Finding a public charging point is a bit like finding a petrol station, but a little harder as there are fewer around.
Numbers are increasing though. In the USA, there are around 41,400 points, according to the Department of Energy, and fewer than 5,000 of those are fast chargers.
With a huge population, not to mention all that extra surface area, the US will need millions of chargers.
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A recent report from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (PDF link) found that while there are around 25,000 public charging points across the UK today, that number will need to swell to almost half a million as electric cars become more popular.
The chargers of the future don’t help us today, though. If you need to charge your electric car, you’ll need to find one, so here’s how.
How to find electric car charging points in the US
Outside of major cities and away from the coasts, EV charging points can be a little far apart in the US, but at least they’re not hydrogen fuel stations, which exist only in California.
The majority of EV charging takes place outside people’s homes, but there are public chargers if you know where to look. A map on the Alternative Fuels Data Center website shows exactly where they are, but you’ll likely find smartphone apps such as Plugshare, Chargehub or Nextcharge will be more convenient to use on the move.
Many public charging stations in the States offer free charging, but can also be low voltage and take a long time to charge your car. The trade-off may be worth it if you’re not in a hurry.
Chargers are standardizing around the combo connector that can offer fast charging, however, but some legacy units may have different connections – check in an app beforehand that you have a compatible adapter.
Payment comes via smartphone app or credit card – you’ll need an app and an account for the brand of charger you want to use, but these are generally free.
How to find electric car charging points in the UK
First of all, it’s going to help if you have a smartphone. If you’re not lucky enough to have a home charger to top up your battery while you’re sleeping, your EV’s satnav should be able to direct you to a charging point, but you’ll get more detail from sites and apps such as Zap-Map, Chargemap or Open Charge Map.
It pays to plan ahead, but you never know who’ll be using the charger when you get there, so it’s also good to have a few alternatives in mind.
Tesla’s announcement that it will open up its Supercharger network to non-Tesla owners means you can basically roll up to any charger and use it, as long as you have the right plug or adapter.
You’ll generally need an account with the operator – and there are a lot of different ones – plus of course some way of paying, often through contactless payment.
Alternatively, some operators offer a membership scheme, where you pay up-front and get unlimited usage.
Generally, you’ll pay a connection fee that also sets the amount of time you’ll be able to stay attached for, say 45 minutes, then a set amount per kwh you use.
How to find electric car charging points in Australia
There are several different networks of charging stations in Australia, which expects EVs to make up 30% of its vehicle fleet by 2040.
As with the US, they’re mainly located around the coasts, in cities, and along the Stuart Highway that bisects the country, but there are less than 3,000 of them, with an extra 150 Tesla Superchargers.
New Zealand is well-provisioned, but of course a much smaller country, with a great number of its chargers being fast models, but Australia has more of its fast chargers on the east coast than it does the west.
Again, home chargers are common, but you’ll find public stations by the side of highways, and in supermarket car parks and parking lots.
There are free chargers, but most take payment from phone apps, credit cards or dedicated network account cards.
Mapping apps such as Plugshare, or even Google Maps, can help find a public charging station more easily, but don’t always indicate whether they’re currently free – for this, you”l have more luck with apps from the charging providers, such as ChargeFox or EV Connect.
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