Reduce range anxiety by knowing exactly how and where you can charge

If you're thinking about making the move to electric, you're probably wondering just how easy it is to find places where you can put your car on charge.

Getting used to a completely new way of doing things after a lifetime of filling up with petrol or diesel might take a little bit of time.

Can you plug it in when you pop to the shops, or when you’re visiting friends and family? And what happens when you're on a longer journey to somewhere unfamiliar? We take a look at how and where you can charge an electric car, so you can drive with confidence.

How do you charge an electric car?

There are three main ways to charge your electric car, at home, at work or via a public charging point and as the number of electric cars on UK roads increases, it is getting easier to find places to plug in. What charging options you use depends on how you use your car, how much time you have, and what your travelling plans are.

How to charge an electric car at home

You can charge up at home if you install a home charging point – ideally you’ll need access to off-road parking to do this, such as a driveway or garage. Running cables across pavements to charge cars parked on the street can raise a risk of damage to your car, your property and unsuspecting pedestrians.

With a home charging point installed, you can charge your electric car at home by simply plugging it in using a charging cable:

  • Open your car’s charging flap to expose the charging socket
  • Put the plug from the charging point into the car’s socket
  • Leave the plug in until the car is charged
  • Remove the plug from the car and return it to the charge point
  • Close the car’s charging flap, and you’re ready to go.

Having a charging point at home means you can keep your battery at optimum charge, in much the same way you’d think about keeping a phone or laptop charged.

Charging points for electric cars come in two types:

Tethered - includes a fixed charging cable, so you can easily plug it in each time

Untethered (sometimes called socketed or universal) – has no cable and can look neater and take up less space. You need to keep the cable in your car and plug into the socket each time.

If you’re at a friend or family member’s house, it is also possible to charge your car from a standard wall socket if you have a special cable. But this can be very slow and plug sockets are not often close enough to the driveway to easily reach.

Should I charge my electric car every night?

In general, you shouldn’t charge your electric car every night as this can shorten the lifespan of the battery pack. Electric vehicles run on lithium-ion batteries, and the repeated cycle of charging and discharging can cause them to degrade over time. It’s recommended to only charge your battery when it’s really needed.

Most car makers recommend you charge to between 60% and 80% of battery capacity so it’s worth thinking about the level you should fill your car battery to as you make plans.

Where can I charge my electric car away from home?

When you’re out and about on local trips, you can take advantage of the growing number of charging points at locations such as supermarkets, restaurants, shopping centres and gyms.

Public EV charging stations work in the same way as a home charging point, you simply plug in your car and leave it to charge, but you’ll need to bring your own charging cable along to use.

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It’s common for electric cars to have a range of 130-300 miles on a single charge, so you won’t need to be charging the battery during shorter and local trips. But you can still make the most of a growing number of public charging points when you’re out and about:

  • Some streets have charging points available installed on lampposts or pavements, and local councils are looking to provide more of this as electric car numbers grow.
  • Supermarkets and restaurants have installed charging points to encourage you to use their services and top up your car while you shop or eat.
  • Shopping centres, gyms, community centres, hotels and cinemas are among some of the places hoping to attract more customers by letting you charge your car while using their facilities.
  • Businesses are installing charging points for employees and customers, so you can charge up while you work.

Some of these charging points are free or require you to spend money or time with them to use, or they will charge a fee. Your car sat nav will usually be set up with a map of available charging points, or there are apps such as Zap-Map with charging locations marked.

Where to charge an electric car on longer trips

If you’re planning a longer trip, you’ll need to know how to charge an electric car when you’re on the road.

Rapid chargers are usually located at motorway service stations, or near main roads. You can charge your battery more quickly, and these chargers have their own cables and plugs attached for you to use. You’ll need to pay to use these chargers, unless you’re driving a Tesla and can plug into the Tesla Supercharger Network.

Plan your journey around where you need to recharge, for example if you’re taking a break to eat. Using a rapid charger, you’ll be able to carry on your journey without too much charging time.

In February 2022, ZapMap was reporting more than 25,000 public charging locations across the UK, a number that’s growing all the time, so that gives you lots of opportunities to stay charged up and the confidence to forget about range anxiety.