Electric Cars

Charging an electric car on the road, by Nat Barnes

When it comes to EVs, you might have heard of range anxiety but as the technology and range of new EVs improves, the only questions remain about the chargers themselves. What are the different types available, how do you find them, are they free and what are all the different prices you can pay? Here’s our easy guide to charging your EV out on the road.


I’m taking my EV on a long journey, where do I find the best chargers on my route?

At the time of writing, there are 18,900 EV charging locations in the UK with more than 50,000 connectors. The Government has just announced a minimum goal of 300,000 public chargers to be in place by 2030 and has pledged a £950 million rapid charging fund to support at least 6000 rapid chargepoints on motorways and major A-roads by 2035.

Most modern EVs will have a ‘find a charger’ function within their sat nav systems and some even enable you to plot your route according to your remaining range. However, probably the easiest way of checking is via the Zap Map website and app.

Zap Map is a simple map that enables you zoom in on certain areas and easily see the various types of charger on offer via a colour-coding system. Yellow are 3kW chargers, blue are 7kW fast chargers and purple are rapid chargers usually 43kW and above.


What do the different charging speeds mean?

Put simply, the higher the kW charger, then the faster your car will charge – up to a limit, anyway. Different EVs have limits to their charging capability, so a Vauxhall Corsa e can charge up to 100kW, while a Porsche Taycan can charge at 225kW. You can still plug in to more powerful chargers, but they just won’t charge any faster.

Also, no matter what the car, that charging speed will slow once the battery is above 80 per cent level of charge, which helps to protect the lifespan of the battery. Rapid chargers of 50kW and above are more likely found at service stations rather than at supermarkets, but the UK network of rapids and ultra-rapids of 100kW and above is growing quickly.


Do I need to take my charging cable with me?

It depends on which charger you’re planning on using. Fast chargers of up to 7kW tend to be ‘untethered’ which means it’s just a socket and you’ll need to use your own cable. For rapid chargers though, they tend to be ‘tethered’ with the lead attached to the machine itself.

The faster CCS chargers of 50kW and above use the secondary ‘bulge’ on the bottom of your socket which has the shape of a flattened figure of eight. Either way, it’s no bad thing to keep your charging cable in the boot of your car anyway, just in case.


I’ve found a charging location, what do I do now?

First, check the charger is working and this is the beauty of the Zap Map app. For each charging location it will show you the details of the site, the pricing structure (we’ll go into this more later), whether it’s working and, crucially, any notes from past users. Users can also ‘check in’ to certain chargers meaning that you can also see if they’re being used in real time.

It’s worth doing this homework before you get there to save you a wasted journey. Those notes from previous users are also invaluable as the charger might be broken or not delivering the correct level of charge.


Do I need to download the charging company’s app and open an account beforehand?

Not so long ago, the answer would have been a definitive yes, but now it’s not always necessary. Again, check the Zap Map app, but many chargers now offer contactless payment, so that you can simply plug and pay.

Having said that though, opening an account isn’t a bad idea for one main reason – price. We’ve tackled the subject of charging prices in another feature on the Tusker site, but many charging point providers offer different tier levels of pricing per kWh. Turning up and paying by contactless is one price, charging via the firm’s own app is slightly cheaper and having a subscription account can be cheaper again.

It does mean you pre-loading an account with the respective company with money, but the savings can soon add up. The same goes for paying a regular subscription fee which as we said is cheaper still, but can be beneficial if you’re regularly using one particular firm’s chargers.


We’re only talking a few pence though, is it worth it?

Again, on the face it, it might not look like much, but the savings can soon mount up – just a few pence might pay for that coffee that you buy while you’re charging.

Also, if you don’t have an account then those differences can be a whole lot more than just a few pence. With Ionity, just driving up and paying by contactless can be 69 pence per kWh, but having a subscription account can see that drop to 29p/kWh. For a 30kWh charge, that’s a difference of £12.00.

So compared to shopping around for diesel or petrol, when you’re charging an EV, a little bit of forward planning can soon pay off.

Interested in finding out more?