The UK's Public EV Charging Network rated, plus news, guidance on electric vehicle charging

Parkers electric cars

  • The UK's public EV charger network rated from good to bad
  • Government pledges to increase public chargers to 300,000 by 2030
  • All the network providers' current performance rated by Parkers
Osprey Chargers in Purley Cross

The electric vehicle charging infrastructure is the hottest topic in the UK electric vehicle (EV) community at present. Making the switch to an EV does come with a change in lifestyle, since ‘refuelling’ isn’t the minutes-long stop-off it is with conventional vehicles. Yet, the appetite to switch to electric continues to grow, in light of skyrocketing fuel costs.

Soaring EV sales, according to the SMMT, is outstripping the growth of the public network, but the industry is fighting back, as latest figures show there are now 30,290 public chargepoints in the UK compared with 28,375 in 2021.

These numbers from the Department for Transport (DfT), and sourced from mapping provider Zap Map, reveal that 7,500 new devices have been installed during the past 12 months. Recently, the government announced a strategy to tackle the discrepancy, pledging 300,000 public chargers available by 2030, up tenfold from the current 30,000 or so chargers available today. 

Read the most common public EV charge point providers, ranked in order of performance experienced by the Parkers team

In this guide, Parkers notes:

£450m government boost to public charging

The most recent news regarding electric vehicle charging and the infrastructure to support it, says EV owners rated the public charging network 2.16 out of 5, a survey of over 1,000 drivers by the Electric Vehicle Association England (EVA).

Zap-Map has revealed data to the BBC suggesting that at any given time, 10% of the network is unavailable. Despite recent news that Tesla has enabled access by non-Tesla drivers to selected Superchargers in its well-established network, EV drivers continue to raise concerns that the public network is woefully inadequate.

The aim to ensure the public EV charging network is ‘robust, fair and covering the entire country’ is expected to be achieved through an investment of £1.6 billion. Detailed under the Department for Transport’s EV Infrastructure Strategy, the objective is to ensure charging is cheaper and easier than refuelling. Measures such as mandating contactless payment functionality and creating apps to compare charging prices are included too.

Under the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund, £450 million is pledged to boost EV hubs and on-street charging to bolster residential communities. This move comes as the subsidy for installation of domestic household charging points is removed. The UK government announcement is further supported with BP’s intention to invest £1 billion in the UK’s charging infrastructure too.

What the industry is saying

While this news is welcomed, what it does signal is that the current network is neither robust, nor fair, nor covering the entire country. Indeed, managing director of Vauxhall, Paul Willcox, states: ‘While we welcome the Government’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy, we feel that it is a missed opportunity to provide certainty to customers by mandating binding targets on the roll-out of the charging infrastructure in the UK. It is essential that infrastructure keeps pace with market demand, or in fact leads demand, to remove any customer fears of ‘charging anxiety’ and accelerates the electrification of Britain’s roads as quickly as possible.’

Ian Johnston, the CEO of Osprey Charging added: ‘The announcement is an important step towards ensuring that we have the right number of charging points in all locations across the UK. This is crucial to give everyone the confidence that when they make the switch to electric, they will be able to charge as easily as they refuel today – whenever and wherever they are. These charging stations simply must be reliable, easy to navigate and importantly, accessible for all.’

Joel Teague, CEO of home electric vehicle charger sharing app Co Charger said: ‘As expected, there’s been significant growth in public chargers across the UK. The bad news though is that the gap between chargers and EV ownership has grown even wider. As the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) pointed out last month, there was one electric vehicle charger for every 16 plug-in vehicles in 2021. Now it’s half that level. On average just one charger for every 32 vehicles and in some areas of the UK, way less than that.

>> Read our comprehensive guide to installing a home EV charger

>> See the best offers on home chargers

>> Read about portable EV chargers

As ranked by Parkers, the most common public EV charge point providers are:

1. Tesla

2. Gridserve

3. Pod Point

4. Fastned

5. Instavolt

6. Shell Recharge

7. Geniepoint

8. IONITY

9. Chargeplace Scotland

10. Osprey

11. BP Pulse (Chargemaster)

12. Chargeyourcar


1. Tesla Supercharger network

Tesla Supercharger public charging

There’s no denying Tesla got the jump on providing its customers a reliable network of fast charging points, offering quite simply the best service in the UK. Early Tesla owners were offered lifetime free use of the charges, but Tesla changed the policy after some owners abused it by never charging at home. In May 2022, Tesla opened up access of its Supercharger network to non-Tesla customers. The pilot, which began in November 2021, was extended to the UK, Spain, France, Belgium, Sweden and Austria. This won’t necessarily come as good news to some Tesla drivers on the continent, however, who have been reporting queues of up to an hour to use a Supercharger.

Size of network: 780 chargers at 87 locations

Price to charge: First 1,000 miles per year are free, then anything between £0.22-0.32 per kWh for Tesla customers. Non-Tesla customers can sign up for monthly membership of £10.99, which gives them a lower per kWh price than the higher per kWh price paid by non-members. Prices vary by site.

How to charge: You can’t yet pay for Tesla chargers as a non-Tesla driver (something it’s changing), Tesla drivers use their app.

Our experience: Quite simply the best. However, our experience has been a little skewed, since anyone with a Tesla on loan, including prospective customers, can charge using the Supercharger network for free. Ease-of-use is straightforward enough and availability has never been an issue.

2. Gridserve

Gridserve's first Electric Forecourt

You might be familiar with the brand, Ecotricity, which was acquired by Gridserve in June 2021. Gridserve opened its first multi-point EV charging service station, called ‘Electric Forecourt’, at Braintree, Essex in March 2020. The Electric Forecourt provides enough points to charge 24 cars simultaneously and an area for food, drink, shopping and dog walking while vehicles are on charge.

Size of network: It’s in the process of completing the switch away from the legacy Ecotricity network into Gridserve branding has ambitious plans to open two more Electric Forecourts and 20 electric hubs, featuring between 6 and 12 350kWh charge points in 2022.

Price to charge: Between £0.35 and £0.45 per kWh, depending on location

How to charge: Through Gridserve’s interactive map, you’re good to find chargers on your route. All Gridserve points take contactless payment.

3. Pod Point

One of the oldest networks in the UK, Pod Point, like others on this list, provides domestic and commercial charge points, as well as operating its own charging network. Some of the commercial chargers are for use in its network, such as those found at Tesco and Lidl.

Size of network: Price to charge: Varies, some can be free (well done, Tesco). Others, such as the rapid chargers at Lidl, are £0.26 per kWh (one of the cheapest rapid charges we’ve seen).

How to charge: Through the app, whether you register or not, you have to find the charge point name and initiate the charge that way.

4. Fastned

Fastned's new ultra-rapid Greenwich site with its wavy solar roof

Straight out of Holland, Fastned has created a European network, stretching into the North East of England too, given the ferry route Amsterdam to Newcastle. Some 11 stylish, multi-charge point sites stretching from the brand-new one at Barnard Castle to Blyth…and one randomly near Sandwich in Kent and a new ultra-rapid charge station with six bays in Greenwich, Fastned is quickly adding to its charger count.

Committed to using 100% renewable energy, the locations with a distinct solar canopy help keep drivers dry, as well as generating some of the energy used to charge. The new Greenwich chargers are capable of charging an EV with 186 miles in 15 minutes.

Size of network: UK has 11 locations, aiming to create 1,000.

Price to charge: £0.45 per kWh, up from £0.35kWh (due to energy increase)

How to charge: Two methods: Be a Gold member, for discounts, or Pay-as-you go

Our experience: Fairly positive with Fastned; turn up, plug in, tap your card, charge and go. Once, in a field of five chargers, the first two weren’t working; screens didn’t feature welcome message and needed to be reset. Fastned customer service helpful and can initiate remote update, but still required a phone call. Also, it’s not cheap. Efficient but expensive.

5. Instavolt

Instavolt public charging

Instavolt is the UK’s largest owner operator of rapid DC charging points, meaning it develops, installs, owns and operates all devices on the network. Not only has a great reputation for ease-of-use – you simply rock up and pay with contactless or the app, pay-as-you-go.

InstaVolt currently has 800 chargers in its network, expecting to deliver a minimum of 600 installations in the next 12 months. With ambitious plans, InstaVolt intends to install 10,000 new chargers across the UK in the next 10 years.

Size of network: 800 charge points, with a further 600 planned over next 12 months, 10,000 in next decade.

Price to charge: £0.45 per kWh, up from £0.40 in December 2021

How to charge: Pay-as-you go, via contactless cards

Our experience: Largely positive, but not cheap. Our experience of Instavolt has always been positive, albeit pricey, with machines being reliable and easy to use. Tap and go and the charge point is always available.

6. Shell Recharge

In January 2022, it opened its first all-EV charging hub, with nine charging points, a Costa cafe, Little Waitrose and other provisions in Fulham, London. The city is where 50 of its on-forecourt charging points are already located.

Size of network: With 119 charge points in total; 65 rapid and 54 ultra-rapid, Shell has committed to growing its Recharge network of on-forecourt charging points to 5,000 by 2025.

Price to charge: £0.45-0.49 per kWh

How to charge: Via the Shell Recharge app, or Pay-as-you go

Our experience: First impressions say, Shell operates one of the most expensive charging tariffs for EV drivers, second to Ionity—but we need more exposure to the Shell Recharge network, so watch this space.

7. GeniePoint

Geniepoint public charging

Engie EV solutions runs the Geniepoint network.

Price to charge: Charge on any GeniePoint public network charger for a single rate of 42p per kWh

How to charge: Register with the app, have an access card.

Our experience: Average — one rapid charger we visited, on a forecourt in Great Yarmouth caused us issues. No contactless payment, no mobile signal. No way of remotely initiating charge from customer services. (To make matters worse, no loo.) Eventually, when the app had confirmed ‘initialising charge’, we wandered off for 20 minutes, only to return to a car that had charged for less than a minute.

Later, Geniepoint called us back and explained the ongoing chip shortage has delayed the rollout of its devices getting the contactless payment updates. Other chargers we’ve used are more reliable, but rarely deliver the promised charge – and are often on sites that are time limited.

8. Ionity

Ionity public charging

Ionity is the much-vaunted EU-backed charging network that a number of carmakers are backing. If you have a car that supports it, Ionity’s Ultra Rapid Chargers can deliver up to 350kW, which means you’re topping up from 20-80% on compatible EVs in less than 20 minutes.

Size of network: 16 locations in the UK, with four charge points on each site.

Price to charge: £0.35 per kWh on a £16.99 monthly contract, and £0.69 per kWh on an ad hoc basis

How to charge: Contract or pay-as-you go, via the app

Our experience: Largely positive, but far too many issues connecting to our cars for our liking. Very fast, but eye-wateringly expensive, with charger banks in good locations. Excellent phone support, too.

9. Chargeplace Scotland

Chargeplace Scotland charging

Owned and developed by the Scottish Government, Chargeplace Scotland aims to make EV charging accessible to all EV drivers, from Shetland to the border with England.

Size of network: Over 2,168, 70% of which are outside cities. Figure includes more than 300 rapid chargers.

Price to charge: Varies, some points are free, while others are an affordable £0.15 per kWh with a minimum charge of £1.00.

How to charge: Download the app, register and you’re good to find chargers on your route, initiate charge and report an issue with a charge point.

Our experience: The app has been slated for its laggy, unreliable service, and we found that it’s not quick or easy to install the smartphone app. The chargers are well located and easy to find – however, charging is controlled via the smartphone app, with no option to tap and pay on a guest basis.

10. Osprey

Like Fastned and Gridserve, Osprey is committed to providing a network of rapid-chargers in accessible locations. Those locations include supermarkets, pubs and coffee shops. It’s also keen to ensure ‘accessibility’ is for all, so locations are well-lit and disability-friendly.

Size of network: 170 sites, including four high-power charging hubs, with views to secure a further 150 hubs over the next four years.

Price to charge: £0.40 per kWh, contactless on every device

How to charge: Osprey App gives regular users access to monthly billing, receipts, etc.

Our experience: Osprey is also on our list of points to try, so we’ll keep you posted.

Osprey is rolling out a rapid charge network

11. BP Pulse

BP Pulse public charging

BP took over the largest public network, formerly Chargemaster, integrating the Polar Network then rebranded into BP Pulse. It’s been a rocky road. Though no one could doubt its commitment to providing a broad network of accessible, fully working charge points, the reality isn’t as straightforward.

Size of network: 8,000, from pulse7 (7kWh delivery) to pulse150 (150kWh), the latter being rolled out onto the BP forecourts, some 1,200 nationwide. The newest announcement should see that number more than double by 2030, with a focus on superfast charging points.

Price to charge: Varies, mostly £0.27 per kWh for 7kWh in urban locations, up to £0.40 per kWh for 150kWh delivery and 7kWh delivery on motorway location. Members get discounts and free use at selected points.

How to charge: Through the BP Pulse app, via contactless or an access card

Our experience: Mixed. The scale of the network means we’re never sure what kind of experience we’re going to have using any given point, and we’re finding an above average number of chargers out of order. That said, if a point isn’t working, BP Pulse open the point up for ‘Free Vend’, meaning they won’t leave you stranded, and we like the fact that you can pay without an account using via contactess. However, guest charging is more expensive, and an account costs £7.99 per month.

12. Chargeyourcar

Also known as CYC, Chargeyourcar is one of the longest-serving networks in the UK. CYC is a network more focussed on destination charge locations; shopping centres, town car parks, places where we’ll spend a bit of time. They’re not ultra-fast chargers, but CYC does charge an overstay fee to dissuade charge point hogging.

Size of network: Over 1,900 charge points

Price to charge: Contrary to trend, CYC has been dropping the prices of its some of its charge points. Minimum charges start from £1 and price per kWh is £0.15-0.25.

How to charge: Register with the app or send off for the access card.

Our experience: Mixed. When CYC works, it works really well. However, hitting ‘start charge now’ and getting no response is infuriating. Usually poor service comes down to poor mobile reception, thus CYC point to the access card for a failsafe approach. Gah.


Charging ports

Types of charging port with blue icons and bullet-pointed attributes

The first thing you’ll notice as you become familiar with electric vehicles are the different charging ports. Like Apple’s Lightning cable versus the micro-USB, the port type depends on the manufacturer, country of purchase and how fast the manufacturer wants you to be able to charge. While non-standardisation is frustrating, it’s a legacy result of manufacturers trying to reduce charging times, to make electric vehicles more appealing, thus borne from good intentions.

The charge points are sized in kilowatts per hour, or kWh. The most important thing to note is the bigger the number of kWh, the larger the possible delivery of power to your car, thus the greater mileage you can recharge in a shorter amount of time.

Locations of charging

There are three core locations: 1) base, 2) en route and 3) at destination.

1.    Base

Base charging is essentially charging at home. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean on your particular driveway. To be inclusive of the 40% of households which don’t have the accessibility of a charge point proximate to their residence, there are alternative solutions, such as on-street charging, community charging networks and portable chargers. Whatever option you use, base charging is where the majority of charging happens.

It’s usually the cheapest way of charging your electric vehicle, since the car’s companion app can enable drivers to schedule a charge. Since, charging only starts when timed to, owners can take advantage of the cheaper overnight tariffs from energy suppliers.

Overnight charging is slower, usually through a 3kWh, or more commonly a 7kWh charge point.

2.    En route

Route charging is the most common for EV drivers covering many motorway miles. Driving an EV on a motorway is the quickest way to deplete battery reserves. This is because the road type, unlike undulating country roads or stop/start city streets, doesn’t take advantage of regenerative braking technology. For that, hills are your friend.

Car makers have configured their proprietary navigation systems to do the hard work for you, by suggesting charge points along the road as waypoints to head for. That being said, these navigation systems don’t always show the real-time availability, charge point status or cost, unlike the very comprehensive Zap-Map app.

These charge points tend to be 50kWh or 150kWh, and rather impressively 350kWh charge points are beginning to pop up, albeit cautiously. These could see charge times reduce to as little as 15 minutes for a full charge 0-100%.

3.    Destination

Destination charging accounts for the charging done away from the home while you’re doing something else; getting a hair cut, doing the weekly grocery shop or further afield at your weekend-break hotel.

These points deliver 22kWh or 50kWh of charging power and can come with additional perks, like free parking. They tend to be in locations where dwell-times are higher, such as a shopping mall, the cinema or even rurally located eateries. We’ve found brands such as Tesco, Lidl, Starbucks and Costa are really clued into this model, where Beefeater, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Premier Inn are some of the many brands that could try harder.

Tesco's Pod Point partnership with Volkswagen

The science of charging

Charging quickly isn’t everything. As helpful as rapid charging is to the course of our day, particularly on a long journey, regularly juicing the battery fast will cause deterioration in the chemical components of the battery itself.

Initially when the charge starts, the energy transfer from source to battery is slow. As charging occurs, the battery cells heat up. At first, the heat aids the battery to charge faster, so the charging rate increases until it hits a sweet spot. However, as the cells get hotter, the charge slows down again to protect them. This is why EV drivers tend to be charging between 20-80% of their battery’s capacity.

Home chargers tend to be 3kWh or 7kWh as these work easily alongside the single-phase set-up already in our homes (though some homes have three-phase and thus, can go to 22kWh units if desired). In order to protect the battery, car manufacturers have configured a limit on how quickly the battery can charge at home to prevent battery degradation.

The key brands manufacturing these units are Andersen, BP Pulse, Easee, EO, EVBox, Indra, Ohme, Tesla, Wallbox and Zaptec. Each brand has a different unique selling point, whether you’re looking for a three-phase compliant box, one which locks or a one which integrates with pre-existing solar panels, so it’s worth looking into the options best suited for your circumstances. Rightcharge offers a great comparison tool for finding the best home charger for you, while also helping you to compare EV tariffs from energy providers.

A very quick word on Hydrogen development, bi-directional charging and battery evolution

For decades, hydrogen has been perceived as one of the most practical solutions to reduce emissions to zero. Hydrogen fuel-cell-powered cars emit only water. Also, hydrogen is an element of abundance, provided there is a suitably affordable and scalable solution for splitting water atoms. To date, however, efforts to scale hydrogen-based solutions have proved too expensive. Thus, batteries continue to be the short- to mid-term answer to reduce vehicle emissions.

Alternative solutions are solar, wind and batteries; solar success has been very limited, since the energy produced can’t be stored easily. Wind and wave don’t lend themselves well to animate objects, but battery development is fascinating.

StoreDot, an Israeli start-up, has fathomed a way of creating safe and eco-friendly ‘extremely fast-charging’ (XFC) batteries that recharge in only five minutes. Though this may work well for route charging, home charging will still be the go-to for the foreseeable future.

Whatever your views, the future for electric vehicles at this point, seems non-negotiable.

Further reading:

>> The Parkers electric car guide

>> The best electric vans you can buy today