The best and worst public EV charger providers: networks rated for speed, reliability and value

Study finds huge gaps in customer experience across different services

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 12:00 pm

Tesla’s Supercharger network has been named the best electric car charging system in the UK.

The network, which is currently only accessible to Tesla owners, was ranked highly for its charging speed, reliability, ease of payment and value for money.

For owners of other brands of EV, the Instavolt network came out on top, with its ease of use and speed key to its appeal, bolstered by an unbeaten rating for reliability.

The study found significant differences in customer experience across different networks

The UK’s public charging network is a fragmented affair with dozens of providers offering services and new research suggesting there are huge gulfs in the standards offered by these networks.

In an effort to gauge the quality of the main providers consumer title What Car? asked EV drivers to rate them based on their own experiences.

Motorists were asked to rank networks for dependability, charging speed, value for money, ease of use, eas of payment, location and accessibility. What Car staff then carried out “mystery shopper” visits to test each sites on each network to determine a final rating.

Tesla’s network of 84 Supercharger locations was rated top overall, with a score of 89.8 per cent. Its flat rate of 28p per kWh, charged directly to driver’s accounts, was judged the best value and among the easiest to pay for. Its charging speeds were also top rated, with some chargers capable of outputs in excess of 200kW.

Tesla's Supercharger network was rated the best overall but is currently only open to Tesla owners

Ionity also offers charging at more than 200kW but with costs of 69p per kW was ranked outright last for value (19.5 per cent).

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced recently that the US firm would open its Superchargers up to owners of other makes of car but no timescale for this has been announced.

In the meantime, Instavolt appears to be the best option for drivers of other EVs. It was judged to be the most reliable overall (92.6 per cent) and its simple tap-and-go payment method for credit and debit cards scored 100 per cent for ease of payment. An overall score of 81.2 per cent put it ahead of Osprey 76.7 per cent and Shell Recharge 75.5 per cent, which both also offer convenient contactless payment but lost out in other areas.

Chargeplace Scotland was ranked overall worst for ease of payment. While many of its chargers are free to use for members, signing up involves a complex registration process and the researchers had to wait 10 days to receive a charging card to activate the chargers. Theoretically, drivers can access the network via an app shared with Charge Your Car but this reporter’s personal experience is that the app is virtually unusable.

The investigation looked at 12 of the biggest public charging networks in the UK

Charger Your Car was ranked the worst network overall. It scored 67 per cent for value but in every other category was rated last or second last, with an overall score of 43.5 per cent. What Car?’s testers criticised the fact it chargers did not have dedicated EV parking bays and were frequently blocked by other cars.

Electric Highway, which currently holds the monopoly on charging at motorway service stations, scored highly for its locations but was rated worst for reliability. The network has repeatedly come under fire for problems with its chargers. It was recently sold by operator Ecotricity to Gridserve, which has vowed significant investment to upgrade every location on the network by the end of 2021, improving reliability, ease of use and charging speeds.

Steve Huntingford, editor, What Car?, said: “Our investigation highlights the significant differences between electric car public charging networks. Those that offer the fastest charging speeds are not necessarily the best to use, and some of the most affordable can also be the most inaccessible. As more people switch to EVs the demand for public chargers will increase, and EV owners really do need to shop around to find the best charging solutions.”