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Considering the many hundreds of operators of electric charging stations in Europe, it is good that roaming providers exist (as of 2022, most charging stations do not yet allow paying with a regular bank card, making registration with them or a roaming provider apparently essential, unless payment is possible without any subscription). Examples of roaming providers are Plugsurfing, Shell Recharge (formerly NewMotion), Ladenetz, Maingau, ADAC, ANWB, and many others. Coverage varies, but the big ones claim to cover most providers, such that users do not need to register with hundreds of apps (bad) or even cards (worse).

In practice, is it advantageous or necessary to register with multiple roaming providers? Plugsurfing and Shell Recharge claim to cover most places, but it could be that those are pretty much the same ones. Installing several apps is easy, but I might need multiple cards, which is less practical (and costs money), so I'd avoid it if I can.

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While my experience is in the US, I'd say that it's generally a good idea to have cards for where you think you'll end up needing to charge, particularly if the station is in an area with poor mobile coverage and you can't remote start with an app. Some networks have virtual RFID cards, which will be helpful where you don't have data coverage.

If you're renting a car, I'd have a plan on where to charge depending on where you think you're going to go. If you own the car, then it's a good idea to figure out places where you can routinely charge.

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  • I found that planning in advance where to charge is difficult. I had planned so, but due to being stuck in traffic the first hour and underestimating the effect of weather and hills, I had to plan again and charge earlier.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 7:51
  • What is a "virtual RFID card"? A smartphone app communicating with NFC? If so, that would be useful to add as info in this question, even though the latter is focussed on NL/DE). Or is a "virtual RFID card" something else?
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 10:31
  • It's a smartphone communicating with NFC, but at least on something like an iPhone, it's in the same section as a payment card.
    – billatq
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 4:02
  • I see. That wouldn't work on my phone then, as it doesn't have NFC.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 7:50
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Yes, it is wise bring multiple cards. Sometimes cards work where apps don't, and sometimes one card works but another doesn't. My experience in Germany and The Netherlands in April 2022:

I had registered with three mobility service providers (Maingau Energie, Plugsurfing, and Shell Recharge). For the latter two, I had ordered RFID cards. For Maingau I had only the app. My experiences after charging five times, each time with a different charge point operator:

  • I did not succeed in using the Maingau app. I tried it twice (using mobile data), and in both cases I got a message that I could not use their app to pay for this service provider. In one case not at all, and in one case it implied it would have worked with the card.
  • In one case, the Plugsurfing card did not work, but the Shell Recharge card did. I did use the Plugsurfing card in two other cases.
  • In two cases, it was possible to pay with a regular bank card, without any registration (but it might have been cheaper to use a card).
  • In at least one case, where prices were clearly posted (unfortunately in April 2022 this is true for only a minority of charging locations), payment with the charge point operator (Fastned) would have been much cheaper than the cards of other charge point operators (but some charge point operators charge a monthly fee for registration, which have been the case here).

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