Electric car charging networks rated: number 1
As more cars go electric, the demand for public charging points is set to increase. We find out whether the network is ready for the challenge...
1. Tesla Supercharger
Overall rating 89.8%
Charging speed up to 250kW Cost per kWh 28p
The Tesla network is expanding fast; 120 new chargers were added last year and there are currently more than 600 chargers at more than 70 locations around the UK. That means you’ll find a charging point at most motorway service areas and at other leisure sites, such as major shopping centres.
In our survey, the network gained the outright best scores in three areas – charging speed, location and value for money – and came equal top for ease of use. It lost out only to Instavolt when it came to reliability.
Tesla’s system is easier to use than most. Owners have an account with Tesla that includes credit card details, and payment is taken automatically; all you have to do is plug in the cable. Owners of some Tesla models get free charging.
We visited the Supercharger site at the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent. The bank of 17 chargers was in an indoor car park that was bright and well lit and was located next to a shopping centre entrance. The first charger we tried was out of action, but we were able to choose a different one straight away, and it worked flawlessly.
What Car? says…
Tesla drivers must be envied by many other owners of EVs, because they have exclusive access to a fast, affordable, easy-to-use charging network with good coverage and great reliability. It’s this combination of strengths that puts the company at the top of our chart.
For non-Tesla owners, the best bet for affordable, reliable charging is Instavolt, which doesn’t offer the fastest charging speeds but has impeccable reliability and is almost as straightforward to use as Tesla’s chargers. Osprey sits in third place with solid scores across the board, especially in the area of reliability.
The need to modernise the UK’s motorway charging network with some urgency is evidenced by the fact that the Gridserve Electric Highway only just makes it into the top half of our table, because owners marked it down for reliability. We think this will change as the revamped network is rolled out, though. Elsewhere in the middle of the table, Pod Point stands out for providing great value for money.
In the bottom half of the table, Ionity may offer some of the fastest charging speeds available, but it’s let down by its exorbitant fees and the fact that its charging system isn’t all that reliable or intuitive to use. And although Charge Your Car is a more affordable option, EV owners rated is as below par in every other area.
How the public charging network providers scored in five different areas
|Company||Reliability||Location||Chg speed||Value||Ease of use|
|Gridserve Electric |
|Charge Place |
|Charge Your |
The best of the rest
We also visited charging points for six networks that survey respondents didn’t tell us about. Here’s what this snapshot revealed.
Charging speed up to 5kW Cost per kWh 33p
Char.gy’s aim of creating a charging network for people with no off-street parking is a great idea. But while the chargers are on residential streets, they don’t have dedicated EV bays, so they’re often likely to be blocked by non-electric cars.
This was our experience in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where we found a non-EV in front of the first five lamp-post chargers we tried to use. One of the chargers we managed to park close to was broken, but we did eventually find one we could use, and although you can only charge via an app, the process was simple.
Charging speed up to 50kW Cost per kWh 30p (London)
You can use the ESB network via an app or simply with a contactless bank card. However, the card payment option on the first charger we tried was broken, so we moved to a different location where all three chargers were working and available to use. There were instructional graphics on the side of the machine and on the colour screen, and the screen also showed battery percentage, cost, time and energy.
Charging speed up to 350kW Cost per kWh 24p
As well as taking over the Ecotricity Electric Highway at existing motorway service areas, Gridserve is building a network of dedicated sites solely for EVs. The first of these was the Electric Forecourt in Braintree, Essex; this has 36 chargers, ranging in output from 22kW to 350kW. Less than a third of them were in use when we visited, and there were staff on hand to provide assistance if necessary.
The charging rate of 24p per kWh is great value for an ultra-rapid charge – around a third of the cost of Ionity. Gridserve plans to open more than 100 similar sites over the next five years.
Charging speed up to 22kW Cost per kWh 28p
You have to sign up via an app to access this network, but it’s a fairly simple process. Three of the four chargers in the first location we tried were blocked, one by an EV being charged and the other two by temporary buildings, but we plugged into the only charger available and began charging. However, we couldn’t use the app to end the session, so we had to phone the helpline to get someone to disconnect it.
At the second site we tried, all four chargers were available and we were able to use the app to start and finish charging.
Charging speed up to 22kW Cost per kWh 14.3p per minute
If you download the Source London app and register, you can use it to reserve a charging space up to 40 minutes in advance. Source London claims it’s the only service that lets you do this, and when you book you get free on-street parking.
However, we wanted to see how well it worked without booking. Scanning the QR code on the charger’s large, clear screen took us to the Source London website. After we’d entered our bank card details, it gave us two minutes to plug in using our own charging cable. When charging was complete, we terminated connection via the website.
Charging speed up to 7.4kW Cost per kWh 24p
Ubitricity specialises in installing chargers in lamp-posts and other street furniture for use by EV drivers without off-street parking. Although it’s a good idea in principle, every lamp post we found at our first location had a car in it; a number of them were EVs but they weren’t plugged in. When we did find a charging point that wasn’t blocked, we scanned the QR code on it to go to the Ubitricity website, where we could input our details – a relatively simple process.
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