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Charging What you need to know about electric car charging stations
  • Dec 8, 2022

  • 9 min read

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What you need to know about electric car charging stations

As more drivers are opting for cleaner, greener, transport the electric car public charging infrastructure is quickly expanding to keep up. In fact, the UK government has committed £1.6bn to expand the UK’s charging network and are aiming to build a network of at least 300,000 chargers by 2030 as part of their EV infrastructure strategy.

While the cheapest and most convenient way to charge your electric car is still through home charging, public charging points also provide some much-needed charging support. In a recent survey, our customers told us that they do 20% of their charging on the road (the other 80% is done at home), which shows that the public network is important to every EV driver. The public charging network is especially important for longer journeys away from home, giving driver’s rapid charging options to top up quickly, and the network is essential for drivers who don’t have an electric car chargepoint at home.

Whether you’re already driving your exciting new electric car, or haven't yet made the switch, by 2030 a fifth of all cars on UK roads are expected to be EVs.  As so many more of us will be reliant on electric car charging stations, it’s good to know how to use them.

Check out our guides for everything you need to know about electric car charging points: where to find them, how much it costs and how to charge up.

What are EV charging networks?

There are over 60,000 public charging connectors in the UK, and that number is increasing every day. These are owned and operated by more than 60 different EV charging networks.

What most people don’t realise until they experience it for themselves is that in the past, you had to register with each operator and use their specific charging card or smartphone app to pay for charging up, but thankfully that’s not the case any more. Electroverse has made using different networks much simpler by creating one charging card and app providing access to thousands of charging points on multiple networks across the UK and Europe.

Some new rapid and high-powered charge points now provide pay-as-you-go contactless debit or credit card payment options, too. While there’s only a small number of charging points with this functionality at the moment, pay-as-you-go is set to become more popular as fairly priced and accessible charging is a key part of the government's EV infrastructure strategy. The government is making sure that that contactless payment be made available on all rapid chargers that are installed in the future. As electric car charging infrastructure develops, this option removes the need to register with individual charging networks.

Can I charge my car at any charging station?

As long as your charging cable is compatible with the sockets and plugs available at charging stations, you can charge your electric vehicle at almost any charging station. Charging stations have different sockets and plugs depending on the make of your car, which country you’re in, and whether it’s an AC (fast) or DC (rapid) charging station.

AC charging stations (for fast charging)

AC charging stations. There are two types (Type 1 and Type 2) of AC plugs and sockets. Type 1 is most common in Japanese and North American cars and Type 2 is common in most others. All UK EVs have a Type 2 socket and all charging stations in the UK have Type 2 sockets but, even if you have a Type 1 socket, with the right cable you should be able to charge your electric car.

DC charging stations (for rapid charging)

DC charging stations are for rapid charging. DC chargers usually have fixed cables, which means you can only charge your electric car at these stations if you have a compatible socket. Of the two different types of DC plugs and sockets, CHAdeMO is common in Asian cars, whilst CSS is common in European and North American vehicles.

All EVs are compatible with rapid chargers, and the majority of modern, fully electric vehicles use CSS sockets - apart from the Nissan LEAF. This is because they are manufactured in Japan with a CHAdeMO socket. But because the CSS socket is so popular in Europe, the Nissan Airya comes with a CSS socket.

Because CSS sockets are more common, you’ll typically see more CSS adapters out there. At the charging station, drivers can choose whether to use the CSS cable or a CHAdeMO cable to charge. This is a bit like when a driver goes to the petrol station and chooses whether they want to fill up using the unleaded pump or the diesel pump based on their car's engine.

Even though it has a different socket from most European cars, you can still use a rapid charger with a Nissan LEAF. To use a rapid charger with a Nissan LEAF, drivers need to use a CHAdeMO cable and adapter.

Think about it like a phone charger. Just like an Apple phone and a Samsung phone use different cables to charge, it’s exactly the same with electric cars. The chargers serve exactly the same function, they just look and connect differently depending on the device.

How much are electric car charging points?

The cost of recharging your electric vehicle is cheaper than refilling the fuel tank - depending on how you charge. But just how much does it cost to use public electric car charging points? Costs will vary depending on the charging network you’re using, the charging speed and the size of your car battery.

The cost to charge your electric vehicle is calculated per kilowatt hour (kWh) and can range from around 5p to more than 60p per kWh. Generally, the larger your car battery and the quicker you want to charge, the more you’ll pay, so if you’re charging on the road, it tends to be the economical choice to use slow charging when you can.

Some charging networks also offer subscriptions. With these, you'll pay a reduced cost per unit of charge for a monthly fee. Keep in mind, this means you’ll be limited to using charging points on one network in order to take advantage of the discounted rate.

Can I charge my electric car for free?

Yes, you can charge for free! When was the last time you parked your petrol or diesel in the car park at the supermarket and somebody filled it up for you while you did your shop? We’re guessing never… This is one of the amazing advantages of driving an electric car.

Although most public charging points will cost you every time you use them, there are still some free public charging points around the UK. Scotland is one of the best places for this given the large network of free charge points run by the Scottish Government. London and the South East of England also have many free charging points due to the sheer number of charging points in those areas.

Free charging points are typically found in public car parks at shopping centres and supermarkets. Many supermarkets, including Tesco, offer free charging to encourage you to shop there. Some restaurants, hotels and leisure centres also offer free charging facilities, but they’re usually reserved for their paying customers.

How do EV charging cards work?

You’ll need to register for some networks to pay to use their charging points. Once you’ve got your registered card, simply tap it against the charge point reader, and you’ll be billed through an online account. Although it’s easy to use once you’re set up, it can mean having multiple cards and registered accounts for lots of different networks.

For a simple and slick alternative to using multiple EV charging cards, join the Electroverse. Use your own personalised Electrocard across multiple charging points and networks. One card, one simple tap — your bills and payments are consolidated in one, convenient place.

You’ll also find a handy map on the app that lets you filter for specific charging networks, charge speeds and socket types. And it gets better: if you’re an Octopus Energy customer, you can opt to automatically add your EV charging payments to your home electricity bill.

As we move to an electric future, almost all of us will become reliant on electric car charging points. Get your Electrocard to start taking advantage of super-easy public charging.