The public charging stations
Why use a public charging station
We have already mentioned the evident advantages of charging a vehicle at home or at work.
Electric power will cost less, especially by recharging during off-peak hours, for people who have a subscription including this option.
Indeed, it is at home or at the workplace that the car remains immobilized the longest. This is when we will take advantage of these moments to recharge it.
However, for longer trips, the charging stations located in public areas become essential. This need is even more crucial as soon as the journey’s distance, back and forth, approaches or exceeds the range of an electric vehicle.
It will then be necessary to plan the journey if one wants to avoid having to call the vehicle assistance for a cause as predictable as a “low battery”.
The deployment of public charging stations for electric vehicles is continuing everyday, and the various market players are making huge efforts to keep pace. Despite this, these terminals are not as easy to find on the road because they are less prominently displayed than petrol stations for gasoline vehicles.
Although more and more of these service stations start offering also the possibility to recharge electric vehicles, a thorough search is necessary to find them.
This varies from one country to another, and it is noticeable that, although they are well indicated in some cases, finding them can sometimes be a bit of a hunt.
Plan your journey
Electric vehicles usually include a feature in their GPS indicating the location of the nearest charging stations, or to organize your route according to their location.
However, the GPS in cars is not always up-to-date, and some manufacturers will prefer to guide you to their own brand charging terminals or to those belonging to their network, without these being the most interesting for you.
Fortunately, free apps like A Better Route Planner allow you to plan your route based on your vehicle and its range.
You can set your own consumption and the percentage of battery you wish to have reached before getting to the charging station.
If you have a connected electric vehicle, the A Better Route Planner application will calculate your consumption – and therefore the remaining range – in real time, in order to propose stops based on the energy used.
Applications to locate the charging stations
By using a mobile phone application, it is easy to locate the charging terminals around you. Some of them will even allow you to find all of the charging stations available along your route. In somes cases, they may tell you if the station you want to go to is busy, often giving you the possibility to reserve it if you are close to it.
Here is a list of some of them:
- Shell Recharge
- Place to Plug
- and other….
To be efficient, such an application should allow you to find a maximum of recharging terminals around you, regardless of the network they are part of.
A selection filter related to the connector and battery capacity can be very useful. The ability to see the status of the terminal online (available, busy, down, etc.) will prevent you from getting there for nothing, as will the remote terminal’s reservation function.
The display of the charging price, as well as its characteristics (power, number of connections, accessibility, parking space, etc.) will finally help you to choose the one that suits you the best.
The tariffs of the public charging stations
Under the “fast charging” pretext – which is sometimes quite relative-, some suppliers raise their rates to the point where recharging an electric car may become more expensive than a full tank.
Unlike conventional gas pumps, electric charging stations do not always display prices.
They may charge by the minute or per kW/h. Elsewhere, it is a combination of both or sometimes a flat fee that does not take into account the quantity of energy you have charged.
There are also free terminals, located in some car parks or shops, allowing customers to recharge while shopping.
The payment methods
Various means of payment are available at public charging stations. Among the most common are:
- A prepaid card, issued by the network manager;
- A debit card, issued by the network manager;
- A subscription to this network manager;
- An online payment, which involves having an Internet connection when you are in front of the terminal;
- An mobile app developed by the energy supplier, which also allows you to pay, provided that you have Internet access.
The charging cards
Here is a non-exhaustive list of recharging cards, available on the market:
- Shell Recharge (formerly New Motion)
- Place to Plug
Electricity suppliers, but also oil companies, gradually begin to offer this type of card.
It is indeed not easy to find one’s way around. Each of these card providers claims to give you access to thousands of charging stations, but the figures vary widely.
In the current situation, it is preferable to have several of these cards with you, so that you can recharge your electric car on the road.
You should also check the roaming option (when you need to recharge in a foreign country), to make sure that the chosen terminal accepts your card.
Suppliers of public charging stations for electric vehicles
Ionity: Is a car manufacturers consortium including: BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen Group together with Audi and Porsche as well as Hyundai. These companies have come together to build a fast charging stations network able to provide a charging power of 350kW. For people who are not used to kW (kilowatts), these are currently the most powerful charging stations.
The goal is to allow users to charge their electric vehicle very quickly. This is probably the most interesting charging network currently available, especially for its speed, reliability and openness to all electric vehicles.
It is also a network that has been talked about a lot since its price increase on 1st of February 2020.
Its deployment can be tracked online on this site or on the map here, or here.
Izivia: owned by the EDF group, formerly known as Sodetrel. It is the Corri-Door network which used to have 200 fast charging stations deployed in France. Unfortunately due to technical problems the majority of these charging stations has been deactivated.
The Izivia pass also gives access to approximately 100.000 charging stations across Europe and this number is supposed to more than double in the next two years.
Tesla: It’s the network of “superchargers”, as Tesla calls them. It is especially interesting for Tesla users, because it is a proprietary system closed to other brands vehicles. It is mainly used as selling argument by this manufacturer. Finding these chargers usually means getting off the highway. The pricing on these Tesla superchargers varies and depends between others on the country where they are located.
Fastned: It is a very fast charging network (up to 350kW) active in The Netherlands, which is also under deployment in other countries like Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, United Kingdom and France. This network is very interesting, especially when you travel in the Netherlands or in Germany and will be very valuable for the e-mobility, once deployed in other countries.
Total EV charge: A network of 1000 charging points (under deployment up to 2022) located in Western Europe, offering a charging power of up to 175kW. This network takes advantage of the existing fuel stations to install their terminals for electric vehicles. The map of Total charging stations is available here.
There are obviously still other suppliers and new players that regularly enter in the EV charging stations market. These are generally local operators who manage a certain number of charging stations on their territory, but who sometimes have agreements with other operators, making their cards usable almost everywhere.
Far from being uninteresting, some of them have international agreements benefiting from preferential rates on large networks of charging stations. This is the case of Maingau located near Frankfurt and whose registration can be obtained even if you do not live in Germany.
How to know the price of a charging session on the road?
It’s common for electric car drivers to hold at least four or five charging cards or have several apps installed on their phones.
Depending on the terminal (availability, capacity, charge speed, location, brand, etc.) the price can vary widely.
Among the cards, RFID badges or applications that an electric car driver has with him, prices may vary from simple to double -or even more- for the same amount of electricity and at the same charging station!
But how do you know in advance which card is the less expensive when in most cases the price is not clearly indicated? And even when it is, how do you know which card is the most advantageous?
Rather than waiting for the surprise on the invoice, there is fortunately an application which collects prices of all available means of payment for the same terminal.
This is Chargeprice, an essential tool that helps you find the best price to recharge your electric vehicle on the road.
In addition, on the independent site Allchargecards you will find a comparative list of almost all of the existing recharge cards. You can then select and compare them according to several criteria like the pricing, network, country, roaming possibilities, etc.
How to connect to a public charging station?
Once you found a public charging station to charge your electric car, you need of course to be able to connect to it.
All public terminals are not the same in Europe. Depending on their power, the type of current delivered, (alternating: AC or direct: DC) or the country where they are located, the way to connect to them is different:
- On AC charging stations (operating in alternating current):
- Usually, there is a Type 2 (or T2) socket on these terminals. You must then have with you a Type 2 / Type 2 cable with the following plugs:
- In some countries like Switzerland for instance, a large part of the public AC charging stations is equipped with a cable having a Type 2 plug at its end. To connect to these terminals, you will simply need to plug the cable that is hanging on the terminal to your car.
- On DC charging stations (operating in Direct Current):
- Given the power delivered by these charging stations, designed to quickly charge your electric car, they need a specific high-power cable which is always attached to the terminal.
- The connection of your electric car to these high power charging stations (also called HPC from High Power Charger) is therefore done using the cable attached to them.