounted rates on their subscription service: you pay a monthly fee to subscribe, but as a result can save money on every kWh of energy that you put into your car. It’s worth pointing out, however, that you’ll only really save money if you use this service frequently.

Some manufacturers will also include a subscription to certain charge networks when you buy a new car. In the past, the Tesla Supercharger network was free to all Tesla Model S and Model X owners for life, but this has now been done away with for new customers.

Can I use just one app or card?

Unfortunately we’re not quite there yet. Not all charging providers accept contactless payments, and there isn’t yet an app that exists that lets you access and pay for every single charge network from one place. That said, it’s likely that we’ll see an app like this emerge at some point or another, it’s just a question of making sure all the electric car charging providers actually sign up in the first place.

New public chargers installed since early 2020 should accept contactless payment, though, and this technology is becoming increasingly widespread.

Will paying for electric car charging get easier in the future?

Absolutely. One of the things that really helped Tesla shoot to success in terms of EV adoption was the fact that it made accessing its Supercharger network so seamless. Even today, Tesla owners (provided they have a subscription) can simply turn up, plug in, top their batteries up and then drive off once they’ve charged to a level they’re happy with without having to faff around with an app or contactless payments.

Electric Volvo models are also beginning to benefit from a similarly easy-to-use system, thanks to the integration of the Plugsurfing platform into the Volvo Cars app. This set up allows drivers to find and access compatible charge points across the UK and Europe, and manage payments all from one place, eliminating the need for multiple apps and subscriptions! Chances are platforms such as this will become even more widespread in the future.

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