How to find electric car charging points: Zap Map

Here's how to easily find somewhere to top up your plug-in hybrid or electric car

Zap-map

One of the big concerns new and potential electric-car buyers have is where to charge their new car when on the road and away from their home charger.

The amount of public charging stations in the UK is growing at a rapid pace, with over 17,500 chargers in 6,093 locations around the country, but finding them can be difficult.

With locations anywhere from petrol stations to shopping centres and side streets, and with little roadside signs guiding drivers, it can be tricky finding a charging point at first – especially if your car’s sat-nav database of stations hasn’t been updated in a while.

There’s also the question of whether the station is free to use, and if it's operational or not. Many of the built-in sat-nav systems in electric cars aren’t updated frequently enough to take these factors into account.

It’s also important to ensure the public charging station has the right charging speeds and cables for your car – after all, electric cars, much like conventional petrol and diesel cars, can’t be charged by a single standard of cables.

This is where services like Zap Map come in. They not only help owners not only find the appropriate charging station nearby, but also plan a route there and even give an indication of the costs involved. Finding a charging station near your is easy. Read on to find out how.

Zap Map explained

As of August 2018, there are 17,562 public charging connectors in 6,093 different locations. Of these, 3,751 are what are known as 'rapid connectors' – charging cables that supply a larger quantity of electricity to your battery charging it faster.

Each of these stations and connectors is listed at Zap Map for any potential owner or driver to find. Click on the map icon and you’re given access to the entire network in the UK.

To find the closest one to you, type your postcode and Zap Map will show you all available charging stations nearby. You can then click on individual icons to find out more information.

Things like whether the station is free to use, and the type of charging cables included are listed, as is commentary from previous drivers – such as whether the cafes nearby are nice or if they’ve ever had issues using the connectors.

You can also find the rates of charging, often displayed as £ per kWh, and whether the chargers require a subscription account before use, or if you can pay directly. This will help you compare various charging prices from nearby stations, much like comparing fuel prices across local forecourts.

The information also lists which provider runs the service, so you can swiftly report any issues either directly to the station provider, or via Zap Map’s own service.

Are there other services like Zap Map I should consider?

Yes, there are other services to consider, too. OpenChargeMap is another mapping service that shows nearby stations, whether they're operational and if they’re free to use. Its coverage extends to other European countries, whereas Zap Map only covers the UK.

If you’re going on a long European holiday in an electric car or plug-in hybrid, OpenChargeMap will help you find charging stations along your route or around the destinations you’ll be staying at. You’ll have access to their exact addresses, whether they need a subscription or not, and the type of connectors available.

Google Maps has also recently added a feature that enables users to locate charging points by searching for phrases such as 'EV charging' or 'EV charging stations'. As well as showing people the nearest charging points, Google will also provide information on the type of charger available and the various charging speeds on offer.

Finding the right connector and charging speeds

The map can also be filtered by either connector or charging speeds. The left-hand side of the map has a menu that allows you to tick which connectors or speeds you’re after. This way, you can choose a station that has, for example, a rapid charger for a quick top up.

What’s also helpful is the map shows you whether or not the station is in use, meaning you won’t spend unnecessary time and money driving to a location, only to find the charging bay occupied.

One of the filtering options is to filter by service and network provider. Different networks require different cards to use the machines, so it’s important to make sure that any station you choose, you are already a member of, or can use it without registering for an account.  

Also, if you’re unsure which type of connector your car has, the easiest thing to do is to filter the map with the make and model of your vehicle – this will show you only available stations that have connecting cables to suit your car. Again, this can be done on the left-hand side of the map.

Route planning

If you’re going for a long drive, it’s worth planning the route in advance or at least having an idea of where the charging stations are along the journey. Zap Map has this covered, too, with its route planning feature.

You have to register an account with Zap Map to access this, but this is free to do and only takes a couple of minutes. Afterwards, you can plan your journey throughout the UK, view charging stations along or near a route, their availability and which charging network they belong to.

Can I use Zap Map while driving?

If you own a smartphone with either the iOS or Android operating system, you can download the Zap Map app. As long as you’ve correctly installed a phone mount in your car, you can then use the Zap Map app to find the nearest stations and navigate to them. It's not yet possible to integrate Zap Map with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.