How to access public car charging points in the UK

The UK has tens of thousands of public charging stations for your electric vehicle (EV). Thousands more are being added each year

Different types of charger work in different ways, like:

  • Plug and play, your EV charges as soon as it’s plugged in
  • App-based chargers, start charging using your phone
  • RFID card-based chargers, swipe your card to activate
  • Contactless card-based chargers, activate by tapping your card

Some types are more common than others, each have their pros and cons....

Using a plug-and-play electric car charger

These are the simplest charging stations for your EV. Just turn up, plug yourself in, and charging starts. No need to register or even pay in many cases.

  • Pros: Free and easy
  • Cons: Rare, restricted, or very busy!

Using an app-based electric car charger

Some EV charging stations require you to download an app before you can use them. The app will show you nearby compatible stations.

Also spread across workplaces and public locations, there’s likely to be less competition for this type of charger compared to free ones. But you may need to download multiple apps for each different network. There’s also an issue of signal if you can’t connect when you really need to.

  • Pros: Works using only your phone and a free app
  • Cons: Network and signal issues

Using RFID card-based electric car chargers

Radio frequency identification (RFID) cards can be used to register and pay for various EV charging station networks. Their ease of use and simple technology makes them popular choices, you’ll never need to worry about phone signal.

On the other hand, it means another physical object to carry around with you (and risk forgetting or losing). You’re likely to need a card for each charging network you want to use.

  • Pros: Easy to use, no signal issues
  • Cons: Cards can be lost or stolen

Using contactless card-based electric car chargers

Probably the simplest way to use an EV charging station other than via plug and play. Simply tap your contactless card. No need to sign up, download, or carry anything extra.

Of course, you still have to pay and could be liable for transaction fees. These chargers are also rare unless you’re using rapid charging stations.

  • Pros: Uses the debit card you’re already carrying
  • Cons: Rare, subject to extra charges
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