The downsides to using public electric car chargers

The downsides to using public electric car chargers

Public EV chargers can be found all over the country. Petrol stations and motorway services have long been equipped with EV charging facilities, and many car parks at supermarkets, leisure centres, restaurants and hotels are following suit.

If you own or drive an EV, you’ve probably used a public chargepoint at least once in your time. They’re very convenient for topping up your battery on the go, or for use on longer journeys. However, there are some downsides to solely relying on public chargepoints for all of your charging needs.


Limited availability

At each location with EV charging infrastructure, there will be a set number of chargepoints. Some locations have invested in a larger number of chargepoints, but it’s more common for there to only be a few per site.

If you’re relying on a chargepoint being available at a specific location, you may be disappointed when you arrive and all of the chargepoints are in use. The current vehicles that are charging could remain plugged in for a few more hours, depending on how much charge they need and whether the chargepoint supports rapid charging. 

You may even find other EV drivers already waiting around the charging stations for one to become available, forming a ‘queue’ that you’ll need to join and wait in if you want to charge your EV at this location. Lots of public chargepoint stations become even busier at certain times of the day, such as evening rush hour when everyone is heading home from work. You may find that availability is further reduced and wait times are even longer during these peak periods.


Reliability issues

Not only can availability be limited by the demand of other EV drivers, but public charging stations are not immune to potential technical issues or maintenance concerns. 

One or more chargepoints at a location may experience a technical problem that renders them unusable until fixed. The owner of the stations will likely have been notified of the fault by their chargepoint management system, but there’s no guarantee how quickly the problem will be resolved.

Public chargepoints being openly exposed also poses other concerns. Harsh weather conditions could affect the reliability of the chargepoints, and the potential of vandalism or general wear and tear can also leave the stations unusable. Once again, there is no guarantee how quickly these issues would be resolved.


Varying costs

When using a public chargepoint, it’s unlikely that you are only paying for the electricity you’ve used. Many charging stations will tack on an additional service fee in order to make a profit on each charge.

Pricing models for public charging stations can vary, making it difficult to predict the cost of a charge. If you have a local location that you regularly use, price prediction can become easier, but remember that electricity prices can fluctuate too, impacting the ‘usual’ cost. 

Some charging networks offer subscriptions which give you a discount on the cost of each charge. This may be a good deal for someone who regularly completes full charges on a specific network of chargers, but for less frequent use, be sure to weigh up the savings compared to the monthly subscription cost.

Some networks require a membership or a subscription in order to access their charging stations. It’s unlikely that you’ll purchase a subscription for a chargepoint type that you’ll rarely use, but when you’re on a long road trip and in dire need of a charge, one of these networks may be the only infrastructure available.


Private charging infrastructure

Investing in a home chargepoint can resolve lots of the issues with relying on publicly available charging options. Private chargepoints aren’t saved exclusively for the home – businesses can also provide EV charging opportunities to employees, with similar benefits.

Firstly, a private chargepoint will always be available when you need it. Of course, if you’re a multi vehicle household with more than one EV, or a business supporting the charging of multiple EVs, another vehicle may be charging at a time you wish to also charge. However, you’ll likely be able to communicate with anyone else who uses the charger in order to fairly negotiate usage. Some businesses even choose to set up a booking system to ensure fair sharing of the available chargepoints.

Private chargepoints are much less likely to encounter issues with vandalism as they are kept on private property. The risk of wear and tear is also lowered due to private chargepoints seeing much less frequent use by a smaller, select few people, compared to public ones.

If a private chargepoint experiences a technical problem or another type of fault leaving it unusable, it’s your own responsibility to organise repairs. If you need to regularly use your charger, you’re likely to quickly sort out repairs. The same cannot always be said for public charging stations.

When it comes to the cost, a home chargepoint will only ever cost you the price of the electricity used per charge. Of course, there is an upfront cost of the chargepoint and its installation, but this initial investment sets you up to save money in the future. There are ways to lower the cost per charge, such as charging your vehicle overnight whilst electricity is cheaper. Some chargepoints also allow you to sell any excess energy back to the grid, further reducing costs. Business EV charging infrastructure for employees can be used to make a small profit, or to provide the incentive of free charging to your staff. Whether you’re installing a chargepoint at home or at your business, make sure that you utilise any available government grants to save on the cost of your chargepoint and installation.

Public chargepoints will continue to be a lifesaver on long journeys or when you’re caught without enough battery life to get you home. However, the benefits of having a private chargepoint heavily outweigh those of public charging stations. 

Any EV driver should consider the convenience of installing a private charging station, whether that’s at home or at work. Contact us to find out how we can help.