Complete guide to the InstaVolt charging network
Need to charge up your electric car on the InstaVolt charging network? Here’s how it works
The InstaVolt charging network does exactly what it says on the tin. While it isn’t the biggest charging network in the country, it’s one of the easiest to use, with no apps or accounts to set up; you just tap your contactless bank or credit card on the screen and plug the cable into your electric or plug-in hybrid car. It really is that simple.
This ease of use was backed up in the 2020 edition of the Driver Power car ownership survey, where InstaVolt placed second in the top 10 list of charging-point providers, behind only the Tesla Supercharger network. The only area it didn’t fare so well was the cost of charging; InstaVolt finished ninth in this category. InstaVolt was also awarded the title of 'Best Universal Charging Provider' in the 2021 DrivingElectric Awards.
How to use the InstaVolt charging network and app
Electric-car drivers can check the availability of stations using the InstaVolt website or (as of June 2021) the InstaVolt smartphone app. The company doesn't issue RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards, as is the case with some other networks. Once you've parked up next to the charger, you simply swipe your bank or credit card on the reader, follow the instructions on screen, and plug the provided cable into your car.
InstaVolt didn't initially have its own app, relying instead on the mobile version of its website, but an InstaVolt app was launched at the beginning of June 2021. The app is optional; you don't have to download it to use InstaVolt chargers. It offers additional functionality, including a live map of InstaVolt’s charging network, a loyalty scheme that allows drivers to earn credit every time they charge and the ability to track charging history.
Where can I find InstaVolt chargers?
Most of InstaVolt's chargers are in England, but there are a handful in Scotland and South Wales. Northern Ireland is still waiting for its first InstaVolt station. As of June 2021, InstaVolt operates over 600 rapid-charging points, located in various towns and cities around the UK. It also has chargers situated on myriad arterial road routes across the country.
Those numbers will skyrocket soon, as InstaVolt has announced it plans to install rapid chargers at 200 Costa Coffee Drive-Thru locations. Its chargers at these locations will offer charging speeds of up to 120kW, which can add 100 miles of range in 15 minutes for those models capable of charging at those speeds.
The company is also installing fast chargers at some of McDonald’s 1,300 Drive-Thrus across the country. The first McDonald's InstaVolt location went live in mid-December 2020, at the Port Talbot restaurant. And InstaVolt's fast-food tie-ins don't end there: in December 2020, the company announced an agreement with KFC to install chargers at up to 450 of the fried chicken chain's drive-through locations.
In June 2020, InstaVolt opened a charging hub at Necton on the A47 in Norfolk, with eight 125kW charging units. The news of the Necton site’s opening followed confirmation just a few weeks previously that work had begun on a new rapid-charging hub just off Junction 11 of the M40 at Banbury in Oxfordshire – with eight charging points at this location, too. This hub opened in mid-August 2020, several weeks ahead of schedule.
In March 2021, InstaVolt announced the opening of an eight-bay hub at Welcome Break’s service area on the northbound carriageway of the M6 at Corley in the Midlands – described by the company as the largest charging hub on the UK motorway network open to drivers of all makes and models of electric car.
How much does InstaVolt charging cost?
InstaVolt charges a flat rate of 35p per kilowatt-hour, with no connection fees or membership rates. This means a full top-up of a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery will cost £14. As is the case with most other public networks, charging at home will almost certainly be cheaper: if your electricity tariff is around the UK average of 12-14p per kilowatt-hour, the same full charge of a Leaf will cost less than £6 from a standard 7kW wallbox.
Payments are made at each InstaVolt charger using a contactless card: there’s no minimum payment, although the company says you’ll initially see a ‘pre-authorisation’ fee of £5 appear on your bank statement. This will automatically be cancelled and replaced with the real amount when you’ve finished charging. Customers can request a VAT receipt by e-mailing the charger station name, time, date and charging cost to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How fast does InstaVolt charge?
This depends on the individual charging station: most are capable of 50kW or more; 250 chargers capable of 125kW were installed from August 2019 onwards. Regardless of charging speed, the company claims that 100% of the electricity provided is produced by renewable sources.
At 50kW chargers, a 40Wh Nissan Leaf will take a 0-80% top-up in around 45 minutes, with a full charge taking closer to an hour. Meanwhile, a vehicle like the 90kWh Jaguar I-Pace will see a 0-80% charge in less than 40 minutes on InstaVolt's newer 125kW chargers.
InstaVolt’s charging stations all come with CCS and CHAdeMO cables installed, so you don’t need to bring your own. That said, many cars without CCS fast-charging technology aren’t currently able to use the InstaVolt network, and some Tesla owners may need a special connector to make use of the CHAdeMO plug. Anyone who encounters an issue while charging can contact InstaVolt directly on a helpline that’s available 24/7: the number is 0808 281 4444.
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