How and Where to Get Free EV Charging
Updated: Mar 10
You may be surprised to hear that there are multiple places in the UK where you can charge your EV for free.
Let me tell you a little about my experience with this.
I’ve been driving a Kia Soul EV for more than 18 months, and I’m one of the tiny minority of EV drivers who don’t have a home charger. That’s because my property isn't suitable for an installation. This has meant that I’ve had to rely 100% on public EV chargers.
Some of these EV chargers have proven to be expensive – but others, fortunately for my bank balance, have been cheap or even free.
According to Zap-Map, as of September 2021, they had more than 25,000 charging points on their national map, with over 5,000 of these being free to use. That’s an impressive 20% of all EV charging points in the UK that you can charge your car at for zero cost.
So where to charge your EV for free?
Read on to find out…
How ‘destination charging’ can save you cash
The first tip I want to share with you is to look for destination charging. These are free EV charging points that many attractions offer to encourage visitors. Think retail parks, garden centres, leisure centres, hotels, restaurants and theatres.
I can give you a good example of this.
I’m currently writing this article at Bicester Shopping Village in Oxfordshire while charging my EV at one of their free chargers.
I especially like the setup they have here, as a valet helps you park, and then plugs your car in and makes sure it’s charging!
Why supermarkets could be your EVs best friend
The next place to look for free EV charging is in supermarket car parks.
Specifically, in Sainsbury’s stores. In the majority of their large stores you will find several free Mer EV charging points.
You just need to park up and plug in with your own cable.
Remember to take a note of the parking time restrictions. In my experience this is somewhere between 1-3 hours. Be careful not to exceed this, as your free charge could suddenly become very expensive!
A few things to know about free charging
In terms of speed, the vast majority of free chargers will offer between 7kW to 22kW. The speed you get will depend on what EV you have.
My Kia Soul EV has a maximum AC charging speed of 7kW, so that’s the typical speed I get when using free chargers (occasionally it might be lower than this).
If I’m able to charge for 3 hours, then I get around 90 miles of free charging. Pretty good, particularly when you compare this to how much the equivalent mileage would cost in petrol or diesel at the moment: £15-£20.
Of course, you may be wondering what you would do for an hour or more while your car is charging.
The answer is to make the most of your time.
Here are a few suggestions for you:
Remote working in a cafe
Meeting friends for lunch or dinner
Walking your dog
Going to the gym
Personally – and this is my recommendation to you – I always ensure that I use the destination’s facilities when charging for free. Even if this is just popping into Sainsbury’s to buy a chocolate bar or a bottle of water.
This feels fair to me, because you can be sure that if EV drivers charge for free but don’t spend in the destinations, then free charging at these locations won’t stick around for long.
IMPORTANT: Free EV charging points are often extremely busy, so to avoid disappointment, try to visit outside of peak times.
Take advantage of free charging now
Finally, there are a few other ways to get free charging that you might not have considered.
I’m talking here about using promo or referral codes to get charging credits on popular EV charging networks such as Electric Universe and InstaVolt. These codes can save you between £5 and £8 on your charging.
In addition, you can also gain more charging credit by sharing your own referral codes to these networks to any friends or family members who are also EV drivers.
To sum up, you should definitely look to make a share of your EV charging at zero cost. With a bit of planning, this is easy to do, and over the course of a year could easily save you £100s of pounds in charging costs.
Free EV charging might not be around for long – so make the most of it now!