What is 'charge rage' and could it get worse in the UK?

Arguments over EV charging points etiquette have reportedly broken out at some service stations.

  • An increase in electric vehicle ownership has reportedly led to tensions at charging points.

  • More people are choosing to buy electric cars to get ready for the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035.

  • One motoring expert told Yahoo News UK: “If you’ve hit 80% and someone else is waiting to charge, you should move on.”

Electric Car Charging station and notice
EV charging points have given rise to ‘charge rage’. (Alamy)

An increase in electric vehicle (EV) ownership in the UK has reportedly given rise to arguments about charging points etiquette.

There are more than 850,000 electric cars in the country, according to ZapMap, with another 530,000 plug-in hybrids.

The cars are able to charge at one of the 48,450 charging points across 30,000 charging locations, following a dramatic increase in availability over the past year.

But rows have reportedly started between electric car drivers over queues and who was waiting in line first.

Moto, the UK’s biggest chain of motorway service stations, has been forced to hire marshals at some locations to stand guard and break up rows between drivers over the limited charging points.

Moto’s chief executive, Ken McMeikan, said his staff were dealing with “very angry and stressed” drivers.

He told The Sunday Telegraph: “People need to drive their EV cars around without range anxiety, without long queues and without public disorder but at peak seasonal times we are experiencing all this now.”

McMeikan branded the the phenomenon "charge rage".

Gridserve Electric Highway, Moto Rugby M6, England
Some EV drivers have reportedly grown frustrated with charging point etiquette. (Alamy)

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What is charge rage?

The term charge rage is beginning to be used to describe situations where anger breaks out at EV charging points.

McMeikan said long waits for charging points to free up at some Moto service stations meant that tensions had risen, resulting in arguments.

Rapid chargers at motorway service stations can charge most electric vehicles full in 30 minutes to an hour.

However, two cars plugged into the same unit may increase the charging time, while extreme heat or cold can also slow the rate.

Fast charging stations, commonly found at public car parks, will take longer to reach 100% – from between four to six hours.

These slower waiting times may have led to frustrations while charging.

Billum, Denmark - August 8, 2023: Two cars connected by cable to an electric charging pole.
Two cars sharing the same charger can slow down the charging speed. (PA)

How can charge rage be prevented?

Asif Ghafoor, a member of Charge UK, an organisation aiming to double the size of the charging network through 2023, told Yahoo News UK that there is “some education to do among EV drivers” over the “understanding of etiquette”.

He said that “little and often is usually quicker that one long charge”, adding: “Drivers trying to charge to 100% end up blocking chargers, leading to frustration and unnecessary waiting times.

“If you’ve hit 80% and someone else is waiting to charge, you should move on.”

Ghafoor, the chief executive and co-founder of charging network app Be.EV, said that future solutions within the industry could include texts sent to drivers when they’re close to overstaying, or giving clear warnings to drivers before they start driving.

Tools such as ZapMap can help EV drivers find charging points. (ZapMap)
Tools such as ZapMap can help EV drivers find charging points. (ZapMap)

Motoring expert Quentin Wilson, who founded pro-EV campaign group FairCharge, told Yahoo News UK that drivers should aim to charge 100% before leaving home.

He also advised using charging locators or apps like ZapMap to help find the nearest chargers during less busy periods.

Wilson said: “Planning ahead is important, but many EVs will automatically tell you where the nearest charger is, how many stalls are vacant and how long you need to charge for.”

Full battery warning light on speedometer instrument panel of EV electric vehicle, Electric car technology concept.
Motoring experts advise charging EVs to 100% before setting off on journeys. (Getty)

Does the UK need more EV chargers?

With the rate of EV chargers rapidly growing, some motoring experts believe the capacity needs to be vastly bigger to cope with increased EV ownership.

James May, who presents The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime, said that battery technology is “not good enough for what we’re expecting of the electric car” – and claimed the UK would need “millions of chargers” for people to fully charge their cars.

However, cars do not need to be fully charged before using and charging gets slower past around 80% to protect the vehicle’s battery.

Wilson believes the government still needs to do more, telling Yahoo News UK: “As EV adoption increases we need much faster grid and Distribution Network Operator connections, as this is now considered as national infrastructure.”

Wilson also said that some service stations needed more high speed chargers, but the wait for grid connections can sometimes be as long as three years.

He added: “The government pledged to speed up grid connections for high power chargers and remove bottlenecks. This can’t come soon enough.”

Tesla superchargers for Electric vehicles at Fleet motorway services in Hampshire, signs indicate that the chargers are unavailable for use,England,UK
Last year the government announced a planned tenfold increase in EV charge points by 2030. (PA)

Will the situation get worse?

Despite the reports of charge rage at some Moto sites, it is not an issue for most EV drivers, according to James Court, chief executive of EVA England, a group that represents EV members across the country.

He told Yahoo News UK that it would be “useful for some sites to have extra help” during peak times but “day to day it really isn’t much of an issue”.

Court added: “It’s worth remembering that the vast majority of EV drivers, consistently over 90%, say they would never go back to petrol and diesel.”

Last year, the government announced a planned tenfold increase in EV charge points by 2030.

About 300,000 public chargers are expected to be available by 2030 – about five times the number of fuel pumps currently available on UK roads.

At least 6,000 rapid chargers will be rolled out across England’s motorways by 2035, while local authority red tape will be cut to allow private companies to provide their own points more quickly.