We're well aware there is an elephant in the room when it comes to electric car ownership, and that's actually charging a car on the move. As Ginny, Nicki and Tom discussed in their 'Five things we HATE about electric cars' video (which you can watch by clicking here), life isn't always easy for the electric car owner when they use the public charging network.
It's worth remembering, however, that the public charging network has developed very quickly in the past few years and will continue to develop. There were around 800 rapid chargers in the UK in 2015 and now there are some 8,000, and there are some 34,000 chargers in 12,000 locations around the UK.
One of the biggest problems encountered by electric car owners is relying on charging points operated by different companies. This can lead to frustration as some need the driver to have different accounts, payment agreements and cards in order to get a charge – often these need to be set up in advance, which isn't great if you're stranded and need a quick top-up.
No faffing with sign-ups and different account cards with charging services
Manufacturers have cottoned on to this and are introducing 'charging networks' that link owners to thousands of charging points and allowing them to get a charge by using a one size-fits-all payment service.
The latest to offer such a service is Kia with 'KiaCharge', but the Korean carmaker is just one firm trying to take the pain out of charging. Most of the services on offer from car manufacturers, including KiaCharge, is an off-the-shelf service from Digital Charging Solutions GmbH (DSC) – a joint venture between BMW Group and Daimler. It gives access to a vast array of popular charging point providers, including bp pulse, Pod Point, Ionity, Source London, Chargepoint NewMotion, Char-gy and ESB.
Here we round up the car manufacturers offering charging network services.
Let's start with the most recent - Kia. When owners sign up to 'KiaCharge', they get access to 13,900 charge points in the UK from a single account – 1,300 of which are rapid 50kW chargers. KiaCharge also gives access to another 178,000 chargers across 28 other European countries. Payment is via a smartphone or an RFID card and owners get a single itemised monthly invoice.
Being the sister company to Kia, it'll come as no surprise to hear Hyundai offers the same service. 'Charge myHyundai' has already been rolled out to France, Italy, Spain, Norway, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and now the UK – just as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 is revealed. Charge myHyundai works in the same way as KiaCharge, with owners able to pay for a charge with a smartphone app or RFID card and they'll be sent an itemised monthly invoice.
Volkswagen is really ramping up help for owners of its electric cars by offering a suite of charging services under the umbrella name of 'We Charge'. There are three packages: We Charge Free is for all models, costs nothing to sign up, charges 69 per kWh at an Ionity charger, and VW also charges 25p on top of every charge session at all other charging points - it's very much a pay-as-you-go service. We Charge Go is for ID. models only, costs £5.99 a month to use with a minimum contract period of 12 months, there's no extra charge on top of charging sessions at points, and a top-up at an Ionity point is 45p per kWh.We Charge Plus is also for ID. models only and costs £13.99 a month for 12 months. Again, there's no extra charge when you charge up at a non-Ionity charger or if you do plug in to an Ionity point it's 25p per KWh. Whichever package owners go for, We Charge is integrated into the We Connect ID. app.
With Porsche investing so much in electric cars, it won't shock you to discover it has its own charging network service too. Called, umm... 'Porsche Charging Service', Porsche Taycan owners get access to 100,000 charging points across Europe and can hook up to them via their smartphones.As a sweetener, owners get subscription-free access for three years to the service, and three years subscription-free access to Ionity chargers and get charged the discounted rate of 30p per kWh.
Lexus may only have one all-electric car – the UX 300e – but it has a charging agreement with a number of charging point providers to make life a bit simpler. The originally-named 'Lexus Charging Network' is another white-label service from Digital Charging Solutions, so it gives access to around 160,000 charging points across Europe, including the UK. Once at a charging point, UX 300e owners 'identify' themselves with the Lexus Link smartphone app or a Lexus RFID card, and the charging will be invoiced via a single monthly invoice.
Another carmaker to partner with DCS – the BMW and Daimler-owned white-label charging network service Digital Charging Solutions – Fiat offers UK drivers 'My eCharge'. The service gives access to over 150,000 chargers across Europe, including the UK, and allows owners to connect to a charger via their the MyEasy smartphone app or the MyEasy Charge Card, and invoices once a month.The service has just launched and chimes with the arrival of the all-electric Fiat 500e.
Ford has expanded its charging network from 3,000 charge points to 9,500 after signing a partnership with bp pulse. Owners of the Kuga PHEV and the all-electric Mustang Mach-e get a one-year free subscription to AC and DC chargers in the pulse network, while Mustang Mach-E drivers will also get a year's free access to ultra-fast chargers at 15 sites in the UK thanks to Ford being a shareholder in the Ionity network.
Another DCS service, the e-tron Charging Service (eCS) gives plug-in hybrid and pure-electric Audi drivers access to thousands of charging points across Europe via one app or a charge card. eCS gives owners the choice of two tariffs – City and Transit, with City giving access to AC and DC rapid chargers, while Transit offers comprehensive access to a range of chargers including discounted Ionity chargers.For the latter, Audi was offering a one-year free subscription and £150 credit for new e-tron and e-tron Sportback customers last year.
Electric car brand Polestar has a scheme for buyers to make charging on the move a bit easier. Thanks to a partnership with Plugsurfing, Polestar drivers can plug in to some 195,000 charging points across Europe and the UK. Polestar 2 owners get an RFID tag as standard and after creating an account with Plugsurfing can start plugging into chargers with Plugsurfing handling the payment.
Will you sign up?