The nights are drawing in, the mornings are taking longer to wake themselves up and everything’s getting colder. So how do you go about making charging your car in an unfamiliar location as easy - and safe - as possible? Here’s our guide.
While the charging infrastructure in the UK is improving by the minute, it’s not impossible to find yourself in the back of a dimly-lit carpark or industrial unit if you’re running low on charge. Follow the directions on a charging app, and a place that’s fine at 10am or looks fine in the pictures is a little bit less welcoming at 10pm.
1. Do some research:
One of the best things you can do is take five minutes to just check out where you might want to charge - and the best place to do that is mobile phone apps like ZapMap, WattsUp!, PlugShare and the like, or a chargepoint provider’s specific planners like Shell Recharge. Most of these will provide basic information about charger power and availability, but it’s also worth checking out the pictures to see if there’s decent lighting and facilities nearby. Also look at the comments from other users - it gives you an idea of where you might end up. And if it looks unsuitable, then maybe there’s somewhere nearby that’s worth an extra five minute detour.
Doing a little bit of research before you set off can help find a better charge point
2. Get busy:
Look for chargers where there’s likely to be a bit of hustle and bustle - other people around, CCTV and decent lighting. If the choice is between a charger on an industrial estate or one that’s a bit further away on a petrol station forecourt, you might be more comfortable travelling a little further. Lamppost chargers tend to be on residential streets and by their nature tend to be fairly well lit and well… residential.
Shell Recharge offers a network of 230 on-forecourt charging points in the United Kingdom and is growing every month. These include rapid 50kW and ultra-rapid 150kW and 175kW chargers which are properly illuminated and in accessible locations. So your worries are limited to whether you should buy a sausage roll or a pasty. And Shell Recharge Solutions provides customers with access to a public network of over 10,000 charge points.
3. Stay appy:
If you have to charge and haven’t got other options - we’ve all been there - then you can also check out the brilliant WalkSafe app. WalkSafe is a cracking bit of kit that allows you to identify local crime hotspots and plan safer routes, allows trusted friends to ‘follow’ you on planned trips and generally gives you the tools to make more informed choices about where to stop. It’s primarily aimed at people commuting or walking home at unsociable hours, but it’s not just for walking, and useful for anyone who might have to stop for a bit in unfamiliar territory.
Seek out busy locations even if it means driving a little further
4. Be practical:
Know where your cables are and what they do. Like any new technology, it doesn’t take long to figure out what things do and where they go (soon it becomes second nature), but knowing where your cables are - and keeping them relatively accessible - will stop you fumbling around with your head down in the dark for longer than is necessary. The more quickly you can connect, the easier and less stressful a stop will be - and you’ll spend more time charging and less time faffing. A bit of homework pays dividends when it’s rainy and cold.
5. Be aware:
If you’re worried, treat the situation like you would any other where you’re uncomfortable. Be aware. Stay in the car and lock your doors. And have a good scan around when connecting and disconnecting - you shouldn’t have to, but it’s wise to take basic precautions. Also, if you are in the dark, be careful of trip hazards. Use the car’s headlights to light the way, and watch out with your feet - we’ve tripped over more than one charging cable. It’s also wise to know where your charge point is in relation to the charger, good parking can save a lot of cable-wrangling!
While most public charging stations should be capable of contactless payment, sometimes they just don’t function as they should and it can take time to sort it out and get the power you need. So it’s worth downloading some of the more popular apps - or even applying for the specific RFID card - and pre-loading them with the basic information necessary to start a charge. You’ll soon get to know if there are specific providers on your route or in areas that you regularly go to, and it can save time and hassle. Registering with Shell Recharge, for example, will give you access to multiple easy payment options; on the app, via RFID card, via QR code, or via contactless bank card - enabling easy charging at over 3,000 charge points across the UK.
Be prepared when you get to the charger, knowing where you cables are and having any cards or an app ready