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; just tap your contactless bank or credit card on the screen and plug the cable into your car. It really is that simple.
This ease of use was backed up in the annual Driver Power customer survey, where InstaVolt placed second in the top 10 list of charging-point providers. 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
As mentioned, there’s no InstaVolt app: electric-car drivers can check the availability of stations using the company’s website, or alternatively using the ChargePoint app. The company doesn't issue RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards, as is the case on 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. It's easy to see why InstaVolt was rated so highly for ease of use in the Power survey.
Where can I charge?
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. InstaVolt currently operates over 500 fast-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 are set to skyrocket in the not-too-distant future, as the company recently announced a tie-up with McDonald's to install fast chargers at the chain's Drive-Thru sites. With 1,300 restaurants across the country, McDonald's UK boss CEO Paul Pomroy claims the aim is to have "more EV charging points on our premises than any other company in the UK and Ireland".
The first McDonald's InstaVolt location went live in mid-December 2020, at the Port Talbot restaurant. And InstaVolt's fast-food tie-ins won'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 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 fast-charging 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 £5.60 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 email@example.com.
How fast can I charge?
This depends on the individual charging station: most are capable of 50kW or more, with 250 new chargers capable of 125kW set to be installed from August 2019 onwards. The first of those 125kW chargers has already been installed in Basingstoke, while a portion of the new units will be retrofitted at existing sites. 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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