The UK’s largest free electric vehicle charging network has expanded to 500 locations nationwide, while usage surged 300 per cent over the past year.

Free charging sessions on the network increased from 500,000 in April 2021 to more than two million by the end of February.

Since Tesco, Volkswagen and Pod Point launched the network in 2019, the charging points have provided more than 41 million miles of free electric driving to motorists – the equivalent to travelling from Earth to the moon and back 85 times.

The 500th charging location was opened at the Tesco Extra store in Inverness as the network boosts local infrastructure.

Other areas to have benefitted from improved charging access include Southend-on-Sea, Bolton, Wirral, Walsall and Port Talbot.

As the network only uses renewable energy, this milestone represents a saving of 8,786 tonnes of CO2 compared with travelling the same distance in a typical car with an internal combustion engine.

In real terms, this is almost the equivalent CO2 absorbed by 900,000 trees in a year.

Designed to offer Tesco customers a secure, reliable and accessible way to top up their electric cars, the network of more than 1,000 chargers at 500 Tesco Supermarkets in the UK also now includes 100 rapid chargers.

The network’s 7kW chargers and 22kW chargers are free to use, and its 50kW rapid chargers are available at a competitive rate for customers requiring more than a top-up.

The Tesco Inverness store also benefits from a new public rapid charger.

The network’s growth has specifically targeted areas without rapid charging access, with Tesco stores in Leicester and Maldon also gaining rapid charging points.

This latest milestone means the network is on track to meet its original target of launching charging points at 600 Tesco stores across the UK.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “It gives me great pride to see leading companies coming together to bolster the UK’s switch to electric vehicles.

“This Government has already committed £2.5bn to support the rollout of EVs across the country and we will shortly be launching an ambitious infrastructure strategy setting out our plans to deliver a world-class public charging network.”

Jason Tarry, CEO at Tesco UK & ROI, said: “We’re thrilled to see the rollout of free EV charging at our retail stores gather pace.

“The network is helping customers visiting Tesco who need to save time and charge while they shop.

“This latest milestone highlights the commitment across the business to our goal of carbon neutrality in the UK by 2035.”

Sarah Cox, head of marketing at Volkswagen UK, said: “At Volkswagen, we want to make carbon neutral mobility accessible to everyone.

“That’s why we’ve made sure these chargers aren’t just for Volkswagens and can be used by any electric car brand.

“It’s hugely encouraging that drivers from over 220 models from almost 40 different brands have already benefited from free, green top ups while shopping at Tesco.”

Erik Fairbairn, Pod Point founder and CEO, said: “The partnership is continuing to make a significant and very visible contribution to the UK’s charging infrastructure, giving drivers the confidence to transition to electric.

“Pod Point’s mission is to put an EV chargepoint everywhere you park and we’re delighted to see so many more shoppers up and down the country reap the benefits as we continue the rollout.”

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that 190,727 battery electric vehicles were registered in the UK in 2021, an increase of 76.3% on 2020 as the drive to 2030’s electrification deadline continues.

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