Many potential electric car (EV) owners worry about what to do if their car runs out of charge while they're away from home—the answer is public charging points. With dozens of electric charging companies out there, understanding the market can be confusing. We've put together this guide to help you sort through the electric car charging options across the UK.
The best way for an EV driver to find public charging points is through Zap Map. There, you'll find an interactive map of public charge points in the UK which you can search by postcode or town. And you can filter according to the connector, charge speed and network you are looking for. This tool is handy when you're in a new town or you are new to EVs and just learning the location of charging points in your area.
There are now more 21,000 public EV charging locations in the UK, providing more than 60,000 connections. The number of charging devices grew 33% from November 2021 to November 2022.
How do You Pay for EV Charging?
Generally speaking, paying for electricity at public charge points feel a lot more high-tech than paying for gasoline at a traditional petrol station. You may use an RFID card to access a particular network and/or an app on your smart phone to control the electricity flow (start charge/stop charge) and also to handle the payment, whether you're on a membership program or a pay-as-you-go plan.
At the end of a charge session, pressing a "stop charge" equivalent button on your phone will send a signal to release the cable from your car. Then off you go!
And contactless bank card access is also common on rapid chargers.
Is it expensive to charge your electric car on the public network?
It depends. Many public charge points in the UK are free to use, but they tend to be older machines or slower charging. To use a rapid charge point (e.g., 50 kWh or more) or ultra rapid (e.g. 100 kW or more) you'll definitely need to pay. The cost of public charging is usually higher than you'd pay for electricity at home. For example, the unit cost of electricity at home is around 34 pence/kWh, while many networks charge 42 p/kWh or even more for slow/fast charging and 64p/kWh for rapid/ultra-rapid charging.
Here are costs as of December 2022 for some popular networks:
|Electric Car Charge Cost of Public Charging Points
|Gridserve (high power up to 350kW)
|Gridserve (medium power up to 60kW)
|Gridserve (low power up to 22kW)
|Gridserve Electric Forecourt
|Ubitricity (off-peak pricing, 21 hours a day excl. 4-7pm)
|Ubitricity (peak pricing, 4-7pm)
|Shell Recharge (fast 7-22kW)
|Shell Recharge (rapid 50kW)
|Shell Recharge (ultra-rapid 150kW and above)
|GeniePoint (off-peak pricing)
|GeniePoint (peak pricing)
And here is more information on some of the larger UK networks:
With over 9,000 charging points, BP Pulse (previously POLAR) is the largest public charging networks in the UK. POLAR operates a monthly membership plan for regular users and also a pay-as-you-go scheme.
|Polar Tariffs (per kWh)
|Full member rate
|Free member/PAYG rate
|BP Pulse 150
|BP Pulse 50
|BP Pulse 7
|BP Pulse Point 150
BP Pulse - Monthly Membership
Regular users should consider the full BP Pulse membership programme, for £7.85 (inc VAT) per month, to get the lowest per use rates. Get 1 month's free subscription, then they’ll give you £9 credit every month for 5 months.
The BP Pulse app is available to download from the App Store (for iPhone) and Google Play (for Android)—where you can see details of any charges and also live availability (complete with socket & charge speed information).
If you take regular road trips, you'll be familiar with Ecotricity, which ran the Electric Highway public charging network of over 300 EV charging points, and has now been taken over by Gridserve. The Electric Highway operates charging points at motorway service stations all around the UK.
Charging costs range from 49-66p/kWh.
POD Point has a network of home, workplace and public charging points around the UK. You may have seen a POD Point at your local Sainsbury's, Lidl, Nissan dealer, Southern Rail station, or any number of other businesses. POD charging doesn't require an RFID card, like many of the other EV charging networks—only an app on your phone.
With over over 7,300 public charging bays across the UK, there may be a POD Point near you. Some private car park hosts may impose a charge, but amazingly the majority of POD Points are FREE to use.
GeniePoint is another national charging network that operates in England, Scotland and Wales. Membership is free, and they charge a cheaper amount for off-peak hours at night (8pm to 7:59am).
They also impose an overstay charge of £10.00 after 90 minutes and £10.00 for every 90 minutes thereafter.
Source London works with local councils to provide charge points around the capital, and now have 1,700+ electric vehicle charge points. They have a few different pricing models for individuals, licensed drivers, businesses and homes. There's a monthly membership charge of £4 that provides access to cheaper electricity (55p/minute as of December 2022).
Other EV Charging Networks
There are a number of other, smaller charging networks operating in the UK. To find one near you, browse through the handy map at Zap Map.