May 2, 2021
13 Things I’ve Learned From Using Public EV Charging Stations
Electric cars are amazing vehicles, but if you need to use public EV charging stations then you could find the fun and enjoyment of driving electric can be quickly tainted.
As someone who drives a pure electric car and relies 100% on public charging points, I’ve had to learn the hard way on how to make the most of a still evolving public charging network.
However, rather than you going through the same pain points as me, I thought I’d share some of my tips on how to make your charging experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
Let’s dive straight in…
#1: Beware of parking charges – It’s all too easy to focus on the cost of different charging stations. But make sure you also check for any parking charges, otherwise you may end up with a very expensive charging session!
#2: Don’t pay over the odds – It literally pays to shop around for the cheapest charging points. Especially when you consider that prices currently range from free to 0.69 GBP per kWh. If you’re driving several hundred miles a month, then think about getting a subscription with a charging provider such as Bonnet or ESB Energy. I also recommend you take a look at Zap-Map, which provides the location and status of almost all charging points in the UK.
#3: Find stations that match your normal routine – If your workplace has a charger, then it makes sense to charge there when you’re at work. And if your supermarket of choice offers cheap or free charging, then make use of that when you’re shopping. For example, Pod Point offers free charging for 2-3 hours at over 200 Tesco stores.
#4: Don’t go over the time limits – Free chargers and rapid chargers (50+ kWh) usually have a time limit to facilitate regular access to the points. For example, with the Pod Point chargers at Tesco stores you get up to 3 hours free, but if you go over that time you will incur a £20 charge.
#5: Choose safe locations – I often find that chargers are placed in dark corners of public car parks. Not always the best place to leave your car or to hang around. My advice is to find charging stations that are in well-lit and busy environments. I also recommend you charge during daylight hours where possible.
#6: Charge for free – There are still plenty of free charging stations to take advantage of. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a fan of the free Pod Point charging stations located in most Tesco superstores. I also like to use some of the free BP Pulse charging stations (you’ll need a BP Pulse subscription to access most of these).
#7: Download the apps in advance – As with most things in life, it pays to be prepared. And this is definitely the case when you want to access a charging station that requires you to verify your ID. Take the BP Pulse network, for example. If you turn up with no app or RFID card (see point #12), you’ll be immediately frustrated by your inability to immediately use their charging stations. However, if you plan ahead and download any relevant apps, you’ll definitely make your charging experience smoother and less stressful.
#8: Learn how to unlock your cable – When my car was delivered to my home, no one explained to me about the intricacies of locking and unlocking my charging cable from my car and charging posts. The first thing to know is that when charging with your AC cable, most times you’ll need to stop the charge either with an app or RFID card. That will allow you to remove the locked cable from the charging point. To remove your charging cables (AC or DC) from your car’s charging point, you just need to unlock your car doors.
#9: Save the charging networks help numbers in your phone – You’ll inevitably come across a time when you need to call a charging network when you’re at one of their charging points. If you have the number stored in your contacts, that will save you the hassle of having to locate the help number on the charging station and type it into your phone.
#10: Confirm your charge – Pod Point requires you to confirm your charge via their app. Fail to do that, and your charge will automatically stop after 15 minutes. Not ideal if you were expecting to get 3 hours of free charging! Some other charging networks also require you to confirm your charge.
#11: Avoid the rain – Currently, most EV charging points aren’t protected from the elements. So when it’s wet, your car, charging cable and you will all get wet too! And if the charging point is located by a grass or mud verge – you may also end up with a dirty cable and shoes.
#12: Get yourself an RFID card – While apps are usually a convenient option, they’re also reliant on mobile data coverage. I’ve been to several car parks to charge my car where there was no mobile signal. Fortunately, I had a BP Pulse RFID card that allowed me to connect and charge within seconds.
#13: Use your charging time wisely – If, like me, you have no home charger, then it makes sense to plan things around your public charging. For example, I often take my dog with me and give her a long walk while the car is charging. The dog’s happy, the car’s happy – and I’m happy too!
Don’t let the current weaknesses of the public charging network put you off buying or leasing an electric car. Instead, follow my tips above and you’ll quickly get over any apprehension about public charging. You’ll then be able to relax and enjoy the clean, green EV driving experience.
Craig J Todd – Freelance writer with a passion for tech, trends and simplicity.
Connect with Craig via Twitter.