There are lots of differences between charging an electric vehicle (EV) and filling a car which has an internal combustion engine (ICE) with fuel.
You wouldn’t fill up and then keep on topping up your ICE car’s tank with fuel after a day’s use, but EVs are often charged when they are not in use. This is mostly at home, overnight when energy is cheaper. More and more workplaces are offering EV charging in their car parks too.
There will be times, though, when you need to charge your EV while you’re out and about which means you’ll need to use a public charging point.
While this process may seem a little daunting at first, there’s nothing to worry about. It may be new to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult. In fact, with their many different payment options and thousands of locations, you’ll master public charging in no time.
Finding public and destination charging points
You’ll have noticed boxes fixed to walls and strange towers which look a little bit like petrol pumps popping up in car parks up and down the country in recent years.
These are public charging points, installed in anticipation of the expected increase in EV usage that will come after the government banned the sale of new ICE cars from 2030 onwards.
There are currently more than 42,000 chargepoint connectors dotted around the UK. You can see exactly where they’re located using a resource such as Zap-Map.
Major charging networks
There is no one sole provider of EV charging in this country. While it is possible to plug a car into the National Grid with a traditional three-pin plug, this isn’t the most efficient way to charge.
Instead, many different charging networks have been established to power the increasing numbers of EVs.
For a comprehensive list of charging networks in the UK, along with links to their websites which contain in-depth guides to their usage, click onto the Zap-Map website’s page related to public charging points.
There’s also more than one different kind of charger in use around the country too. Coded by colour, they can be broadly categorised by speed of charger as follows:
- Slow chargers, which run at 3-6kW
- Fast chargers, which run at 7-22kW
- Rapid chargers, which run at 43kW and above.
Connecting to a charge point
If you regularly charge your EV at home via a wall-mounted box that has a cable hard-wired into it, you’ll need to carry a separate charging cable in your car if you’d like to charge it while you’re out and about.
You will then plug one end into the charger and the other into your car.
Taking your own Type 1, Type 2 or other cable
Your car will have either a Type 2 or, in some instances, a Type 1 AC socket. You need to make sure that the cable you buy for, or are given with, your car is the equivalent. This will then allow you to charge in public, though you can also use it at home or work if there is an option to use an untethered charging point at these locations.
The Type 2 socket is used for slow and fast chargers. If a slow or fast chargepoint is tethered and has a cable attached, it will be a Type 2. Similarly, when you come to plug your own cable into an untethered slow or fast charger, you’ll find it has a Type 2 socket.
Rarer CHAdeMO or CCS connectors are used for rapid charging. While rapid chargers aren’t as common around the country, those that do exist are usually tethered, so there is a cable already connected to the chargepoint.
A small number of AC chargepoints are also tethered.
Cables vary in length and the rating of the current that they carry, which will either be 16A or 32A. They can also carry single or three-phase electricity.
Paying to charge your car
Each charging network outlined on the Zap-Map list will have their own fees. Crucially, they will also have their own ways of paying too.
- Plug and Play – is, as the name suggests, the simplest way. Plug your car into the charger and it charges. There is no sign-up required and access is instant
- App-enabled – is a method of payment using a smartphone app created by the specific charging network operating the chargepoint. You’re able to monitor your usage of the charge and your billing details. The app will also help you find the network’s chargepoint locations
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card – is another form of payment which allows the user to monitor their usage and manage their billing. It’s easy to use even in areas of poor mobile signal, though the driver is unable to charge their EV until their RFID card arrives through the post after they have registered for it
- Contactless payments – are a way of paying for goods in which we’re all familiar. Simply hold your card above the reader and the beep announces that payment has been taken. There’s no sign-up required, but you’ll often have to pay a transaction fee with each charge.
The time it takes to charge your EV
As their names suggest, slow and fast chargers charge an EV at different speeds.
An Alternating Current (AC) cable will have one of two kinds of connectors for you to plug into the EV. It’s like having different smartphones – the connector into the phone is different, but the connection to the power source is the same:
After you’ve plugged your cable into your EV and led the cable to the charger, you’ll find that the charger has a Type 2 socket for the cable regardless of whether it is slow or fast:
For more information on the many advantages of driving an EV and why electric may be the best choice for your next car, take a look at our EV driver guides.