As the UK’s leading charge point mapping service, we’ve taken our first step outside of the UK and the Republic of Ireland - and started mapping charge points in mainland Europe. You can now search and filter for certain charge points in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, with more countries coming soon.
Whether you're a seasoned electric vehicle enthusiast or a curious first-timer, this guide will help you in preparation to take your EV into and across Europe.
Once you get used to driving on the other side of the road, you’re going to find many similarities to driving and charging an EV in the UK. The number of EV charging stations in Europe is growing rapidly, making it easier than ever before to put aside any range anxiety - in countries across Western Europe there are generally more public chargers - at least per EV - than there are in the UK.
This guide outlines the differences you may encounter when EV charging in mainland Europe and aims to help you avoid any potential pitfalls that might put a halt to your journey.
What are the main differences between electric car charging in mainland Europe and charging in the UK?
EV Charging in mainland Europe is generally very similar to charging in the UK, particularly as the same types of charging connectors are available, making it possible for EV drivers to plan their European road-trips with confidence.
Both the UK and mainland Europe use Type 2 and CCS (Combined Charging System) standard for charging - most EVs on the market have both Type 2 and CCS connectors, they're pretty much the standard these days for new EVs.
CHAdeMO chargers are available but less popular in some parts of mainland Europe, check Zapmap and filter for the connector type suitable for your EV before you set off on your journey.
Prepare to tackle any language barriers
Be prepared that the instructions at charging stations in mainland Europe may not be written in English.
Find a good translator app that has a photo scanning option as this might come in handy.
Many of the charge point operators’ (CPOs’) own apps are likely to have English as an option within their settings, so be sure to take a look if you’re stuck.
Different charge point providers
As of November 2023, the EV charging infrastructure in mainland Europe currently stands at around 500,000 charge points. The network is made up of hundreds of different charge point operators. Some CPOs may be familiar to you as many operate across the UK as well as mainland Europe, such as Fastned, Mer, Allego, Tesla and Ionity.
You can stick with what you know by bookmarking these charge points in the Zapmap app by using the ‘Network filter’ option, but we recommend you keep your options open as most charge points are similar to use and this will give you more freedom by expanding your charging options.
Fastned charging hubs have distinctive yellow canopies and provide rapid charging
How to pay for EV charging abroad
Once you’ve planned your route it’s time to research how to pay at each charging stop. Many charging points accept contactless debit and credit cards, you can use the ‘Payment type’ filter in the Zapmap app to find them. Other charge points will require a network RFID card, or a key fob, and for some networks you need to order and pay in advance with their own app, so download the apps you know you’ll need and sign up before setting off to make the at-charger experience easier.
Many of the European charging network apps work by linking a credit card or PayPal account, then the chargers are activated by scanning a QR code.
Charging in mainland Europe is generally cheaper than in the UK, particularly in France, where it's not uncommon to see prices of less than 50c/kWh.
Be mindful of the currency you’re paying in, and make a note of the conversion rate so that you have a clear understanding of how much you’re paying to charge.
Zap-Pay is not currently available as a payment method outside of the UK, but will be available soon - look out for the Zap-Pay banner pop-up when searching for charge points.
Toll roads and crossing borders in Europe
During your road trip you are going to cross borders and use a few toll roads - and the costs for these can soon add up, but fortunately there are some discounts available for low emission vehicles in parts of Europe.
We advise you to research any tolls along your planned route because you may need to register for a discount, and you’ll also get a better idea of the overall cost.
When it comes to border crossings, there’s no difference whether you drive an EV or a petrol or diesel car; ensure you’ve researched entry requirements, have your documents ready to hand over, and be prepared that there may occasionally be delays at busier times.
How to find charge points abroad
You can now use Zapmap in some European countries, with a few key differences.
Download the Zapmap app or visit our desktop map to search and filter for certain charge points in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg - Zapmap will start including fast/slow (AC) chargers as well as further countries across 2024.
By using Zapmap in mainland Europe you can discover over 15,000 charge points.
Ensure you know the range of your car, remember that long stretches at high speeds will reduce your range much faster, so err on the side of caution when it comes to planning your charging stops.
During your search, remember to check out the ‘INFO’ tab of each charge point to establish if there are parking charges, or access limitations. Check out the ‘CHAT’ tab too, where you can see comments from recent users on whether their charge was successful or if there is an issue with any of the connectors of the charging device.
If you upgrade to Zapmap Premium you can search for charge points on your EV’s dashboard via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Zapmap Premium also gives you access to additional filters such as filtering for new charge points, and filtering for specific minimum numbers of connectors at a site to lessen the chance of having to queue.
Tip: Remember to bookmark the charge points to find them more easily while on your trip!
Share and learn from your fellow EV drivers
We hope that every one of your charging sessions goes without a hitch, but on any occasions you experience any issues you can check the ‘CHAT’ tab on the charge point to see if other users have experienced similar issues and if they have managed to resolve them.
It's also really helpful for other Zapmap users if you can share your experience. During or after your charge you can select the ‘Check-in’ option, rate your experience out of five stars, and write your own feedback. It’s really helpful to add pictures to your check in better show any physical issue such as damage to the device.
If you’re driving abroad in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands or Luxembourg, we'd love to hear about your experiences driving an electric car in these countries. That includes your European driving adventures, your favourite charging networks and locations - and any hints and tips you might have for other drivers. Remember, this is just the beginning, Zapmap will soon offer coverage across more charging networks in further regions including Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and more, in the new year!
When using Zapmap abroad, remember to check-in and upload photos to charge points when you use them, just like you do in the UK.