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EV charging in public – where to charge your electric car on the go

Whether you've gone shopping or embarked on a road trip, there are plenty of ways to top up your battery while you're out and about

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Electric car charging

While many electric car owners can handle their daily or weekly charges on the driveway or in the garage, or with residential on-street chargers, not everyone is so lucky.

For many, charging away from home is part and parcel of the electric car experience.

It needn’t be a challenging one though, because there are thousands of charging points across the UK to make it increasingly easy to do. 

To keep you charged up in the switch to electric, our handy guide will help you understand where these chargers typically are, and how to use them.

Where can I charge my electric car? 

Public charging points come in several forms, but most are there to enable you to conveniently plug in your electric car while you’re out accessing services or visiting attractions.

One of the fastest growing types of location for electric car chargers is petrol station forecourts, as fuel-sellers look to adapt to changing demand. 

Motorway service stations are already well populated with chargers – some of which are 150kW (kilowatts) rapid chargers that can take a typical small electric car’s battery from nearly flat to about 80% in well under an hour. Some brands claim barely more than 30 minutes.  

Shopping centres and restaurants are also increasingly offering space for electric cars to charge, and while these will typically have less powerful plugs, they can still offer something like a 10% to 80% battery top up in less time than it takes to do the weekly shop. Or, if you’re dining, eat those two courses.  

At the slowest end of the public charger spectrum are adapted lamp post chargers, which use the existing power supply of a streetlamp to power a retrofitted electric car charger.

These typically require several hours for any meaningful charge, but since they’re located on residential streets, they’re perfect for locals who can’t plug their car in on a drive way overnight.

Best of all, some councils make these plugs free of charge! 

Find electric car charging points with cinchCharge

cinchCharge is a card and app that gives you access to more than 20,000 public charging points across more than 18 networks, with one way to pay.

You can find and filter public chargers by availability, speed and distance from your location, start your charging session with the card or app, and pay using your linked payment card.

Access to all the public charging points on cinchCharge is provided as standard exclusively for fully electric cars bought on cinch.

If you want to take a look at where the charging points are on a map, you can download the app.

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Which supermarkets offer free charging?  

Of the supermarkets in Britain. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl and Aldi currently provide the largest number of free charging stations in some of their car parks.

Other supermarkets also provide charge stations – and are continuing to add to their supply – in a bid to lure electric car drivers to their stores in exchange for free energy.

Not that you have to shop in order to use the chargers; you’re also welcome to simply plug-in your car and wait, without spending a penny in store. How nice.   

Mobile apps to find public charging points

Most electric cars feature sat-nav systems with built-in charger-finding capabilities, which work in tandem with the battery to figure out where your best next stops could be.

There are plenty of smartphone apps too, which can guide you to your nearest charge point.

If you have cinchCharge – which is included as standard when you buy an electric car from cinch – you'll have access to more than 20,000 public charging point connectors across more than 18 networks, and be able to pay with ease at all of them.

Can I use contactless payment to charge? 

In years gone by, most charging companies have required you to download their app to sign up and use a plug. But contactless charging is being rolled out at an accelerated rate, meaning you can simply arrive at a plug, attach your car and swipe your card or smartphone (or smartwatch, if you’re swanky) on the contactless reader, making the process super easy. 

Learn more about electric cars: