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Free electric car charging and where to find it

Find out where you can charge your electric car for free, and when it’s best to pay to charge

Free electric car charging

Charging your electric car might not cost as much as it does to fill up on petrol or diesel, but it’s not free. Even your electricity bills will rise to reflect the amount of energy you’re using to charge your car if you do so at home. Electric car charging stations can cost much more to use, especially if you want to charge at a higher speed. 

With wholesale energy prices continuing to climb and the amount of electric cars on the roads increasing, it’s getting harder to find ways to charge for free. However, there are still ways to do it. This guide will look at some places you can find free chargers, the most accurate ways to locate them and whether it’s worth using them or paying for more convenient charging methods.

Free electric car chargers

Scotland is one of the best places in the UK to charge your electric car for free. This is because Transport for Scotland runs many charging stations under the ChargePlace Scotland network. The operators of each individual charge point are free to set and adjust the tariffs as they please, but many of them are free to use. You can check the individual charger’s price on the ChargePlace Scotland website before use to be sure.

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Free charging points can also be found in London and the southeast of England. There is no specific scheme in place for free charging as such, but the high population density of these areas mean there are huge numbers of charging points in general, many of which are free.

As expected, more rural and remote areas of the UK, such as Wales and the Channel islands, will have the fewest free charge points. This may be changing, however, as some local authorities in areas of Scotland, Yorkshire and Manchester seek to promote the adoption of electric cars.

Types of locations likely to offer free car charging

It’s important to have realistic expectations about free charging points  – most public charging points in the UK cost money to use. Remember that any free charging points you do find are likely to be in high demand, so you shouldn’t rely on them as the only possibility.

EV charging

Public car parks are one of the best places to find free charging points, especially those belonging to shopping centres or supermarkets. As an incentive to attract more customers, retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Aldi offer free charging points at some of their locations. Tesco has even partnered with Volkswagen and Pod Point to provide 2,400 free 7kWh charging points at Tesco Extra stores nationwide. Charging points with these speeds could help you top up your car’s range by around 25 miles if you were to charge for an hour while shopping.

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Other possible locations include hotel car parks, some restaurants, parks, leisure centres and garden centres. It’s important to remember that this is likely only to be free to paying customers, however.

How do I find my nearest free electric car charger?

Websites and services such as Zap-Map, Google Maps or Open Charge Map can show you where to find electric-car charging stations, many of which will be free to use. Once you find a charging point, click or tap it to see whether it’s free to use. Apps are a useful way to gain access to this information while you’re out.

Is it worth paying to charge your electric car?

As much as you might want to find free electricity to power your car, the reality is that in most situations you might be better off paying to use a charger. Aside from the inconvenience of having to search tirelessly for a free charger, you’ll also have to put up with slow charging speeds that can take several hours to top your car up – you might not have that much time to wait in a public setting.

If you need to drive a long distance, paying to top up your car with a rapid or ultra-rapid charger makes much more sense and dramatically reduces charging time if your car is compatible with the technology. It may be possible to find a free rapid car charger, but these are extremely rare to come across.

Now you know about charging your electric car for free, check out our guide to fast or rapid charging and charger types...

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