You might be surprised to hear that there are still quite a lot of free electric vehicle (EV) charging points around in the UK.
Out of more than 25,000 charging devices on Zap-Map, we found that – as of September 2021 – almost 5,350 were free to use. Put another way, that’s 20% of all EV charging points that won’t incur a cost. So where are they all?
Well, we’ve broken down some of the figures for you. Below you’ll see:
- The number of free EV charging devices displayed by geographical area
- Free devices split out by charge point speed
- The number of free devices by type of location
- Other interesting categories and statistics on free EV charging points
Where can I charge my electric car for free?
The chart below shows the number of free EV charging devices by geographical area.
As you can see, some areas have far more free devices than others. The three areas with the highest number of free EV chargers are Scotland with 1,443, the South East with 684, and Yorkshire & the Humber with 509.
Scotland’s high number is mostly accounted for by ChargePlace Scotland (backed by Transport for Scotland). Around 1,000 of the operator’s 1,400+ chargers are still free to use.
At the other end of the scale, you can see the Channel Islands with eight free devices, the Isle of Man with ten, and the North East with 154.
There are some other noteworthy points too. If you come across an EV charger in Northern Ireland, for instance, it’s highly likely it will be free to use. The 234 free chargers you might find there make up 70% of the total. This is because, although Northern Ireland doesn’t have great coverage per head (overall there has been little investment), national network ecarNI still provides free charging.
In contrast, Greater London’s 398 free chargers comprise only 5% of its total number of charging devices, reflecting the high concentration of paid-for on-street chargers and rapid devices in the capital.
Which types of EV chargers are free to use?
So you’ve found your free EV charging point – but how fast are the chargers? Well, the chart below displays free charging devices split out by highest connector speed.
As the chart makes quite clear, most free EV charging points are fast (destination) chargers. There are 4,444 of them, making up 83.1% of free chargers.
In contrast, most slow chargers are now on-street chargers, the vast majority of which incur a cost. This would explain why there are only 452 free slow chargers across the UK (8.5% of total free devices).
Interestingly, there are 451 rapid chargers around the country that are still free, representing 8.4% of the total number of free chargers. These are concentrated in Scotland, Yorkshire and Manchester. Here the local authorities are providing free charging as an incentive for drivers to switch to electric, supporting their broader clean air and environmental objectives. It is unlikely that this will continue indefinitely and these chargers most probably incur a cost in the near future. In Scotland, some cities and local authorities have already started to introduce a fee on the ChargePlace Scotland chargers.
Which locations have free electric car charging?
We’ve broken down the number of free devices by location type. So which sort of places can you expect to find free EV charging points?
As you can see, supermarkets have the most free EV devices, with 1,116. You’ll also find 763 free devices at public car parks, 547 at dealership forecourts, and 494 in retail car parks.
Categories of free EV charging points in the UK
Let’s look in a little more detail at some of the categories where you’ll find the highest number of free devices.
As you might imagine, many attractions offer free charging as a way of encouraging customers to visit. If you take a look through Zap-Map, and filter by location type, you’ll find cafes, restaurants, pubs, museums, garden centres, theatres, zoos, National Trust properties and leisure centres that provide free charging.
2. Hotels and accommodation
Many hotels and B&Bs offer free charging to visitors, perhaps more than have registered. In any case, Charity ZeroNet provides charge points for the hospitality and leisure sector. Most of the network’s more than 400 charging points are free for customers.
3. Car parks
Taken together, public and retail car parks have the highest number of free EV charging devices, at 1,257 (more than supermarkets, with 1,116). And, as with accommodation and supermarkets, many retailers use free charging as a way to attract loyal customers.
Is electric car charging free at supermarkets?
Yes, it’s free at some supermarkets. Tesco, for instance, has over 600 chargers across 300 locations, and provides free charging on its fast 7/22kW chargers, whilst customers need to pay on the rapid charge points.
Other supermarkets with free EV charging points include: Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Aldi. As with Tesco, Pod Point is the network provider and free charging is mostly on its fast 7/22kW chargers. Morrisons, Waitrose and Asda also have EV charging points, but they aren’t free to use on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Do free electric car chargers have access restrictions?
Yes, some of them do and this is something you’ll need to bear in mind when locating free chargers. Over 1,000 free charge points have some kind of access restriction (e.g. devices that are ‘customer only’, for example).
Another consideration is that you’ll need to ensure you have the appropriate RFID card or app to start a charge and, while the charging might be free, there may well be some parking charges to pay.
One last thought, before you head off to grab your free charge – make sure you check Zap-Map and, in particular, the user comments to get insights on all the details of a particular charge point.
You and Yours
Plus, if you’d like to know more, you can hear Zap-Map co-founder and COO Melanie Shufflebotham speaking to BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme about free EV charging points in the UK.
Third party use: this data can be used by third parties as long as the source is attributed to Zap-Map and, if online, a link is added back to https://www.zap-map.com.