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EV charging on the road

Everything you need to know about charging an electric car on the road network

Jon Quirk Jon Quirk
21st Dec 2021
5min Read
EV charging on the road

Even if you can charge at home and work, then at some stage you’ll probably still need to charge your electric car when out and about. The good news is that the UK EV charging infrastructure is continually expanding, with the likes of the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway leading the way.

You’ll find EV chargers at numerous public locations all over the UK, including retail shopping centres, supermarkets, leisure facilities or tourist attractions. You’ll find outputs ranging from 7kW all the way up to the 350kW-capable High Power chargers GRIDSERVE offers at its Electric Super Hubs and Electric Forecourts®.

 

How to find a public EV charger

To find your nearest public charger, you can search using a digital mapping service from the likes of Google or a specialist charging app such as Zap Map or our very own GRIDSERVE Electric Highway. It will display all the chargers near you or at a chosen location, with details of the types of charger available, the operator, whether it’s currently in use and if there are any issues.

EV chargers on the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway can be mostly found at more than 80 per cent of the UK’s motorway service stations, with our Electric Hubs providing Medium Power chargers (60kW) to drivers and our Electric Super Hubs delivering 350kW-capable High Power chargers. And we’re turning on more sites each month to increase the coverage.

 

Do I need membership to charge on the public network?

There are a lot of charging providers across the UK and some charging providers – such as the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway – allow you to charge without membership using your preferred contactless payment (credit/debit card or smartphone wallet). We hope this becomes more widespread in future to provide a stress-free and seamless charging experience for all and reduces the need to have a wallet full of membership cards.

 

How do public EV chargers work?

The basics of electric car charging, whether you’re at home or at a public site, are straightforward: you plug in, pay and away you go.

Each type of charger will have its nuances, whether you plug in before or after starting a charge and how you pay for it. We’ve equipped all GRIDSERVE chargers with contactless payment capability and zero membership sign up for complete, seamless charging.

Check the screen to make sure your charge has started – you’ll likely hear a few clunks as the vehicle connects to the charger. Progress of your charge can often be viewed and controlled via a vehicle’s app as well as the charging screen on a public unit, so you can keep an eye on the percentage. On GRIDSERVE chargers, simply tap your contactless card again to stop the charge.

 

What are the types of public EV charger?

Not all EV chargers are created equal: some low-powered units will dispense electricity as a slow trickle, which is fine if you can park up for a few hours, while others can pump it into your battery at an impressive rate of knots. Or kWnots.

At supermarket, shopping centres or leisure facilities, you’ll often find the slower AC power chargers. These will usually offer power outputs between 7kW and 22kW and will need a few hours to give you a decent charge. You’ll often hear these referred to as fast chargers, although this progress is anything but.

Medium Power chargers are capable of 60kW via a DC supply and often referred to as rapid chargers. They’re currently the most common chargers you’ll see and we’ve got hundreds of these units across the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway at our Electric Hubs.

High Power chargers, capable of up to 350kW, can be found at our Electric Super Hubs across the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway and at our Electric Forecourts®. These chargers (often referred to as ultra-rapid) have the potential to top up a battery in minutes.

 

Which charger should I use?

You’ll be able to plug in to any of the chargers listed, but the power you’ll get is limited by your car’s capability. In your vehicle manual, you’ll find your EV’s maximum charge rate for both AC power (home chargers and slower public units) and DC power (faster public charging).

The maximum AC charging rate is 7.2-11kW for most EVs currently on the market, but there are some that can charge at 22kW. Again, even if your car doesn’t charge on AC at 22kW, you can still use one of these chargers, but it won’t give you the maximum power.

On a DC supply, most modern cars are capable of 50kW charging with around 90-100kW capability common among most mainstream models. Some electric cars are now starting to be capable of achieving more than 200kW, such as Genesis, Hyundai and Kia models. And as above, while you can still plug into a higher-powered charger than your car can take, the charger will just limit its power.

The final point to consider when plugging in is the connector type. Five-pin Type 1 (which is rapidly become obsolete) and seven-pin Type 2 connectors are for use with AC chargers.

For DC chargers, vehicles will wither be equipped with Combined Charging System (CCS) or CHAdeMO connectors. Most EVs now use CCS connector types, with some Japanese cars such as the Nissan LEAF, using the CHAdeMO connector type. At GRIDSERVE charging points, you’ll find both CCS and CHAdeMO connectors available for use.

 

How long will it take to charger my electric car on a public charger?

The answer to the question of how long it takes to charge an electric car is ‘it depends’. There’s no one-size fits all answer because charging speed depends on both your make and model of electric car and the charger that you plug into.

Larger batteries, such as the 77kWh unit in the Hyundai Ioniq 5, will take longer to charge than smaller ones like the 33kWh battery in the MINI Electric, when plugged into the same charger. However, the charging speed will be massively reduced if your car is capable of plugging into a higher-powered charger – that’s where kilowatts (kW) come in.

Chargers are rated in kW – that means the power that they can deliver and therefore the speed that your electric car will charge. Higher-powered chargers will have a higher kW rating and will charge your vehicle’s battery at a faster rate.

As an example, the Volkswagen ID.3 with a 58kWh battery would take around six hours on a 7kW home charger to get from 20-80%, while on a public 60kW Medium Power charger, you’ll achieve 20-80% in about an hour.

You can use our charging calculator to compare top-up times for individual cars on different chargers.

 

What will it cost to charge my EV on the public network?

One of the many advantages of driving an electric vehicle is that running costs are low, because you’re not paying for petrol or diesel. But how much exactly does it cost to top up your EV’s battery?

Charging on the go varies from charger to charger and provider to provider. The cost of charging on the GRIDSERVE Electric Highway and at other public charging points varies with the cost per kWh tied to the charging power of the unit you’re plugged into. That means a Low Power 7kW charger will be cheaper than a 350kW-capable High Power charger. Our latest pricing can be found here.

Sometimes, you may find the odd Low Power charger that is free to use, such as hotels or shopping centres. Here, the company doesn’t require a fee because you’re likely to be spending money in store or paying for parking already.

If you want to calculate how much you can expect to pay when planning a journey then use our charging cost calculator.

Jon Quirk

Jon Quirk - Author

Jon is a content man

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