What To Do if an Electric Car Charging Station is Broken

If you drive an electric car at some point you are going to come across a charging station that doesn’t work. Depending on the various factors of your journey this can range from a minor annoyance to a major journey-destroying problem.

So we thought it was about time that someone came up with a definitive list of what you should do if you come across a charging station that doesn’t work.

Let the charging company know

A good first step is to let the company responsible for the charging station know that it isn’t working. It is important to make the distinction between the site owner and the charging station operator here. The former probably has no control over the charging station so complaining to them – while cathartic – probably won’t help the situation.

Ecotricity Electric Highway Rapid Charger

Charging Stations Will Have Support Phone Numbers Printed On Them

Charging station networks usually have their phone number written on the charging station. Give this a call and let them know what is happening. More and more of the infrastructure providers have a staffed call centre or at least ‘working hours’ support even if that is just an engineer on call.

Depending on the problem that is being encountered, you may find that the person on the other end of the phone can solve the issue, starting the charging station remotely. If nothing else they should be able to let you know where their nearest working charging station is located.

If the error cannot be resolved the charging network will now be able to mark that charging station as offline on any maps and databases they link into hopefully avoiding anyone else running into the same problem as you.

Have a look around for another charging station

You may be in luck and find that there is another charging station at the same location. If this is the case, please still phone up the company and let them know that the first station you tried is out of order. This will start their ‘repair’ process and get it added to a list of charging stations to be fixed.

Many motorway charging stations have charging on both sides of the road. In some situations you may be able to use the ‘staff only’ access road to get from one side to the other to avoid traveling along the motorway in the wrong direction. Always worth asking if this is the case.

It is also worth cracking out a smart phone and looking at some charging station maps. Most apps will locate your position by the phone’s inbuilt GPS and be able to direct you to any charging stations nearby. They should also be able to tell you what type of charging stations they are and what power they can supply.

East Bristol Has 12 Charging Stations According to Charge Map on iOS

East Bristol Has 12 Charging Stations According to

Unfortunately there isn’t one ‘go to’ app that has all charging stations listed within it so you may have to juggle a few. To make matters even worse some network providers don’t share their data meaning you may have to try a few websites as well.

User changeable projects like Open Charge Map mitigate these issues to some extent. Users of that database can submit changes, new locations and updates to the central database which then updates all apps and website using it. There are also various Government-created databases but these are usually woefully out of date and hard to use.

Of course it is entirely possible that you may not have enough range to get to the next nearest charging station or that others that are within y our range have been reported broken too. In that case a good fallback is the ‘emergency’ domestic cable. While slow this cable has got a lot of electric car drivers out of a sticky situations by providing the charge they need to get home or to the next operational charging station.

If you are at a site where there are amenities then it is a good bet that they are interested in helping out electric car drivers – after all why would they have one installed if they weren’t interesting in getting your custom? With your domestic cable any normal socket could be your plug to salvation! But do ask permission first.

Phone for recovery

What can you do if all the above doesn’t work – well, not a lot. It’s time to give your recovery company a call. Or is it?

Many electric cars are now sold with guarantees for cases just like this. It’s always worth knowing if you are eligible for free recovery through your cars manufacturer – even if it has some restrictions placed on it.

Nissan Offers Free Recovery in their Care-EV Programme

Nissan Offers Free Recovery in their Care-EV Programme

Even if your manufacturer recovery option will only get you home or to the next rapid charger, it’s better than paying for your own recovery or having your premiums go up. Plus one of those locations may be exactly where you want to go.

But what about the embarrassment of having your flash electric car returned to your driveway on a flatbed in front of all your neighbours? You just need to be a tad sneaky. Have the driver drop your car off a couple of miles down the road – assuming you have the range – and just drive the car on to your driveway.

After all, it’s not your fault the charging station didn’t work. Why should you have to live with the stigma?

Potential for the future?

In the future issues like this should start to fade away. More redundancy will be added to the public charging networks meaning if one charging station goes down, you don’t have to worry.

Also for the past couple of years various charging station component and recovery companies have been testing small portable rapid chargers. Compact enough to just fit into a car, these rapid chargers have a small battery within them. They are designed to give your car an additional 10 miles in 10 minutes or so before running out of power themselves.

They are based on the idea that most electric car drivers will run out of power towards the end of a journey and just need the extra push to get there. While these haven’t been rolled out by any national recovery companies yet, with the uptake of electric cars rising it can only be a matter of time.

Do you have any tips for what to do if you turn up at a broken charging station? Maybe you can share your best and worse stories with us? Let us know in the comments.


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  • vdiv

    One learns something new and useful every time they visit or watch Transport Evolved. :)nI didn’t know about Open Charge Map. Really neat!

  • Jeffery Lay

    The portable rapid chargers sound interesting… could be a great counter to range anxiety for a worrier like me. Any chance of you reviewing any commercially available ones, Mark & Nikki?

    • Mark Chatterley

      Ohh. Good idea. I’ll shoot off some emails at the weekend and see if we can drum anything up. I’ve seen models at shows so I believe they are in production.

  • Christopher Cook

    Also, if you leave a comment on Open Charge Map (app or website) with type ‘Fault Report’, it’ll attempt to email the network provider (if we know their email address) and also show the comment to other users.

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