As the maximum mileage range of electric cars continues to grow, more and more motorists are waking up to the possibility of an electric car road trip not only within the UK, but over to the continent and even beyond.

With maximum ranges of hundreds of miles on the top electric car models and a quickly increasing global network of charge points, an electric car road trip to Europe is a more realistic option than ever before.

But what do you need to know when taking an electric car abroad? In this guide, we'll look at some of the general issues, the electric-only considerations, and some useful tips on how to find electric car charge points in Europe.

Driving abroad: standard rules

Make sure you read the general advice for driving abroad in any vehicle, as the vast majority of this will also apply to electric cars. Organisations like the AA, RAC, and the Foreign Office all publish general guidance for travelling and driving overseas.

Take all the necessary documentation with you and keep it in a safe and accessible place inside your vehicle in case you need it. If you remove it from the vehicle for security reasons when you get out, make sure you remember it the next time you go for a drive.

According to the AA, the standard documentation you will usually need when driving abroad includes:

  • Your car insurance certificate
  • Your log book (V5C document)
  • Your driving licence

Leased vehicles are subject to slightly different rules, as you will not have an owner's log book. Instead, you should obtain a VE103 'vehicle on hire' certificate to prove that you have permission to use the car internationally.

If your driving licence has a paper part, as well as (or instead of) a photocard, you should check whether or not you need to take the paper certificate with you.

You should also check whether you need proof of identification, such as your passport and your driving licence.

Vehicles registered in the UK must display a UK sticker — not a GB sticker — prominently on the car's rear. This is the case if your car number plate has a Union flag with a GB symbol, a Euro symbol, a national flag of England, Wales, or Scotland (rather than the Union flag) or no flag/identifier at all.

You do not need a UK sticker if your number plate already has a UK identifier.

Do I need a car insurance green card to drive in Europe?

You no longer need to get a car insurance green card to drive in Europe. UK Government guidance states that all UK motor insurance policies give you third-party cover in EU member states (including the Republic of Ireland) and several other countries like Norway and Switzerland.

Your insurer might give you full cover in the Republic of Ireland, if they treat the British Isles as a single territory: AA car insurance is one example of where this is the case.

A car insurance green card is still needed in some countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, Russia, and North Africa. This list changes over time, so check the GOV.UK website or ask your insurer if you want to be certain before travelling.

If you drive a leased electric car, you should also check with your leasing provider to make sure you can take the vehicle out of the UK without breaching your lease conditions, and without leaving yourself uninsured.

Driving abroad in an electric car

When driving abroad in an electric car, the main concern is knowing when, where and how you will be able to recharge your battery, how much this will cost and how to pay for it.

Charging infrastructure continues to grow quickly, but some EU member states are better served than others.

Have an emergency plan in place in case you run out of charge. You might want to arrange European breakdown cover before you travel, and make a note of the EU emergency number 112, which should work in any member state.

One advantage of electric cars is that they should allow you to drive in low-emission zones, which could actually reduce the cost and complexity of visiting some major European cities.

Charging an electric car abroad

When planning your route, try to search for available charge points, and have alternatives and backups in case you can't find your first choice.

There are many different charging networks across Europe and the rest of the world. Some require you to obtain a key fob or RFID card ahead of use, and may also require you to prepay to top up your account, rather than pay on the day at the charge point.

Mobile apps are a good option as you should be able to install, register and top up your account without waiting to receive a card or fob.

There are also some 'aggregator' services where you can get a single RFID card, which can be used at charge points operated by several networks - handy if this gives you the coverage you need.

Remember that paying by credit or debit card directly at the charge point is relatively rare, although this is changing with time as more locations begin to allow it.

Finding an electric car charge point in Europe

Mobile apps and network websites are generally the best ways to search for electric car charge points in Europe, providing you with a map to zoom, filter, and generate satnav-style directions.

Be sure to filter the search results to only show charge points compatible with your vehicle's charger, whether it's a Type 1, Type 2, Tesla or some other connector type.

It's useful to know that if a Tesla charge point displays a red sign, it can only be used to charge Tesla vehicles. But if it shows a white sign, it should be compatible with all Type 2 charging cables, according to the AA.

Biggest EU charge point networks

Here are four of the biggest EU charge point networks, depending on the type of electric vehicle you drive:

Chargemap

Chargemap operates a multi-network charging pass that claims to cover "most charging stations across Europe". There's also a mobile app for Android and iOS to help you plan your route.

Plugsurfing

Plugsurfing calls itself "the alliance of emobility" and partners with charge point operators who provide a total of more than 250,000 charging locations across Europe.

Shell Recharge

Shell Recharge carries the familiar Shell brand and incorporates the previous NewMotion charging network. The app or RFID card allows 275,000 European charge points, with an ever-growing number of rapid and ultra-rapid chargers available.

Tesla Supercharger

Tesla Supercharger offers ultra-fast top-ups for Tesla drivers and, as mentioned above, may also provide charge points for all Type 2 vehicles.

More information by country

Finally, check for information for the specific country or countries you intend to visit. Both the RAC and the AA provide guidance for the most popular EU destinations.

Remember infrastructure is changing quickly. Whatever you read online, it's smart to use an up-to-date mobile app or website to search for EU charge points, and take note of any user-generated comments about how to find the charger and whether it is still operating.