How to use a Tesco electric car charger


Martin Gurdon

15.6.2022

As the Tesco advertising catchline says, “Every Little Helps”. And while the company might mean they will save you a few pence on multibuy muesli, they will also fill your car with free fuel while you shop. But only if you have an electric car.

Last year we crowned Tesco as our charge point champ, because it had more places to plug in electric cars than any other supermarket. It also won points in the awards because it is (mostly) free to use and the electricity used to charge comes from renewable sources.

Tesco’s charging station network is vast and run by Pod Point in conjunction with Volkswagen. In the Spring a Tesco Metro in sunny Inverness became the 500th store where electric cars could be charged, and 600 in total are planned.

To charge, first you will need to find the points in the car park. Mostly they will be located in one of the more remote sections of the car park, as it means they are less likely to be used by lazy parkers in a petrol or diesel car. They also tend to be near the store building as this is where the power cables can be tapped into when installing the points.  

Most of Tesco’s charging posts are 7.2kW jobs that will give you a quarter of an hour’s worth of free electricity, without needing to use an app or a card.

But if, like Oliver Twist, you want some more, you will need to use Pod Point’s app to log in and ‘officially’ start the charge. If you don’t do this everything shuts down after your fifteen minutes is up. 

It's pretty simple to use, although you will need to have a decent data connection on your smartphone to make it work. If you can’t try latching on to the store’s free Wi-Fi link instead.

The points are clearly flagged, and tend to be near the store, but far enough from the entrance to deter the lazy parkers

You can either allow the app to find the point you are standing to next by giving it access to your location data, or you can do a manual search. Every PodPoint charger has a name for each socket (like “Betty – Sue”) and you’ll need to make a note of which one you are connected to in order to keep the power flowing past the 15 minute limit.

Some Tesco car parks also have sparkier 22kW charging posts that will give your car a decent shot in its batteries while you shop. There are only a few cars which can accept such high rates (such as Renault Zoes and some more modern German models), but many more will accept up to 11kW. This means it’s worth plugging in even if you are just popping in for a pint of milk and a microwave meal for dinner.

Finally, most sites have at least one rapid charger, but you will have to pay for these. They are all 50kW, which is at the lower end of the speed scale these days, but will be able to get 100 miles of range into an average electric car in the time it takes to do a weekly shop.

Stores with 50kW rapid DC charging will also offer 22kW AC points

There is another cost you need to be aware of too though. If you leave your car for an afternoon of fun and frolics, you could be landed with a fine for overstaying your car park welcome. Generally, if you don’t vacate a Tesco car park after three hours, ANPR cameras will clock this and the supermarket colossus’ enforcer will be in touch demanding dosh. Not all of its car parks are policed in this way, but it pays to read the small print that can be found on the signage attached to wall and lamp posts.

Finally, if you find that a charging bay is ‘ICE’d’ by someone in a petrol car, or by an electric car driver who isn’t charging, we’d suggest going into the store and asking customer services to put out an announcement asking them to move it. Hopefully they will be embarrassed and inconvenienced enough to make them think twice next time.

Tesco hopes you will spend your fuel savings on other stuff in store

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