Craig J Todd
Tried & Tested: The UK's Best Public EV Charging Networks
Updated: Jan 27
As electric vehicles (EVs) continue to surge in popularity, the public EV charging networks have been forced to expand to keep up with the demand.
While this network expansion has been slower than some would have hoped, it has now reached the stage that people like myself – who have no home charger – can finally rely on the available public EV chargers for all of our charging needs.
While I could easily list my least favourite charging networks (there are a few that spring to mind!), I’ll resist the temptation and instead highlight my five favourite networks.
Four of them I’ve used regularly over the last 18 months, and one of them – Tesla Supercharger – I’m yet to use, but several Tesla drivers have kindly given me their insights and thoughts on that popular network.
So, let’s dive straight in to check out my top five public EV charging networks in the UK, starting at number five…
Due to its relatively high charging costs and its fossil fuel company ownership, I was initially reluctant to try these EV charging points. However, on some of my journeys to the coast (I live near London) or travelling up north, I’ve had no choice but to stop at a Shell Recharge point.
However, every time I’ve used one I’ve had a positive experience. They’re relatively easy to use, rapid (at least 50kW), and are typically located within Shell Service Stations – meaning there’s a shop and possibly a café onsite. Definitely good things to have when you have an hour or so to kill!
While there are currently no Osprey chargers in my hometown, there are several in nearby towns and I’ve used these chargers successfully on many occasions. As well as being rapid chargers, they’re reasonably priced and straightforward to use.
I can’t speak for all of the Osprey chargers, but the ones near me are all well-located in the car parks of pubs, supermarkets, cafés and retail parks.
All their charging stations are powered by 100% renewable electricity. And they also offer a 24/7 driver helpline.
3. Pod Point
This charging network is very different to Osprey and Shell Recharge. Pod Point’s primary charging network can be found in more than 400 Tesco car parks across the UK. In each of these car parks you’ll typically find 4 x 7kW charging points.
The best thing about these charging points?
They are free to use for up to 3 hours (duration varies depending on the specific car park). To get the free charging, you just need to bring along your own charging cable and plug your car in, and confirm your charge via the Pod Point app.
Given that Tesco is enabling that free charging, I always make a point of doing some shopping there while I’m charging.
Keep an eye on Pod Point, as they’re also in the process of rolling out rapid chargers to various locations across the country.
While currently exclusive to Tesla drivers, this network is rumoured to be opening up soon to all EV drivers in the near future. If that happens, I’ll definitely be doing some of my charging on this network – especially on motorway stops.
Tesla currently provides the largest rapid charger network in the UK (150kW to 250kW) with most Supercharger stations having between 6 and 18 charging spots.
Feedback I’ve received from Tesla drivers about the Supercharger network has highlighted that reliability is extremely high and the charging process is simplicity itself: Just plug in and your account will automatically be billed.
Additionally, when a Supercharger is a destination in the Tesla navigation system, the vehicle will automatically pre-heat the car battery in advance to reduce charge time.
For me, InstaVolt is the Rolls-Royce of the EV charging world.
I’ve never come across one of their chargers that has been out of order, and starting a charge is as easy as plugging in and using your debit/credit card to make a contactless payment. (If you need a receipt or want to track your charging usage, then download the InstaVolt app.)
With speeds of at least 50kW your car will be charged up in no time at all. And fortunately, the majority of InstaVolt chargers are sited alongside popular food and drink outlets such as Costa, KFC and McDonald’s.
It’s worth noting that InstaVolt is not one of the cheapest EV charging networks. But as the old adage goes – you get what you pay for!
It’s fantastic to see so many new EV charging stations appearing across the UK, and it’s particularly satisfying to see them offering better reliability, easier access and faster charging speeds.
If you’re new to public EV charging stations, then I recommend starting out with one or more of the above EV charging networks. This will ensure you get the best possible charging experience. In my experience, reliable chargers = less stress!
Looking to save money?
To get your first £8 of charging for free with Shell Recharge or Osprey, then simply sign up to the Bonnet app using referral code R5X97.
I’ve been using the Bonnet app for a number of months now, and I’m really impressed by it. Not only does it save me from having lots of different EV charging apps on my phone, but the monthly subscription option gives me fixed and discounted charging costs across many of the UK’s most popular EV charging networks.
If you want to try the InstaVolt network, then simply sign up with referral code ILc79 and you’ll receive a £5 account credit after your first charge.