Complete guide to the IONITY charging network

The manufacturer-backed IONITY rapid-charging network is expanding across the UK and Europe – this is all you need to know

IONITY was created following Shell’s acquisition of charging company NewMotion – one of the largest charging providers in Europe – and builds on the portfolio of Shell Recharge fast chargers already located around the UK.

It’s the second example of a major oil company investing in electric vehicle charging, after BP’s takeover of Chargemaster in 2017. IONITY is a joint venture initially involving Daimler (parent company of Mercedes), BMW, Ford and VW Group brands Audi and Porsche. Hyundai and Kia became shareholders in September 2019.

At the same time as bringing Hyundai and Kia on board, IONITY also debuted a new design of charging station for its network, dubbed the 'High-Power Charger'. The unit promises an improved user experience, incorporating an LED light ring to act as a 'beacon' at night, making it easier for drivers to find stations. The ring indicates the chargers' availability by its colour, as well as providing a well-lit area for drivers charging their cars during darkness.

Each station features between four and six charging points, although most of IONITY’s sites have contracts for 10 years, which could see them expand as demand for public chargers rises. All sites receive 24-hour support – both remote and on-site – with a network of 2,400 points across Europe planned. The number of live stations had reached 150 in 20 countries by June 2020.

Recently, IONITY announced a new kilowatt-hour-based metered pricing structure for its 350kW electric-car charging points. Previously, IONITY had charged a flat fee of £8 for all charging sessions, regardless of how much electricity drivers consumed. This change comes partly in response to the UK government recently calling for card-payment capability at rapid chargers to become mandatory.

Since 31 January 2020, IONITY customers without contracts have been charged an ad-hoc rate of £0.69 per kWh, or €0.79 per kWh for locations on the continent. Those who access the network through manufacturer contracts from the likes of Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche get a cheaper rate.

The ad-hoc fee translates to a 0-100% charge cost of approximately £27 for a 40kWh Nissan Leaf, or around £41 for a Tesla Model 3 Long Range, although rapid chargers like these are more commonly used for topping up in smaller increments, with full charges completed on home wallboxes overnight.

Ionity chargers charging

IONITY chargers in the UK

There are currently five IONITY locations in the UK. The most recent to open was Cambridge, after Leeds Skelton Lake, while the second and third UK stations to open were at Gretna Green and Milton Keynes Coachway.

These followed the arrival of IONITY’s first facility on J8 of the M20 in Maidstone, Kent, in May 2019. By mid-2019, IONITY had secured deals for 30 sites across the country and the company plans to have a 40-strong network of rapid-charging stations in operation here by the end of 2020. This expansion will depend heavily on when, and to what extent, the current coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Eight of those charging stations will be at service areas run by Extra MSA Group. They include the already-open Leeds Skelton Lake (M1, J45) and Cambridge (A14/M11, J28), along with Cobham (M25),  Beaconsfield (M40, J2), Cullompton (M5, J28), Blackburn with Darwen (M65, J4), Baldock (A1M, J10) and Peterborough (A1M, J17).

Energy technology company Octopus Energy – backed by Octopus Investments, which claims to be the UK's largest investor in solar power – provides the electricity for every IONITY charging station in the UK. The firm promises "100% renewable energy", giving drivers "peace of mind" regarding their impact on the environment.

As well as the UK, IONITY operates a huge number of charging stations across Europe, with many more due in the next 12 months.