Top EV Charging Networks for Long Trips: Drivers Rank Reliable Charger Operators

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【Summary】Electric vehicle (EV) drivers in the UK have voted on the most reliable charging networks for long trips. The annual survey by Zapmap asked 4,000 EV drivers to rate operators based on reliability, ease of use, customer support, value for money, and payment options. The Fastned network was ranked the best overall, with high ratings for reliability and its pay-as-you-go system. MFG EV Power and Osprey Charging took second and third place respectively.

FutureCar Staff    Nov 17, 2023 5:18 AM PT
Top EV Charging Networks for Long Trips: Drivers Rank Reliable Charger Operators

One of the biggest criticisms of electric vehicle ownership is range and - increasingly - charge anxiety, especially when it comes to longer journeys. While the Energy Saving Trust estimates that 80 per cent of existing EV drivers predominantly charge their battery cars at home, there are those unavoidable occasions where extended trips leave owners no option but to pull over to top up with electricity en route.

This means visiting motorway services or bespoke charging forecourts for multiple chargers available. This is especially the case in the run-up to Christmas, with last year's holiday period sparking news headlines of EV owners queuing for hours to access charging points at motorway services on the way to visiting family and friends.

Some 4,000 EV owners have had their say on which are the best 'en-route' charging networks at motorway services and other major charger forecourts based on reliability and value for money. See the full results below.

So which charging operators can electric car drivers rely on getting them out of a pickle on extended treks across country? Some 4,000 EV drivers have had their say on which providers have the best high-powered, en-route charging networks in the UK in the latest poll by Zapmap. The annual survey was carried out during October and were asked to score the operators they've used in the last 12 months based on reliability, ease of use, customer support, value for money and payment options.

Ranked best overall by EV drivers is the Fastned network with a 4.3 rating out of 5. With only 90 rapid and ultra-rapid chargers across the country, this is one of the smaller operators - though is growing. It charges drivers 69p per kWh to charge via pay-as-you-go, though there is the option of membership that slashes charging costs by a third - though with a monthly subscription of £9.99. In the UK, it has expanded its charger availability by 50 per cent in 2023 with 20 yellow-canopied sites - to keep EV owners dry while they charge - from as far north as Dundee, Scotland, all the way down to Sandwich on the south-east coastline.

Fastned is one of the smaller en-route charging operators in Britain currently, but it is expanding. Drivers rated the network highly for its reliability - in terms of devices working on arrival - and its straight-forward pay-as-you-go system. Zapmap says the provider is 'resonating with EV drivers' thanks to its 'iconic hub design, highly reliable charging and simple payment winning praise up and down the country'. Feedback from electric car owners highlighted Fastned chargers as 'excellent' and focused on the network's 'reliable and decent charging' experience. 'Respondents to the survey were overwhelmingly positive about charging on Fastned devices, but some feedback illustrated that the network is still in its early stages here in the UK, highlighting that it is 'new' and that there are 'no facilities to relax,' the charger mapping business said. Tom Hurst, UK country manager at Fastned, said: 'We are absolutely delighted that EV drivers have voted us the UK's favourite EV charging station for the second year in a row.

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'It's a real recognition of the importance of providing EV drivers with the quality charging experience they deserve. 'Our hardworking and passionate team are now firmly focused on ensuring you can see even more of our distinct yellow canopies soon. 'These ratings send a strong signal to local authorities and grid operators that ultra-rapid EV charging is here to stay in the UK. And that it can go from strength to strength with the right support.'

Mr Hurst's comments regarding support come in the wake of the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts publishing a new report on the Government's funding of its 2050 Net Zero ambitions, including bolstering the EV charging network. The committee concluded that it is 'not convinced that the Government is paying sufficient attention to the practical challenges consumers can face in adopting low carbon technologies and how to overcome them'. It said minsters have not given 'timely consideration' to how the take-up of electric cars will be best supported, which should include significant backing to create a robust public charging infrastructure. 'The challenges can be significant, for example, ensuring an adequate charging network to support the projected rapid expansion in the use of electric cars,' it said.

MFG - Motor Fuel Group - took second overall in the EV driver poll. The operator has around 560 charging devices up and down the country, and is aiming to install some 3,000 ultra-rapid devices by 2031. Third in the rankings is Osprey Charging. It currently has 740 rapid and ultra-rapid EV chargers.

In second and third place respectively in this year's Zapmap operator survey are MFG EV Power (3.9 satisfaction score) and Osprey Charging (3.8 score), two networks also focusing on rolling out high-speed charging hubs at a national level. MFG - Motor Fuel Group - has around 560 charging devices up and down the country, and is aiming to install some 3,000 ultra-rapid devices by 2031. Osprey is a slightly larger network, with 740 rapid and ultra-rapid devices across the UK. Larger-scale operators, Ionity and InstaVolt (the UK's biggest provider with almost 1,300 rapid and ultra-rapid devices across Britain), took fourth and fifth places respectively.

Ionity and Instavolt respectively took fourth and fifth spots in the rankings of the best 'en-route' EV charging networks, based on scores from 4,000 electric car drivers. The BP Pulse network was among the worst rated by EV drivers, scoring just 2.3 out of 5. It is worth highlighting that ChargePlace Scotland – which holds seventh place overall – takes first place for customer support and also value for money, thanks to some of its extensive network of charge points still being free to use. And Tesla's Supercharger network is excluded from the rankings because it is predominantly only available to owners of Tesla cars.

At the bottom end of the table, BP Pulse and GeniePoint were ranked worst in terms of EV driver satisfaction with 2.3 and 2.0 scores respectively. The two networks, which both operate a large number of charge points across the country, came lower down in terms of reliability and ease of use – areas both operators are working hard to improve upon.

Melanie Shufflebotham, co-founder of Zapmap, said: 'This year has seen continued growth in the number of new electric cars registered, and in parallel significant growth in the charging infrastructure that many drivers depend upon. 'The results of our annual EV survey highlight that for many EV drivers availability and reliability of chargers remain a concern. That's exactly why these rankings and our 'Best EV Charging Network' accreditations are important. 'They provide feedback directly from EV drivers and act as a solid indication of which networks are more dependable.'

On Thursday, the UK's competition watchdog warned motorway chargepoint operators to ensure they're compliant with competition laws as it continues with its review of the sector. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued an open letter to charger providers and and motorway services operators reminding them that charge point investment must be compliant with competition law and ensure operators can enter and compete fairly.

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