EV charging points in the UK: what you need to know

Published: 17 July 2019

► Goverment backs EVs in a big way
► And so does Google
► How to find your nearest EV charger

Have you been thinking about ditching your petrol or diesel car for an electric one? If so, it might feel like quite a daunting proposition and a big leap to make – but worry not; advances in both technology and infrastructure are making the transition far easier.

For starters, ever-improving batteries and EV hardware are resulting in notable increases in the real-world range of electric vehicles (EVs). This, in conjunction with quicker charging, often means there’s less justification for range anxiety. Similarly, the UK’s charging infrastructure continues to expand and become more easily accessed. Plus, if you can charge at home, it might be the case that you rarely have to use a public charging station anyway.

On this page, we’ll explain everything you need to know about EV charging in the UK – from where things are headed, to the types of charger you can currently connect to. At the bottom of the article, we’ll also explain the best ways to plan a journey with an EV. Trust us: with a little consideration, it’s far less stressful than it sounds. 

Further electric car reading

A growing network: Ionity, BP Chargemaster, Tesco and VW lead the charge

Although there are 13,000 public charging points in the UK – five times more than in 2011 – they’re still dramatically outnumbered by petrol stations. However, new plans mean that number is going to grow quickly, and it’ll be easier than ever to find them.

What charging stations are available in UK?

Ionity will launch 40 UK sites, and each will have up to 6 High-Power Chargers. Using Ionity's 350kW charge network, drivers are able to charge their EVs in less than 20 minutes with renewable energy. The network is being launched in the UK with the first station located in Maidstone in partnership with Motor Fuel Group.  Other locations will be set up that will ease travelling to Europe – so expect to see them at convenient motorway locations. For all other UK stations, IONITY partnered with Octopus Energy who is an energy technology specialist that will provide 100% renewable energy – reducing environmental impact and providing peace of mind for drivers.

Ionity is a joint-venture between Daimler, BMW, Ford, and the Volkswagen Group (Porsche and Audi) that aims to expand the feasibility of EVs with High-Power Charging (HPC) across UK and Europe. Ionity aims to expand this network by setting up 400 stations (2400 chargers) by 2020 across the whole of Europe.

What's more, BP has bought Chargemaster, in a move that’ll see the petrol station take over the UK’s largest public network of EV charging points. The new company will be called BP Chargemaster, and will include Chargemaster’s 6500 charging points along with BP’s existing 1200 service stations. BP also wants to roll out 150kW rapid chargers that’ll deliver 100 miles of range in around ten minutes - providing you have a compatible card, of course. The new company has confirmed it'll install 400 150Kw points by 2021, with 100 of those cropping up on forecourts by the end of the year. Progress, indeed.

What's more, Tesco and Volkswagen have also teamed up to add 2400 new EV chargers popping up at 600 branches of the supermarket retailer. Over the next three years, both companies will work with Pod Point to introduce the chargers in selected Tesco Extra and Superstore car parks throughout the UK - and some of them will be free to use, too.

According to a post on Pod Point's website, the 2400 charger figure includes both 7kW fast chargers and 50kW rapid chargers – and the former will be free to use, although we’re not sure if that’s for all EV owners or just VW drivers.  We’re told that the pricing for the 50kW rapids will be in line with market rates, but the split between 7kW and 50kW units hasn't been revealed yet.

What's the government doing?

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has outlined new plans to increase the amount of electric chargers available to motorists, focusing especially on home and workplace powerpoints.

The new proposals explore the idea of installing charging points as standard in new homes and offices, but also suggest new street lighting could include charging points for off-street parking. Alongside those new building regulations,  Grayling also outlines a further cash injection into the UK’s EV infrastructure.

According to Grayling, the new measures mean the UK would possess ‘one of the most comprehensive support packages for zero-emission vehicles in the world’. In his speech, he’ll also add that he wants, ‘the UK to become the best country in the world in which to develop and manufacture zero-emission vehicles.’

‘We welcome the government’s continued support for electric vehicles, which are already enabling zero-emission motoring for over 150,000 drivers in the UK,’ added the newly-merged Chargemaster chief executive David Martel.

‘We are very pleased to see the continued focus on supporting home charging, as well as an increase in the Workplace Charging Scheme, and a commitment to encourage the installation of charging infrastructure in new developments, which will cost less than retrofitting it in the future.’

EV charging connectors and types

Charging types and connectors 

Like any new bit of technology, electric cars currently use multiple standards of connection. But this isn’t as stressful as the Betamax, VHS war though; most cars feature at least two types of connector, and adaptors are easy to use.

EVs are very clear on what you can type of connector you can use, and it’s almost impossible to use the wrong charger in the wrong EV – this isn't like petrol or diesel. What's more, apps such as ZapMap make things even easier: you set the electric car you own, and the app will show you compatible chargers nearby. In a worst case scenario, you’ll be able to charge – but you might not get the fastest possible charging speed.

At present, charging comes in three flavours, with a handful of different connections used for each.

 1. Rapid chargers

As you’d expect, these are the fastest type of charger, and comes in both AC and DC forms. Both of these standards operate at between 43kW to 50kW of power, and that means they’re able to charge 80% of a battery in 30 minutes to an hour. Rapid AC chargers will use a Type 2 connector, while Rapid DC connectors use CCS or the catchy CHAdeMO standard.

And one more thing. Tesla’s Superchargers count as rapid chargers, and they use their own bespoke connection to acheive transfer of up to 120kW. Still, adaptors are available.

2. Fast chargers

A fast charger is anything classed as between 7kW and 22kW, and will charge an EV in up to four hours. While not as fast as rapid chargers – and about four-times slower – they are probably the most common type of charger in the UK right now. These are ideal for home use, too.

3. Slow chargers

A slow charger is regarded as anything up to 3kW, and is therefore used for primarily for overnight charging. This is trickle-charging for electric cars, and your last resort when it comes to topping up. The good news? You can use a three-pin plug to slow charge. The bad news? It’ll take between 6-12 hours.

How to find your nearest electric car charging station in 2019

Zap-Map is one of the most useful resources for any EV owner, and regardless of what electric car you’ve got, it’ll show a good deal of information. To find out your nearest electric charging station, head to this link and then type in your postcode. After that you’ll be shown a map with all your local EV charging stations, and each site is colour-coded depending on the type of charging on offer. Zap-Map has a community element - so you’ll be able to see any problems reported with chargers, too.

How to plan a route with an electric car in 2019

Most modern EVs’ sat-nav systems actually include charging stops when planning a route – but if you’re keen to check your route before you get in the car, Zap-Map is also the best place to go. You’ll need to create an account first, but after that getting a suitable route is as easy as going to the route planner and entering your destination and starting point.

The map will then show charging stations along the way, and you can drag a slider to show suitable charging plugs further afield if needed.

If you’ve got a Tesla, you’ll be able to use a more bespoke tool. Earlier this year, Elon Musk’s EV company launched a journey planner which helps you map out any route with your EV. Because the tool is specific to Tesla, it’s able to carefully calculate your route based on the range of your car – and it’ll also favour Tesla’s own speedier Supercharger network, too. You can try the tool out here.

Further electric car reading

The best electric cars and EVs on sale today

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The best hybrids, plug-ins and PHEVs

Wireless electric car charging

By Faris Sultan & Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast