Are you ready to hit the road unsure how to use public EV chargers in car parks? You’re not alone. With the growing popularity of EVs, the demand for public charging infrastructure has skyrocketed. Public EV chargers offer convenience and accessibility for EV owners on the go, allowing you to charge your vehicle’s battery during errands or long trips. Understanding how to utilise these chargers is crucial for optimising your EV’s range and ensuring a smooth journey.

So, let’s dive in and explore how you can power up your electric vehicle at public charging stations, including home chargers, home charge points, rapid chargers, and destination chargers!

Accessing Public Charging Points:

Public charging points, also known as public charging stations or charge points, are essential for electric vehicle (EV) owners who need to recharge their cars while away from home. These charging stations, including rapid chargers and destination chargers, are typically located in various convenient places such as parking lots, shopping centres, and along major roadways. 

Here’s what you need to know about accessing these public charging points with your EV’s battery and onboard charger.

Location of Public Charging Points

EV drivers have several options available for charging their electric vehicles. One common location is car parks, where dedicated spaces with destination chargers are provided. Service stations along highways often have rapid charge points that allow for quicker recharging times. Some cities even offer street parking spots with built-in charge points to encourage EV adoption. Additionally, EV owners can also choose to install a home charger or utilise the onboard charger in their vehicles.

Access Requirements

To effectively use public charging facilities for electric cars, users may need to sign up for an account with a specific charge point operator or obtain a membership card from the relevant network provider. This process ensures easy access and payment for the services offered by rapid chargers and destination chargers. Contactless payment methods such as RFID cards are often utilised to streamline the user experience at these public charging stations and extend the battery life of electric cars.

Free and Discounted Parking

To incentivise electric vehicle usage and promote sustainability, many cities offer free or discounted parking at public charge points. This benefit not only encourages more people to switch to EVs but also provides an added convenience factor when utilising these home charge points. By taking advantage of these offers, EV owners can save money on parking fees while simultaneously recharging their battery.

Considerations for Home Charging

While accessing public charging points is crucial for electric car owners when away from home, it is equally important to consider installing a home charging point. Having a reliable home charging setup allows individuals to conveniently recharge their vehicles overnight or whenever necessary without relying solely on public infrastructure. This is especially useful for rapid chargers and electric cars on the electric highway, as it ensures a reliable source of battery power.

It’s worth noting that home chargers for electric cars usually provide slower but sufficient power levels for overnight charging of the battery.

In contrast, public rapid chargers, like those offered by Tesla, offer significantly faster charging speeds, which can be useful during long journeys or when time is limited. These chargers typically charge at higher rates.

How to Charge an Electric Car in Public:

Charging your electric car in public, it’s a straightforward process that involves a few simple steps. By following these guidelines, you can easily utilise public EV chargers, including home charging points and rapid charging points, to keep your electric vehicle powered up on the go. The charging rates may vary depending on whether you are using a regular AC charger or a faster DC charger.

  1. Plug the Charger into Your Vehicle’s Charging Port: When you arrive at a public charging station, locate the charger that corresponds to your vehicle’s charging port. Plug the charger into your car, ensuring a secure connection. Most chargers have standardised connectors compatible with various electric car models.
  2. Select the Desired Charging Level and Start the Session: Many public chargers feature display screens that allow you to choose the desired charging level and initiate the session. Depending on your vehicle’s capabilities and time constraints, you can opt for fast charging or regular charging options. Simply follow the prompts on the screen to begin the charging process.
  3. Park Properly at a Charging Station: It is crucial to park your electric car correctly when using a public charger. Ensure that you are occupying only one parking space designated for EV charging. This consideration allows other electric car owners to access nearby chargers conveniently.
  4. Be Mindful of Time Limits and Etiquette: Some public chargers may have time limits to ensure fair usage among multiple users. Be mindful of these restrictions and try not to overstay once your vehicle is sufficiently charged. Practising good etiquette by promptly moving your vehicle after completing a charge enables others waiting in line to access the charger efficiently.
  5. Plan for Public Charging Stops: Before embarking on longer journeys with limited range, it’s advisable to plan for potential public charging stops along your route. Utilise online maps or smartphone apps specifically designed for locating available EV chargers near your destination or along major highways.
  6. Consider Joining Public Charging Networks: Joining public charging networks can provide added convenience and access to a broader range of charging stations. Many electric vehicle charging providers offer membership programs that grant you access to their network of chargers, often with additional benefits such as discounted rates or priority charging.
  7. Utilise Mobile Apps for Charging Information: Various mobile applications exist that provide real-time information on available public chargers, their locations, and even current occupancy status. These apps can be valuable tools in ensuring you find an accessible charger when needed.
  8. Be Prepared for Potential Wait Times: During periods of high demand or limited availability, it’s essential to be prepared for potential wait times at public charging stations. Consider bringing along activities or entertainment options to occupy your time while waiting for your turn.

By following these guidelines, you can confidently use public EV chargers without any hassle. With the increasing accessibility of charging infrastructure, electric car owners have more freedom to explore and travel worry-free knowing that reliable public charging options are readily available.

Understanding the Different Types of EV Chargers:

EV chargers, including rapid charging stations, are becoming increasingly popular as more people switch to electric vehicles. However, it’s important to understand the different types of chargers available, such as AC chargers, and how to use them effectively.

Level 1 Chargers:

Level 1 chargers, also known as AC chargers, are the most basic type of charger for electric cars. These chargers operate at a voltage of 120V and are typically used with a standard household outlet, making them convenient for residential charging. While they may be slower compared to other options, they are suitable for overnight charging or when you have ample time.

One advantage of Level 1 chargers is their simplicity for charging your car. All you need is an adapter that allows you to plug your vehicle into a regular electrical outlet. This means that even if you don’t have access to a dedicated charging station, you can still charge your car at home.

Level 2 Chargers:

For faster charging times, Level 2 chargers for your car are the way to go. Operating at a higher voltage of 240V, these chargers can charge your EV in significantly less time than Level 1 chargers. They require installation by an electrician since they need a dedicated circuit and outlet for your car’s AC.

Level 2 car chargers are commonly found in public places such as car parks, shopping centres, and workplaces. Many businesses now offer car charging stations as an amenity for their customers or employees who drive electric vehicles.

DC Fast Chargers:

If you’re on a long road trip or need a quick top-up while out and about, DC Fast Chargers provide rapid charging capabilities for your car’s AC system. These high-powered chargers operate at a voltage of around 480V and can charge an EV much faster than either Level 1 or Level 2 options.

However, it’s important to note that DC Fast Chargers are less common and usually found along highways or major travel routes for car charging. They are designed for quick charging sessions, allowing car EV drivers to get back on the road as soon as possible.

Payment Methods for Public EV Charging:

Payment methods for public EV charging for your car can vary depending on the network provider. It is important to understand the options available to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience when using public EV chargers for your car. 

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Some networks require users to pay through mobile apps or RFID cards linked to their accounts. These methods provide convenience as they allow users to easily initiate and track their charging sessions. With a mobile app, you can simply select the charger, start the session, and monitor its progress from your smartphone. RFID cards work similarly by allowing you to tap them on the charger or scan a QR code.
  • Other networks may offer pay-as-you-go options where you can directly pay at the charger using a credit card or contactless payment. This option is ideal for those who prefer not to register an account with every network provider they encounter. Simply insert your debit or credit card into the charger’s payment terminal or use contactless payment such as Apple Pay or Google Pay.

It is essential to consider any additional features such as charge points and electric car charging that might be available.

  • VAT receipts for electric vehicle usage can be obtained upon request from certain car networks. These receipts are valuable for businesses seeking tax deductions. Before selecting a preferred network, verify if this feature is available.
  • Zap Pay: One emerging car payment method gaining popularity in the UK is Zap Pay. This convenient car app aggregates multiple car charging networks into one platform, allowing car users to access various car chargers without needing separate accounts for each car network.

Locating Public Chargers: Apps and Maps

With the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), finding public charging stations for your car has become crucial. Fortunately, there are various smartphone apps and online maps available that make this task much easier. These apps provide real-time information on charger availability, pricing, and network compatibility, ensuring a hassle-free charging experience for car owners.

One of the most popular smartphone apps for locating public chargers is Zap-Map. This app allows users to search for charging locations based on their current position or any desired location. It provides detailed information about each charger, including its type, power rating, and network operator. Zap-Map allows users to filter results based on factors such as connector type and payment options.

Another useful app is PlugShare, which not only helps locate public chargers but also facilitates community engagement among EV owners. PlugShare offers a comprehensive database of charging stations worldwide and allows users to share their own experiences with specific locations. This feature enables drivers to leave reviews and ratings, helping others make informed decisions about where to charge their vehicles.

In addition to dedicated smartphone apps, many online maps also provide reliable information about public charging stations. Google Maps is one such example that has integrated EV charging locations into its platform. By simply searching for “EV chargers” or “electric vehicle charging stations,” users can find nearby options conveniently displayed on the map.

To ensure comprehensive coverage when searching for public chargers, it is advisable to have multiple charging apps installed on your smartphone. Different apps may have access to different databases or offer unique features that could enhance your overall experience. By diversifying your options, you increase the chances of finding an available charger wherever you go.

When using these apps or maps to locate public chargers, it’s important to pay attention to certain details. Some chargers may be limited in terms of vehicle compatibility or require membership with specific charging networks. By checking the app or map for these details, you can avoid any inconveniences and ensure that the charger you choose is compatible with your vehicle.

Benefits of Public Charging and Availability of Free Options:

Public charging is a game-changer for electric vehicle (EV) owners, providing them with the convenience and flexibility to extend their driving range beyond the limitations of home charging. With the increasing popularity of EVs, public charging stations have become more prevalent, offering numerous benefits to users. The ability to charge in public is a significant advantage for EV owners, allowing them to conveniently charge their vehicles away from home. This accessibility to public charging stations greatly enhances the overall driving experience and eliminates range anxiety.

One significant advantage of utilising public chargers is the availability of free options. Many public charging stations provide cost savings by offering complimentary charging services. This not only reduces the overall costs associated with owning an EV but also encourages more people to make the switch from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles to electric ones. By taking advantage of these free charging opportunities, EV owners can save a substantial amount on their monthly energy bills.

In addition to cost savings, using public chargers contributes to a greener transportation system by reducing reliance on fossil fuels. When EVs are charged at home using electricity generated from non-renewable sources, such as coal or natural gas, they still have an environmental impact. However, by utilising public chargers that are powered by renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, EV owners can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. This shift towards cleaner energy helps combat climate change and creates a more sustainable future.

Furthermore, public chargers offer convenience for EV owners who may not have access to private charging facilities at their homes or workplaces. Whether it’s during long road trips or while running errands in urban areas, having access to a network of public chargers ensures that drivers can easily top up their batteries whenever needed. This eliminates range anxiety and provides peace of mind knowing that there are reliable options available when away from home.

To paint a clearer picture of the benefits and availability of public charging services, let’s break down some key points about charging.

  • Free Charging: Many public chargers offer complimentary charging services.
  • Convenience: Public electric car charging stations provide easy access for EV owners during road trips or daily commutes.
  • Cost Savings: Utilising free charging options at public stations can significantly reduce monthly energy bills. By taking advantage of these free charging options, you can save money on your monthly charge.
  • Greener Transportation: Public chargers powered by renewable energy sources help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions.

The bottom line

Mastering public EV charging is essential for electric vehicle owners who want to make the most of their driving experience. By accessing public charging points, understanding different types of EV chargers, and knowing how to charge an electric car in public, you can ensure a seamless and convenient charging process.

One key aspect of using public EV chargers is familiarising yourself with the various payment methods available. Whether it’s through mobile apps, RFID cards, or credit card payments, having a clear understanding of how to pay for public EV charging will help you avoid any complications during the process.

Locating public chargers through apps and maps is crucial for planning your journeys effectively. These tools enable you to find nearby charging stations easily and ensure that you never run out of power while on the road.

It’s important to note that public charging offers numerous benefits beyond convenience. Many locations provide free options for EV charging, making it cost-effective and accessible for all drivers. Taking advantage of these opportunities to charge can save you money while contributing to a more sustainable future.

Mastering the use of public EV chargers allows you to maximise your electric vehicle ownership experience. By following the guidelines outlined above and taking advantage of the resources available to you, such as apps and maps for locating chargers, understanding payment methods, and accessing free options when possible, you can confidently navigate the world of public EV charging.


Q: How long does it take to charge an electric car with a public charger?

Charging times vary depending on factors such as your car’s battery capacity and the charger’s power output. Generally, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to fully charge an electric car with a public charger.

Q: Can I leave my car unattended while it charges at a public charger?

Yes, it is generally safe to leave your car unattended while it charges at a public charger. However, it’s always a good idea to follow any guidelines or regulations set by the charging station operator to ensure the safety of your vehicle.

Q: Can I use public EV chargers if I don’t have a membership or subscription?

Yes, many public EV chargers are accessible to anyone without requiring a membership or subscription. However, some charging networks may offer additional benefits and discounted rates for members.

Q: Are public EV chargers compatible with all-electric car models?

Public EV chargers come in different types, such as Level 2 (AC) and DC fast chargers. Most electric car models can be charged using Level 2 chargers, while DC fast chargers are typically compatible with specific models. It’s important to check your car’s compatibility before using a public charger.

Q: How much does it cost to charge an electric car with a public charger?

The cost of charging an electric car at a public charger varies depending on factors such as the charging network, location, and electricity rates. Some stations offer free charging, while others may require payment based on kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage or time spent charging.