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Charging 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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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, and it needn’t be a challenging one either, 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 charge 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! 

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. But 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 which locate and show availability of charging points.  

Most electric cars sat navs 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. Zap Map is one of the most popular apps used in Britain to help motorists locate available chargers in Britain. There are other trusty apps too, giving you plenty of choice and support. With the Shell Recharge app, BP Pulse, plugsurfing, A Better Route Planner to name a few other reliable options.      

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.