Electric car charging networks rated: number 1

With electric cars rapidly growing in popularity, we’ve rated the main providers of public rapid chargers with some help from What Car? readers...

Electric car charging networks rated

1. Gridserve

Overall rating 85.2%
Charging speed up to 360kW Cost per kWh 69p

Electric car charging networks rated

Gridserve took over the Ecotricity Electric Highway in 2021 and has updated all 165 locations, mostly with new rapid or ultra-rapid chargers. It also has a growing number of Electric Forecourts, each providing charging facilities for up to 40 vehicles, alongside restaurants, shops and, in some cases, EV showrooms. There are multiple 350kW chargers at all Electric Forecourts.

No app or registration is needed, and payment is quick and simple using a contactless bank card or a phone, giving it a 100% score for ease of payment.

It does well for value, too, with lower fees for ultra-rapid charging than rivals. The only area in which its score dips is reliability, perhaps reflecting the fact that the network was only fully upgraded in April 2022.

We visited Gridserve’s newest Electric Forecourt in Norwich, which has 22 350kW chargers and 14 slower units. Getting started was simply a case of plugging in and tapping a contactless card. We got a charging speed of 190kW, the maximum our BMW iX could take, taking the battery from 20-80% in about 30 minutes.

What Car? says…

Gridserve, the top-rated network in this year’s survey, has transformed the motorway charging experience by replacing the slow and often broken Ecotricity units with rapid and ultra-rapid chargers that are easy to use. It’s also installing a chain of dedicated EV charging forecourts with shops, cafés and places for people to work. These seem like a blueprint for fuel stations of the future.

Gridserve forecourt COTY 2022 header

Although Instavolt doesn’t offer the fastest charging speeds, the exemplary reliability of its network and the ease of contactless payment propel it into second place.

Fastned is another rising star, offering quick, hassle-free charging at dedicated sites along major routes that are under cover and have access to handy facilities. It would have come first in our survey if it weren’t for its limited national coverage.

Tesla’s network is the best overall for dependability, but it doesn’t offer non-Tesla drivers the seamless charging experience that it provides for Tesla owners, and it offers them access to only a limited number of locations. It can be a long trek for some to reach their nearest hub.

Meanwhile, the importance of keeping public chargers well maintained is put in the spotlight by those networks at the other end of the customer satisfaction chart. Charge Your Car has the worst reliability of all 12 providers, with less than half of its users who completed our survey rating it as good.

Geniepoint and Charge Place Scotland only score 10 points higher in the dependability stakes and, although their scores are bolstered because they offer good value for money, their slow charging speeds keep their overall ratings low.

How the public charging network providers scored in five different areas

Company    Accessibility    Chg speed    Ease of use    Reliability    Value   
Gridserve 73.4% 95.0% 100% 67.6% 90.0%
Instavolt 74.0% 85.0% 100% 81.5% 85.0%
Fastned 66.5% 90.0% 100% 91.4% 72.0%
Ionity 68.8% 100% 65.0% 72.4% 85.0%
Tesla 81.9% 65.0% 67.0% 94.3% 69.0%
Osprey 66.9% 85.0% 100% 73.9% 49.1%
Mer 65.5% 75.0% 65.0% 72.7% 75.0%
BP Pulse 60.5% 90.0% 59.9% 52.4% 85.0%
Pod Point 72.8% 60.0% 65.0% 69.7% 80.0%
Charge Place
70.1% 64.8% 75.5% 56.5% 80.0%
GeniePoint 59.7% 59.7% 75.0% 56.8% 75.0%
Charge Your
50.7% 60.0 65.0% 47.0% 55.0%

The best of the rest

Here’s what happened when we tried seven networks that weren’t part of the survey. 

Connected Kerb

Charging speed up to 22kW Cost per kWh 35p 

Electric car charging networks rated

This fast-growing company has around 300 sites around the UK offering on-street and car park charging.

Payment can be made via an app or RFID once you’ve signed up, or you can scan a QR code that’s on the charger. Users can register any RFID card rather than having to use a Connected Kerb one. You need to provide your own Type 2 EV lead to use the units.

We tried a site in Windsor with three chargers that each delivers 7kW. It was quick and easy to connect using the app. This proved a slow (in terms of charging speed) but affordable option for locals without a home charger who want to charge up overnight.

ESB Energy

Charging speed up to 50kW Cost per kWh up to 77p 

Electric car charging networks rated

Another rapidly expanding network that currently has 482 charge points in Birmingham, Coventry and London. Most units are rapid chargers (50kW) and a small number are fast (22kW). None of the units is free to use, but the rapid charge fees of 46p/kWh in London and around 40p/kWh elsewhere are relatively low.

You can pay using an app or an RFID card that costs £10. Other than the user instructions being unclear, our charging session with a 50kW unit in Birmingham went well, and we received an email receipt soon after ending the session.

Liberty Charge

Charging speed up to 22kW Cost per kWh up to 66p 

Electric car charging networks rated

A network of around 500 fast chargers offering an on-street option for residents of London, Northamptonshire and the West Midlands. You can use the network by scanning a QR code, or using an app or a free RFID card. You need to provide your own Type 2 charging lead to use the units.

We paid 43p/kWh plus a connection fee of £1.50 to use a 22kW charger in Roehampton. This cost reduces to 38p/kWh with no connection fee if you sign up for a £5 monthly membership plan. We had some trouble registering for payment, and the user instructions were unclear, but charging did start after a failed initial attempt.

MFG EV Power

Charging speed up to 350kW Cost per kWh 79p 

Electric car charging networks rated

Motor Fuel Group operates around 500 charging points at 108 of its fuel stations, and it plans to add around 400 more as the UK transitions to EVs. Most units are 50kW or 150kW, and one site has a 350kW charger.

Contactless payment is possible and there’s also an app, on which we found registration easy. We tried MFG Putney, where there are eight covered devices with 16 150kW connectors, and MFG Wednesbury, an uncovered site with six 150kW and 50kW points. We connected using an RFID card, which worked well, and the chargers have large, easy-to-read screens.

Shell Recharge

Charging speed up to 175kW Cost per kWh up to 85p 

Electric car charging networks rated

There are currently 230 Shell Recharge devices at service stations across the UK, and Shell also owns the Ubitricity lamp-post charging network. In total, it operates around 6000 chargers, the majority being located in the south-east of England.

We visited Shell’s smart new EV-only hub in Fulham, London, which has 10 175kW CCS devices available under canopies, plus a Little Waitrose, a Costa coffee shop and toilets. There were plenty of spaces available and we had no trouble starting the charging process via a Shell card (or you can use an app or tap a bank card to pay), although we saw speeds of only 40-50kW.

Source London

Charging speed up to 22kW Cost per kWh 65p 

Electric car charging networks rated

This provider, owned by French company Total, has 2200 charge points across Greater London – mostly on-street chargers, with some units in car parks. There’s a pay-as-you-go option using a website accessed via a QR code on the charger. There’s also a membership plan and a 4p/kWh discount for holders of parking permits in London.

We visited a site in Bromley where two of the charge points weren’t working, and using the 22kW charger would have meant parking on double yellow lines. Getting connected to a 7kW charger via the website was fairly quick, but we had to call the customer helpline to disconnect after charging.

Swarco E-Connect

Charging speed up to 50kW Cost per kWh 79p 

Electric car charging networks rated

Swarco, which also makes and installs home EV chargers, has a fairly large network of 22kW and 50kW chargers around the UK. Slower chargers cost 44p/kWh and the rapid ones are pricey at 79p. Some units are in car parks where parking fees are payable.

We tried the single 50kW charger in a National Trust car park in Reigate, Surrey. The contactless card reader was broken, and connecting via the app failed too.

Eventually, we connected via a payment website mentioned on a note stuck on the machine, a process not helped by the ID printed on the unit being incorrect. When we finally got charging, the speed was fairly good at 38-42kW. It was easy to end the charge, but we didn’t get any notification of how much we’d been charged.

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