An electric car needs a charging station. The networks are growing. There are two main ways of charging for under an hour: very fast charging stations (over 100kW) and 50kW 'fast' charging stations. In theory, the fastest charging stations (100kW minimum) must allow recharging to 80% charge within less than 30 minutes. This is subject to the condition that the car is equipped with a DC charger of at least 100kW. These are the most expensive. For the cheaper versions, it often takes more than 45 minutes to achieve sufficient charge. Unfortunately, some networks are less reliable than others. Despite some hitches, the ones below have proved their worth.
The best and most reliable of all. But still reserved for users of Tesla branded models, with a few rare exceptions (particularly in the Netherlands). Superchargers have a capacity of either 150kW or 250kW. You can find them all over the place, both in Belgium and abroad.
From a consortium of German and Korean brands, Ionity is aiming to be a rival to the Tesla network. It is growing across Europe, with more and more stations, often on motorways. The charging stations have a maximum (theoretical) power of 350kW with a CCS Combo plug. Partner brands have packages with preferential rates.
This Dutch company is already well-represented in the Netherlands. It has been operating in Flanders and France since 2021. The 300kW charging stations are also available in Switzerland and the UK. Reliability is a must. However, some stations are located in car parks without service areas.
TotalEnergies is installing charging stations at its motorway service areas across Europe. Its charging stations have a capacity of 175kW. The Chademo plug can go up to 100kW, which is not that common. Thanks to their location, drivers can wait in warm service station buildings. There are also charging stations like this in France.
Often installed in TotalEnergies amenities and petrol stations, these 50kW charging stations accommodate Chademo and Combo CCS plugs. There are also a few 175kW and 350kW infrastructures.
During Lidl supermarkets’ opening hours, electric cars can be charged for free using their 50kW Combo CCS and Chademo sockets.
As a Q8 partner, Luminus charging stations are available at motorway services and petrol stations, and in car parks of large national retailers. They have Combo CCS and Chademo 50kW sockets.
The Colruyt Group’s shops and supermarkets are generally equipped with 22kW or 50kW Dats24 charging stations.
Choosing the right one
When charging on long journeys, the fastest charging stations are preferable, with a minimum of 50kW. However, if it is during a customer visit, a meeting between colleagues, an afternoon's shopping, a restaurant meal, a night’s stay in a hotel or a visit to a tourist area and the stop is going to last more than an hour, it is more economical to choose a 22kW or 11kW charging station. This type of power is typically offered by public authorities, hotels and shopping centres.
Unfortunately, you cannot pay with your bank card at charging stations. Often, the procedure is to scan a QR Code to access an application or a web page and then pay with a credit card. But the easiest way is to use a charging card or a multi-network app. Please note that the total cost is not always shown on the charging station when removing the plug.
There are 2 types of service: those with a monthly subscription offering a discount on the charge price and those that are free with a commission on each charge. Choose the package that suits you according to the following criteria:
- frequency of use (subscription if you plan to charge a lot while on the go rather than at home or at work / commission will be better for moderate or irregular use)
- charging station brands and networks available on your usual routes
- subscription and charging prices
- links with the provider of your home charging station
- roaming quality abroad (number of compatible charging stations)
ChargeMap, a free app from a French charging card provider, has a very active forum. Users provide accurate and relevant information about charging station quality, availability and location. Handy to have on your smartphone.