2020 Britain: Top Ranking of Best UK Electric Car Charging Networks

Tesla and InstaVolt were rated the best charging networks in Britain for electric cars by drivers of electric vehicles in the UK in 2020.

Revealed: UK’s top ranking electric vehicle networks
Tesla and InstaVolt were rated the best charging networks in Britain for electric cars by drivers of electric vehicles in the UK in 2020.
© Zap-Map

Zap-Map’s annual electric vehicle charging network satisfaction rankings confirmed Tesla as the best charging network for drivers of electric cars in Britain. Instavolt was the highest-ranking multi-brand network in the UK. Osprey (formerly Engenie) improved to third position and scored highly for its reliability and ease of use. Reliability was the most-important factor in choosing an electric car charging network with the worst-rated networks criticized for lack of reliability and complicated user and payment experiences.

Zap-Map UK EV Charging Network Survey 2020

The 2020 Zap-Map survey of electric car charging networks in Britain is based on a sample of more than 1,500 Zap-Map users. Tesla retained its top spot as Britain’s most appreciated EV charging provider, the network receiving the highest-ranking.

In second place overall, and the top place for multi-brand networks, was InstaVolt, which retains its second spot for the third year running.

In third place, and greatly improving on its 2019 ranking, was Osprey (formerly Engenie), which scored highly for its reliability and ease of use.

As part of the survey, EV drivers were also asked to rank the factors which were most important when choosing a charge point. Reliability remained the key factor (weighting 5.0), followed by ease of use (2.6), cost (2.3), and finally the local amenities at the charging location (1.0).

Ranking of Best EV Charging Networks in the UK

The 2020 survey rated 16 electric-vehicle charging providers in Britain which are ranked from a maximum of 5.0 stars down to the lowest ranking of 2.0 stars. For those networks which EV drivers use regularly, respondents were asked to rate their overall satisfaction (using a 5-point Likert scale), and also their level of satisfaction in the four key areas of reliability, ease of use, cost, and facilities.

Ranking of the best electric car charging networks in Britain in 2020.

Compared with the previous ranking survey, this year’s movers and shakers are Osprey (formerly Engenie), which leap-frogged five places to take 3rd place; bp pulse (formerly BP Chargemaster/ Polar) which dropped 5th to 13th place; and Swarco E.connect which entered the list for the first time in a strong 5th position.

In contrast, at the bottom of the table, Ecotricity’s Electric Highway network was ranked with the lowest score, one user commenting that “they are out of date and unreliable, with a monopoly on motorway site locations”, a sentiment which resonates with many other Zap-Map users that rely on rapid charging at motorway services for longer journeys across the UK.

Top Three Best Electric Car Charging Networks in Britain

According to the Zap-Map users survey 2020, the following were the three best electric vehicle charging networks in Britain:

Tesla – Best Electric Charging Networks in Britain

Tesla’s network of over 560 high power superchargers and 1,100 destination chargers continues to provide an excellent charging experience for Tesla drivers. As it is only open to Tesla vehicles, the charging process is controlled and seamless with no need for any cards, automatic payment on account and free charging for many early adopters (others pay a very competitive 24 p/kWh).

As well as being in the overall top spot, Tesla was in first place for all other categories with the exception of price. Here it came second to ChargePlace Scotland where many chargers are free to use. In 2020, Tesla added CCS charging capability for the popular Model 3, and upgraded many supercharger locations to 250 kW.

Network stats:

  • 562 superchargers (120/250kW) across the UK
  • 1,186 destination chargers (11/22 kW) located at hotels, retail sites, etc.

InstaVolt — Best Multi-Brand Charging Networks in Britain

InstaVolt, maintains its second place for three years running, and first place for a multi-brand network, by providing a network of reliable rapid chargers and simple contactless payment.

With over 460 rapid chargers across the country, InstaVolt has the third largest rapid network after Tesla and bp pulse.  Ranked in 2nd place for both reliability and ease of use, feedback from respondents highlight the reliability of the InstaVolt chargers and the fact that there are generally two chargers at each location providing a level of redundancy. They also delight in the simple and consistent PAYG access provided through contactless payment.

Note, however, that as the units have no AC connectors, Renault Zoe drivers are unable to use them. Also InstaVolt locations are sometimes located at back of service stations or places with no facilities.

The network is ranked in 8th place for cost, with the charge an above average 35 p/kWh, and in 7th place for facilities. This year, InstaVolt has recently announced deals with KFC, Starbucks and McDonalds so expect an increased score for facilities in 2021.

Network stats:

  • Rapid network of 461 chargers, 3rd largest rapid network after bp pulse and Tesla
  • InstaVolt charge points are located at retail parks, gyms and service stations and are beginning to rollout across Starbucks and KFC outlets.

Osprey — Third Best Electric Car Charging Network in Britain

Recently rebranded, Osprey has been one of the highest movers going from 8th in 2019 to 3rd position this year with a combination of reliable chargers, good visible locations, and easy payments using contactless and app access.

With a growing network of more than 170 rapid and fast charge points, Osprey provides charging for all vehicle models and is also ranked in 3rd position for reliability and ease of use; as well as rapid provision, the addition of AC connectors makes it usable by Renault Zoe drivers thus providing charging for all EV models.

Osprey provides contactless payment on all charge points, have recently released a membership app for regular users and all charge points are available on Zap-Pay the cross-network payment system. The charging price, at 36 p/kWh, is considered high by many although surprisingly this is not reflected in the ranking for price, as they have come in 4th position.

Many of the chargers are located at pubs or restaurants via the relationship with Marston’s, which has resulted in a 2nd place ranking for amenities.

Network stats:

  • Rapid and fast charging network with 174 chargers, 7th largest rapid network in UK.
  • National network located at high-quality sites including at Marston’s pub/restaurant chain.

Three Worst Charging Networks in the UK

At the other end of the table, the key issues for the low ranking of the bottom three networks in the survey are the lack of reliability and ease of use. Pricing and the lack of amenities also play they part. The lowest ranking network are now described in more detail.

Rank #14 – Source London

Many users complain about the pricing on the Source London, which is highly unusual as it is charged on a per minute basis rather than the more standard per kWh. However, the price for charging generally also includes the price of parking which is also high in London and allows pre-booking for members.

In addition, the overall access experience, via app, RFID card or on-screen payment, is poor, the majority of sites are on-street rather than at destination sites, and the network includes no rapid (high-power) units. Ranked 9th and 7th for reliability and ease of use respectively, with cost at 15th position and facilities at 14th place.

Rank #15 – Charge Your Car (CYC)

This UK-wide network with a mix of 800 rapid, fast and slow chargers came 15th overall and a low ranking in all categories (including 14th for amenities) with the exception of price. The network has reduced in size over the last year with the loss of both Manchester and Bristol/Bath regional networks, which are now operated by other providers.

The key issues cited by EV drivers is poor reliability with chargers often being out of service, slow maintenance response and patchy customer service. Many of the charge point units are seen as old and there are complaints about the usability of the PAYG CYC app.

Although overall in second bottom place, EV drivers have ranked CYC in 4th place for price, reflecting the fact that CYC allows the host site to set the pricing which results in different prices across areas, with many being free of charge.

Rank #16 – Electric Highway

At the bottom of the ranking is Ecotricity’s Electric Highway, a pioneer in rapid charging with its network of more than 300 charge points mainly located at the motorway service areas.

In addition to having the lowest overall ranking, the Electric Highway is also placed last for reliability and ease of use. The survey respondents commented that the units are old, poorly maintained, and frequently out of service, the issue being most pressing for CCS users, with most sites only having one CCS connector with no redundancy or alternative provision. There was also mixed comments on the network’s helpline, the key issue being the lack of out of hours support.

While functional, and far from being the worst in the industry, the views on the network’s app is mixed, with users citing the dependence on app access and also the lack of a contactless payment or other open access option.

On the positive side, with most chargers sited at motorway service areas, almost all locations have plenty of amenities, resulting in the network being ranked 3rd in this category. EV drivers also like the fact that the chargers often revert to free vend if there is an issue and the 100% renewable energy promise.

About the Electric Charging Network Survey

The annual EV Charging Survey is conducted by Zap-Map to better understand the EV charging needs of EV drivers, the findings being used to improve Zap-Map and EV charging facilities in the UK.

The survey was conducted online during November 2020, with respondents invited from Zap-Map’s 14,670 opt-in survey panel – with retail vouchers (draw) were offered as an incentive. The survey took around 20 minutes to complete and was intended for EV owners and users only (screened).

Questions focused on five key areas: Charging at home; charging at the workplace; use of the public network; users with a disability; and use of EV charging apps. Question types included single choice, multiple-choice, open text, and 5-point Likert scale type responses. The final survey results included responses from 2,201 completed surveys and will be published in full in January 2021.

Regarding network ranking, respondents were first asked which networks they used regularly, and then asked to rank each of these networks for levels of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the charging service (using a standard 5-point Likert scale). An invitation to provide an overall ranking was followed by similar questions on reliability, ease of use, cost, and facilities. Respondents also had the option to add comments for each network. Of the 2,201 completed surveys, the sample size for the ranking questions was 1,513. Only networks with at least 40 responses were included in the final analysis.