If you’re heading across the country in your EV this summer, an EV route planner app will help you plan charging stops along your route. With so many different journey planning tools available for electric car drivers, which is the best? Back in 2022 we did some of the work for you, testing the top apps and tools – and now we’ve done it all again a year later to keep you up-to-date this summer holiday season.
How do I plan a trip with my electric car?
A journey in your EV should be effortless, and the farm shops and other places you may stop add a bit more colour to your journey than a motorway service station. To go back to basics, when we talk about ‘planning’ we mean the following actions:
- Before starting a long trip, charge your EV to 100% at home.
- Download and sign in to at least one EV navigation app.
- Look for charging stations along the route in advance.
- Be realistic about how much time you need to add for charging.
- Pack your cable so that you can charge slowly while you are enjoying time away
What should I look for in an EV route planner?
A good EV planner should plan your route around charging stops with your EV in mind. That means knowing how long your EV can go before needing another charge. Some apps also factor in the terrain (hills) and the weight of passengers and luggage in your car.
EV planners should also help when plans change – with a good map that shows all the charge points around and checks that they are available.
Some EV planning apps also take the headache out of paying for your charging. Zap Map have a Zap Pay, and Octoverse lets you charge your charging to your home energy bill.
Our three golden rules for charging on EV road trips:
1. Stop rapid charging when you get to 80% (any more takes much longer); 2. Plan to stop driving at 20% (better for both battery and peace of mind); 3. Stick to the best networks. Our top picks are: Instavolt, Osprey, MFG and Gridserve.
The top EV route planners put to the test
The good news is that road trips in an electric car are getting easier and easier, with faster chargers – and more of them – dotted everywhere. But, although there are more chargers and they are more reliable, there are also more EVs on the road, so you are still better off doing a little planning before you set off on a long trip. Here are the top eight ev route planning apps we tested:
For each app we asked it to plan a 250-mile route from Aberystwyth, Wales to Essex in a VW ID.3. Scroll down to find out which of these we’ll be reaching for on our own road-trips, and which name left us wanting…
Zap-Map is the most well-known of route planners for EV drivers. It launched way back in 2014, and today the majority of UK EV drivers have it installed on their phones. Zap-Map has almost all public charge points mapped and around 70% showing live status data, so you can tell if a charger is in use.
Key features include search, filters, list of nearby chargers, detailed info on each charging point, Zap-Chat community feature and a smart route-planner.
There’s a free version, that allows you to do basically everything you may need. Zap Map ‘map’ has a bewildering number of pins because it shows all the available chargers, even the slowest 3kW chargers. You can filter these out to show only rapids. It shows you the cost and the availability (according to the charger itself) plus the hours or days since the last charge. Users often report chargers that are out of action. This gives you an idea of how reliable and/or busy the charger is.
The plus and premium version cost £29.99 and £47.99 per year, and give you a few extra features, like What3words navigation, enhanced filters and charger ratings to help you avoid the less reliable chargers. You have to pay for premium to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay display in your car screen.
In-car display is a great feature, allowing you to see the details of each charge point including live charge point status data (where available) and the latest EV driver chats.The only downside is that if you are used to getting live traffic updates using Google Maps, you won’t get these when you’ve got Zap-Map plugged into your car.
Networks with live data on Zap-Map are indicated with an icon on their respective logos. Updated every five minutes, live data shows a blue marker around charge point icons when it is in use. Networks include: Instavolt, Osprey, Gridserve, MFG, BP Pulse, ESB, GeniePoint, Fastned, Ionity, Tesla, Shell, ChargePlace Scotland,
✔ Community chat is well used so you can see if a charger has had issues recently
✘ Charger colours aren’t particularly user-friendly (note: we found out how to get a handy symbols key in the app)
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2. ABRP (A Better Route Planner)
A Better Route Planner (ABRP) is an app that guides you through the quickest way to arrive at your destination. It’s a website and an app for both Android and iOS devices.
A Better Route Planner is a smart, fun, and easy-to-use itinerary maker that lets you plot out routes in the most efficient way possible.
A Better Route Planner focuses on route planning and navigation specifically for electric vehicles. You have to simply select your vehicle model, enter your destination, and hit the big blue plan button to get a full planned route, including charging stations and trip duration.
It has a very simple interface. But change mode and you can see the hills on the route where you could use the most energy. Users say the results are very accurate, taking into account temperature and road conditions. Tesla drivers even prefer it to the Tesla Planner as it favours more charges within the efficient ‘fast’ charging zone of your battery than the Tesla app.
The free version allows you to share to Google Maps to get live traffic updates. The premium version has traffic built-in.
✔ Accurate predictions on range
✔ Shows you all the food options near your charger
✘ Live data on top charger networks only
Got the right energy tariff for your home charging?
3. Watts Up
Watts Up is definitely confidence boosting. Clear map showing logos of rapid charging options, and a very reassuring list of the real-time available nearest chargers. Status bar shows real-time status, to show the next chargers and (for some networks) their availability.
Wattup shows live status for top networks – Instavolt, Osprey, and Gridserve and now live, as are smaller networks ChargePlaceScotland, ForEv.
Nearby public chargepoints are shown within the free CarPlay interface, this shows location, distance, power rating and live availability. And you can ‘favourite’ the chargers you like for quick reference.
We tried to upgrade to a trial version of ‘Discovery mode’ (cost £1 through Google Playstore), but it never worked and was impossible to cancel from the app itself, so we can’t even report on the benefits of that.
✔ Seeing the logo of the charge operator on the map makes it easy to weigh up best operator against best location (see our top network tips above)
✘ Not on your laptop or tablet, it’s only an app on your phone
4. Google Maps
You can actually get some helpful information from Google Maps as an electric car driver, but it is buried deep within the mapping interface. What we trust Google to do is show us the best route and to reroute us based on what’s happening with traffic, so it’s worth including Google in this list of EV route planners. We expect that Google are working on making it better for predictions.
On a desktop computer, All you have to do is plug in your journey details, tap the option for ‘search along route’, and then search for ‘EV charging stations’. Then Google Maps will present you with all the stations along your route, with details about the type of chargers available. On your phone, tap the three dots on the top right and then ‘Search along route’. You still have to type ‘EV charging’, but then you’ll see all the chargers on your route and can add a stop.
The problem comes if you get rerouted because Google finds a quicker route. Google will think you still need to stop at that charger.
✔ Live traffic on your route
✘ No help choosing chargers
Explore all electric cars
This app is most like Zap-Map, but it seems like it’s aimed at a US driver. With brown and green pins that look like petrol pumps, it’s looks are not inspiring. The PlugShare app can be used to plan a trips in a specific vehicle and shows you a map. It doesn’t show how elevation affects your range, just shows you the likely max range with a big green circle on the map – and that is either very conservative or hasn’t noticed what car we selected. You can filter by reviews, so you can see only the best chargers in other drivers’ opinions.
We were expecting great things from PlugShare, but in fact were really disappointed. For example, it showed us Tesla chargers for our ID.3 (not the one’s just opened up to other users) and it didn’t seem easy to filter away slower chargers.
✔ Easy to filter chargers by user ratings (this is Premium feature in Zap-Map)
✘ No option to share route to Google for real-time navigation from the app. And it let us choose chargers ‘along the route’, so we accidentally picked a Northbound charger on a Southbound journey!
6. EV Navigation
Back to the geeky end of route planning, EV Navigation, is a comprehensive solution for predicting the discharge rate of the battery with precision but it also manages to look simple. It calculates routes and takes the charging times into consideration. You can tell it how many people you have in the car and how you are likely to drive (sport, normal or eco), even the pressure in your tyres.
This gives EV drivers the ability to optimise their drive time and spend the least amount of time necessary waiting at charging stations. If you don’t like the look for the charging stop they suggest, it’s very hard to find alternatives.
✔ Great to see the impact of passengers and driving style, etc.
✘ Not very interactive if you don’t want to use the charger selected
Even if you aren’t an Octopus customer, you can join the Electroverse charging network. Sign up and they send you a card so you can pay for charging through your home energy bill or on a registered card. On some networks there is a discount for using chargers off-peak – Osprey will give you 20% off for charging after 7pm.
We like the fact that the map shows you rapid chargers (namely Instavolt and Gridserve) that aren’t on the network. Better still, the Electroverse card works across Europe, where an RFID card or app are still vital, as contactless payments are less common.
Share £10 when you join Electroverse
On our latest review, the route planner now works from the app. The planner was made more difficult as autocomplete seemed to suggest lots of places in the USA with similar names. The route suggested was sensible, and you can send the route to Google Maps on your phone to get live traffic updates.
The map shows you all the networks in any spot, including those who haven’t partnered – of which the big names missing from their payments system are Instavolt and Gridserve. You’ll get a 20% discount on Osprey charging after 7pm.
✔ No more upfront ‘holds’ on your credit card, just pay it off on your home bill
✔ Great for European road trips
✘ Route planner doesn’t show you alternatives along the route, but you can use the app to see all the options
✘ Network doesn’t include Gridserve or Instavolt chargers (although you still see where these are on the app)
Bonnet is a payment app that lets you plan routes across the UK and Europe and access charging through a single app (or RFID card if you prefer). It is similar to the Electroverse app, except you can buy a number of Boosts which are subscriptions that get you a discount on all charging sessions. For £2 a month you can get 10% off charging, £8 gets you 15% off. The rapid networks to watch out for are Osprey, Ionity, MFG, and up and coming Evyve. It has also partnered to show untethered 7kW Connected Kerb chargers.
We were disappointed to learn that, just as if you had turned up to use contactless on a new network, Bonnet still has to hold £30 in prepayment authorisation for each charge you do.
Bonnet Premium does offer a route planning app for newer EVs. It is currently being offered for free as a beta product, but you need to add a payment method and will get a reminder if it ever starts to be a charged-for service.
We gave it a test, and found it very difficult to even find the route planning tool. (There’s a tiny bent arrow on the main map). The results, including one charger that was offline, were meaningless as they gave no information about the estimated battery SoC%, or charging time. On the bright side, it was easy to cancel Premium right there in the app.
Main features of the best EV route planners
|EV route planner||Desktop version?||In-car version?||Live data connection to your EV?||See charger availability?||Predictions based on route elevation?||Live traffic navigation||Multiple EVs||Cost of Premium version|
|ABRP||✓||Premium||✓||Top networks only||✓||✓ Premium. (Basic allows you to send to Google Maps)||Premium||£48/year|
|Electroverse||Route planning in app and share to Google Maps||✓||✗||✓||✗||✗||✓||Free|
The features offered by these apps are changing all the time. We’ve done our best to compare apps in May 2022 (updated June 2023), but if you have found any changes and would like to give us an update, we’d love to put things right. Email us at: email@example.com
Our verdict: Which route planning app is best?
We gave each EV route planning app a score for various aspects of planning a long journey. The best app scored 5, with the worst getting a 1:
|EV route planner||Ease of use||Good for EV beginners||Accurate EV predictions||EV Features for free||Total score|
By way of background, we’ve been driving an EV since 2019. We don’t often use public charging, as most of our journeys can be completed with home charging. We have always used Zap-Map to plan trips and Google Maps to navigate to avoid traffic jams and hold-ups. We stick to the better charger networks (see the golden rules above), and try and avoid charging when the roads are busy. Probably as a result of this, our experience of rapid charging in the last year is generally quite positive.
Following our desk-based research, we’ll be immediately retiring the PlugShare app. We’ll recommend Watts Up to our more anxious EV-newbie friends and relatives. And we’ll watch the newer EV Navigation for further developments.
Which is the best EV route planner app?
For our longest trips, we’d go to ABRP to provide the most accurate route planning. For the genuine ease of use (with one RFID card to almost end them all), we’d use Octopus Electroverse (and better still, you can get £5 credit when you join using our link). Although we’d love to see payment links with the reliable Instavolt or motorway-based Gridserve networks in the future.
If you have a passenger who can check updates, Zap-Map is useful for the live charger status data for Gridserve chargers, but an update every five minutes could still leave you waiting for a charger, so it’s probably best to head to a larger site anyway.