According to the website Zapmap, as of April 2023 there were 3,568 free public charging stations across the UK. Over 1,000 of these were in Scotland (good for the Scots!) with just under 500 in the South East. Zapmap publishes a map of where these can be found. There is also a helpful app for the site and a great deal of other information useful to the EV driving community.
Apple has an app which provides route planning information based on available charging stations. Search their site for Apple Map or type into their search box EV Charging Stations.
You may be charged
Charging costs vary considerably; they used to be free at IKEA stores for example. But one solution might be to sign up for a monthly account with a charging provider such as BP Pulse (other account providers are available), for example, which offers three charging options.
According to a report in Auto Express (6 Jan. 2022) “…there’s a full member rate which commands a monthly fee but opens up access to hundreds of free-to-use chargers, as well as low rates for fast and rapid charge points. There’s also a free membership where you provide your details and use the chargers on a pay-as-you-go basis at a reduced rate. Finally, the contactless bank card option has the most expensive rate per kWh but no need to log-in: “just swipe and see what chargers are available”
There doesn’t seem to be much that’s useful on conventional price-comparison sites so, given frequent references to Zap-Map which is dedicated to EV usage, that site might be the most useful.
Making the right connections
As to varying types of connection, there doesn’t seem to be any single source of information for that so EV owners will have to refer their handbooks and check with the charge stations they hope to use to see if the plugs are compatible with the sockets on their cars.
The diversity of plugs and sockets is incredibly unhelpful to drivers; travel in the UK and across Europe guarantees that the petrol and diesel nozzles will fit any car or commercial vehicle.
Constructors of EVs need to collaborate to create one standard charger connection for all (obviously this doesn’t include Tesla which has their exclusive charger “club” which only feeds the well-heeled who indulge themselves with Tesla cars).
Charging at what cost?
Conventional comparison websites don’t seem to me to be very useful. Far better to use a specialist like Zap-Map, not least as it is recommended by independent car magazine publishers and Which Magazine.
Ongoing costs and some thoughts about potential travel stresses
Anecdotally, EV owners seem to be reassuringly comforting by indicating that their running costs reward their choice of vehicle, despite the heavy premium they need to pay to buy them over fossil-fuelled equivalent models (although it’s not clear if they have considered larger than normal depreciation of their EVs come trade-in time).
As far as longer-distance travel is concerned, it’s well worth a look back at Juliet Blackburn’s very informative article in Kent and Surrey Bylines (see below) on EV ownership, as it gives a very clear idea of the issues surrounding EV ownership.
Now that Winter has arrived, it’s also worth bearing in mind that EV battery performance can decrease by up to 20%, according to some consumer reports at low temperatures or at freezing or less, using heaters and lights places extra strain on the batteries and charging in the cold may be slower. Useful information about this can be found at www.evocharge.com/resources/electric-cars in cold weather/ which although is North American is relevant to EV users in the UK.
As we head into Winter, EV owners need to plan carefully, especially for longer trips to reach distant family or friends for the Festivities and take warm clothing and basic provisions such as water just in case of running flat out of charge…