The bad, the good and the outstanding; you rank the major players in the expanding UK charging network
Most electric car owners will have to regularly interact with the public chargepoint network, especially if they lack a home charger or do a lot of long journeys. This can be stressful, thanks to a dearth of chargers in some locations, high demand in others and reliability issues. Even if you manage to get plugged into a working unit, you could face slower-than-advertised charging speeds, high prices or a lack of amenities.
The UK’s charging network is making some progress, however. At the start of 2022, the Government said there were 28,375 public EV charging devices across the UK, up from 1,300 only a decade ago. Crucially, 5,156 of these units are ‘rapid chargers’. This is the fastest type of charger, which uses CCS-type and CHAdeMO plugs, or in the case of Tesla’s Supercharger network, a modified version of the Type 2 Mennekes connection.
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For EV owners, the sheer variety of charging network providers can probably seem a little daunting. Thankfully, below you’ll see that our comprehensive Driver Power survey has enabled electric car and plug-in hybrid owners to rank their favourites.
A day in the life of a UK electric charge station
To put the UK’s charging network into perspective, we headed to a Shell Recharge station to gain some invaluable public insight. Our chosen destination was the Buckden Shell station in central Cambridgeshire, a long-time favourite spot for petrol and diesel cars to fill up, given that it sits on the southbound A1. Surely we could expect the four charging stations to be similarly busy during a working day?
In truth, there was always at least one charging bay free on the day of our visit, suggesting that for now, this station is keeping up with demand. Reversing into bay one, ready to start his working day, was Wayne Lester, who was recharging his month-old BMW iX for a journey into London.
“I had a bit of an electric-charging faux pas last night,” he admitted. “I plugged my car in but forgot to press ‘start’, so I have to boost up here a little bit.” The station is advertised as a 175kW fast charger, but Wayne’s iX was charging at around 68kW, despite being the only car plugged in. Still, he was happy with the rate: “I can go into London now on eight minutes of charge, which is pretty good.”
He does concede that EV charging requires a bit of planning, though: “I think we need more of these high-speed chargers. You’ve just got to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not going to come in, fill up and then drive off again; it’s about planning your routes a bit more.”
Wayne wants to make the most of the iX’s 257-mile range with a drive from Lincolnshire to Scotland: “I’ll have to charge three times,” he said, “but I’d be stopping for breaks anyway.”
Most chargepoints offer a smartphone app that can help with locating the station, payment and features. Wayne said he struggles with the apps on offer: “I’ve got about 50: Instavolt, BP Pulse, Pod Point… It can be a nightmare.”
Recharging their brand-new Skoda Enyaq for the first time were Carol and Adrian Hogg, newcomers to electric-car charging. “We’ve used diesel vehicles for our business up until now,” said Adrian. “An issue is that the charger doesn’t print a receipt, so we have to use the app.”
During her first experience of charging an EV, Carol pointed out a common flaw with charging stations. “In the sun it’s going to be hot – and without a cover I’m going to be really upset in the rain.” However, she admitted that the station itself was “clean, tidy and nicely laid out”.
Their new Enyaq will have to adapt to being the family car, so relatively short 44-mile trips to the office will be joined by the odd journey to the Lake District. Adrian voiced his concerns: “On most main routes and motorways there are plenty of chargepoints, but once you get into the countryside you need to research it a bit more to see if there’s the ability to recharge.” He remained optimistic, however: “Charging an EV can only improve. If we can manage now, then surely it’s only going to get better. We’ll see – it’s a learning curve.”
There are plenty of areas to improve on then, but which companies are getting it right? Read on to see our list of the best electric car chargepoints as voted by you.
How the scores work
We asked EV and plug-in hybrid owners to rank each public chargepoint provider in a range of key areas. We told customers to rate their satisfaction with prices, charging speed and ease of use, as well as the location, presentation and reliability of chargepoints.
We also asked for feedback on customer service levels and smartphone apps used to access networks. Just as with our Driver Power new-car survey, the scores were used to calculate each firm’s position overall.
The UK’s best public electric car chargepoint providers
12. Ecotricity – 66.41%
You may raise an eyebrow at Ecotricity featuring in this list, because the firm was bought out by Gridserve last year. While many Ecotricity chargers have since been rebranded and upgraded, however, a few of the old units are still dotted around the UK awaiting revamp. Unfortunately, you are not likely to have a good experience if you come across one of these older sites.
They’re ranked as the hardest chargers to use in this survey, with the worst presentation and condition. They’re also unreliable, slow, poorly lit and difficult to connect with on your phone, we’re told.
|Charging speed||11th place|
|Ease of use||12th place|
|How many chargers||10th place|
|Customer service||10th place|
|Smartphone app||11th place|
11. Charge Your Car – 64.69%
So maligned is our last-place finisher Ecotricity that Charge Your Car should be concerned to only beat it by a small margin. The firm claims to be “the UKs fastest-growing pay-as-you-go recharging network for EVs”, but our respondents have ranked it last for locations. Charge Your Car’s public units are also rated as the slowest in this survey, and the company is viewed as having the worst customer service.
Additionally, the company’s chargers are expensive and difficult to use, and feel neither well lit nor secure. The brand doesn’t score well in any area.
|Charging speed||12th place|
|Ease of use||11th place|
|How many chargers||8th place|
|Customer service||12th place|
|Smartphone app||9th place|
10. ChargePlace Scotland – 66.87%
Owned by the Scottish Government, ChargePlace Scotland unfortunately earns a disappointing set of scores. Its chargers are judged to be the least reliable in the entire survey, and the company doesn’t install anywhere near enough individual units at its locations. Users also feel that ChargePlace Scotland sites are poorly lit and not very secure, and we are told too that the smartphone app is the worst of the entire group to use.
The only category where the Scottish firm wins back some points is pricing, where it ranks third overall in this survey.
|Charging speed||10th place|
|Ease of use||9th place|
|How many chargers||12th place|
|Customer service||11th place|
|Smartphone app||12th place|
9. BP Pulse – 71.77%
There was a time when BP Pulse – formerly known as BP Chargemaster – was gaining serious momentum for the rate at which it was installing fast EV chargers across the UK. That excitement seems to have tailed off a bit, however, because the firm doesn’t get a positive ranking for its number of charging locations or the amount of units it installs at each one.
Its worst score is for ease of use, while EV drivers have concerns over the lighting and security at BP Pulse’s chargers, as well as its level of customer service. It does rank fairly well for its smartphone app, though.
|Charging speed||7th place|
|Ease of use||10th place|
|How many chargers||7th place|
|Customer service||9th place|
|Smartphone app||5th place|
8. GeniePoint – 71.97%
The biggest strength GeniePoint has is its number of locations. Counterintuitively, though, its worst score is for the number of chargers at each location – often, it seems, there are only one or two. To make matters worse, GeniePoint gets a bad score for reliability as well – so drivers may turn up at one of many locations only to find that a charger doesn’t work.
We’re told the smartphone app is badly designed and the chargers could be easier to use. GeniePoint gets a decent score for customer service, though, so you might be able to get some help from a call agent.
|Charging speed||8th place|
|Ease of use||8th place|
|How many chargers||11th place|
|Customer service||5th place|
|Smartphone app||10th place|
7. Ionity – 73.54%
It’s an incredibly mixed set of scores for Ionity, indicating some areas where the firm does well and others that drastically need improving. On the positive side, Ionity’s chargers are very fast, usually in good condition and there are a lot of them at each location. Those sites are a bit too few and far between for our respondents’ liking, however.
Ionity is also ranked as the worst in this survey for pricing, so it seems having a decent cluster of fast chargers comes at a price. And while the chargers aren’t too difficult to use, reliability could be better.
|Charging speed||2nd place|
|Ease of use||5th place|
|How many chargers||3rd place|
|Customer service||7th place|
|Smartphone app||8th place|
6. Pod Point – 76.23%
Pod Point scores fairly consistently across all categories. It doesn’t excel in any particular area, but it doesn’t massively let itself down in any way, either. The company’s best scores are for pricing, lighting and security, and its smartphone app. Its worst rating, meanwhile, is for its charging speeds, plus its customer service ought to be better, in our respondents’ views.
Elsewhere, Pod Point performs to an adequate level, with chargers that you say are easy to use and a decent number of locations.
|Charging speed||9th place|
|Ease of use||6th place|
|How many chargers||6th place|
|Customer service||8th place|
|Smartphone app||4th place|
5. Gridserve – 76.69%
As we mentioned previously, Gridserve bought out Ecotricity last year and has set about stamping its own logo on upgraded chargers across the UK’s motorway network and elsewhere.
It sounds as though there’s been a big improvement, because Gridserve has earned a very consistent set of scores in this survey. Its chargers are fast, easy to use and dotted around widely enough, although each location could do with having a few more individual units. Still, customer service is well rated and Gridserve’s pricing is viewed as being fair.
|Charging speed||4th place|
|Ease of use||4th place|
|How many chargers||9th place|
|Customer service||4th place|
|Smartphone app||6th place|
4. Osprey – 76.76%
In fourth place is Osprey, with a category win for the lighting and security of its charging locations. Drivers are also rather impressed by the customer service offered and the quality of the smartphone app.
The number of locations Osprey chargers can be found at is nothing to rave about, but each site does at least feature a decent number of individual units. Reliability is pretty good, too, we are told – but charging speeds are fairly average. Prices could be lower according to users, and there’s a big desire for the chargers to be kept in better condition.
|Charging speed||6th place|
|Ease of use||7th place|
|How many chargers||4th place|
|Customer service||3rd place|
|Smartphone app||3rd place|
3. Instavolt – 77.63%
Taking the bronze medal in this survey is Instavolt. The brand doesn’t win any categories, but it is ranked second for reliability and for the condition of its chargers. Instavolt’s units are also fast and easy to use, plus the company installs a decent number of them at each site. One area in which Instavolt doesn’t do too well is pricing, with owners wishing they don’t have to pay quite as much for a charge.
Nevertheless, there are no major complaints about the number of locations at which Instavolt has chargers, or the company’s customer service.
|Charging speed||3rd place|
|Ease of use||3rd place|
|How many chargers||5th place|
|Customer service||6th place|
|Smartphone app||7th place|
2. Shell Recharge – 83.31%
Shell Recharge is the runner-up in this survey. Users say it’s the best public-charging provider when it comes to pricing and locations, and are also highly impressed by the number of chargers at each site, how easy they are to use, the customer service the firm offers and the quality of its smartphone app. There’s no area in which Shell Recharge does badly.
Its worst score is for charging speed, but respondents are positive about charger reliability as well as site lighting and security – likely helped by the units being installed on Shell garage forecourts.
|Charging speed||5th place|
|Ease of use||2nd place|
|How many chargers||2nd place|
|Customer service||2nd place|
|Smartphone app||2nd place|
1. Tesla – 86.75%
Since Tesla’s Supercharger network began spreading across the UK, its units have been compatible only with Tesla cars. This is still largely the case, but the US firm is currently running a trial period at a select few locations that has allowed owners of other brands of EVs to use the chargers. Drivers should hope this trial leads to the Tesla network opening up, because these public chargers are the highest ranked by a clear margin.
They take the win in seven out of 10 categories and are not scored badly in any area. Great news if you own a Tesla.
|Charging speed||1st place|
|Ease of use||1st place|
|How many chargers||1st place|
|Customer service||1st place|
|Smartphone app||1st place|
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