How to Use an RFID Card for EV Charging

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards offer a convenient and secure way for EV owners to access charging stations.

RFID cards have been widely adopted in various industries due to their flexibility as a payment option. The charge cards provide a streamlined approach to accessing EV charging stations, without any complicated steps.

In this guide, we will explore how RFID cards work and what they are used for, with step-by-step instructions on utilising them as EV charging cards.

Row of public EV chargers that use RFID cards

What is an RFID card?

An RFID card, or Radio Frequency Identification card, is a small plastic card with a microchip and antenna. It uses radio frequencies to transmit and receive data when brought near an RFID reader.

RFID cards are widely used for identification and authentication. They are used to prove who you are and ensure you’re allowed to access certain places, such as opening locked doors or accessing EV chargers.

How do RFID cards work for EV charging?

RFID cards have always been a popular method for accessing public EV charging points in the UK. These cards allow chargers to authenticate users who want to charge ean EV by simply tapping the card against a dedicated card reader at the charging station. 

The card reader used for RFID cards differs from the contactless card readers commonly found in payment systems.

To use an RFID card for EV charging, you typically need to create and manage an online account associated with the card. This allows you to link your card to your personal information, payment details, and charging preferences. 

Many charge point operators offer subscription-based services, where you can sign up for a membership plan. These plans often come with additional benefits, such as discounted charging rates, priority access to charging stations during peak times, or access to a larger network of charging infrastructure.

The landscape of EV charging access is evolving, and smartphone apps are increasingly replacing RFID cards as the preferred method of managing charging sessions. Smartphone access is far more convenient as it removes the need for you to travel with numerous RFID cards in your wallet.

The apps offer similar functionality, allowing EV owners to start and stop charging, manage their accounts, and access various charging networks, all from the convenience of their mobile devices.

How do you use an RFID Card for EV charging?

It’s a fairly straightforward process to use an RFID card for EV charging, just follow these 3 steps:

  1. Research and compare different RFID cards and EV charging providers
    Apply for the card, and once the account is set up and payment verification is complete the provider will issue the RFID card by post.

  2. Find a compatible EV charging station equipped with an RFID card reader
    Hold your RFID card against the RFID card reader on the charging station. The RFID card reader will process the information and verify your authorisation to use the charging station. If authorized, the charging station will provide access to start charging.

  3. Charge your EV and tap your RFID card if prompted to do so
    Depending on the charging station, you may need to tap your RFID card against the reader again to stop the charging session and complete the transaction. Refer to any specific instructions at the charging station you are using.

What types of RFID EV charging cards are there?

RFID cars come in various types, each catering to the specific needs and preferences of EV owners, fleet operators, and businesses:

  • Subscription-based RFID cards
    These cards are linked to a subscription service offered by a specific charging network or operator. Users pay a monthly or annual fee and gain access to charging infrastructure within that network. Electric Car subscription services also tend to cover all inclusive charging costs by issuing a RFID card.
  • Pay-as-you-go RFID cards
    These cards allow users to access charging stations on a per-use basis, without the need for a subscription. Users can load funds onto the card or link it to a payment method to pay for charging sessions.

  • Public Charging Network RFID cards
    These cards are issued by public charging networks and provide access to a wide network of charging stations across multiple locations. They are designed for flexibility and convenience when using different charging networks.

  • Electric Vehicle Manufacturer RFID cards
    Some EV manufacturers offer their own RFID cards as part of their charging infrastructure. These cards are often compatible with the manufacturer’s own branded charging stations or affiliated networks.

  • Fleet Management RDIF cards
    Fleet operators or businesses with multiple EVs may use RFID cards designed specifically for their fleet management system. These cards help track and manage charging activities for a business’s leased EVs.

  • Workplace RFID cards
    Business owners can issue RFID cards to employees if they have installed chargers at work. These cards allow employers to monitor charging costs while encouraging EV adoption and rewarding employees.

  • Universal Access Cards and Apps
    While the need for multiple cards and apps can be inconvenient, some operators are developing universal cards that can be used across multiple networks.

    For example, Octopus Energy’s Electroverse card is a universal access card for EV charging. This single card allows you to charge your electric vehicle at various charging stations across the UK. Although options are currently limited, the industry is moving towards more unified access solutions.
row of public chargers in a car park
RFID cards are used in many UK public chargers

Aside from EV charging, RFID cards have a number of other ingenious uses. Let’s take a look….

What else are RFID cards used for?

RFID cards have plenty of uses around the world, here are some of the most common:

Access Control
RFID cards are widely used for entry access control systems in buildings, offices, and restricted areas. 

Identification Badges
RFID cards are used as identification badges as they can store personal information, employee/student details, or access privileges, allowing for easy identification and verification.

Inventory Management
RFID cards are used in inventory and supply chain management. By attaching RFID tags to items or pallets, businesses can track and monitor their movement throughout the supply chain.

Library Systems
Libraries often use RFID cards to streamline check-in/check-out processes and manage their collections.

Public Transport
Many public transportation systems, such as buses, trains, and subway systems, use RFID cards for ticketing and fare collection. 

Loyalty Programs
RFID cards are used for customer loyalty programs in the retail and hospitality sectors. Customers can use their RFID cards to accumulate rewards points, receive discounts, or access exclusive offers.

The versatility of RFID technology extends beyond EV charging, they can be found in many places around the UK!

How does an RFID card work without power?

RFID cards are designed to work without a power source of their own. Instead, they rely on the energy transmitted by the RFID reader to power them.

When an RFID card comes within the range of an RFID reader, the reader emits a radio frequency signal. This signal serves as a source of energy for the card and makes it work.

Once the RFID card draws power from the reader, it can talk to the reader. It sends back a response that contains information stored on the card, like a code or a name. This information helps the reader identify and recognise the card.

What size is an RFID card?

RFID cards typically come in a standard size known as the ID-1 format: Approximately 85.60 mm in width and 53.98 mm in height.

The RFID card size has to conform to the ISO/IEC 7810 identification card standard. It’s a similar size to a credit card, making it convenient for carrying and fitting into cardholders or wallets.

What frequency do RFID cards work at?

RFID cards work at different frequencies depending on the type and application.

Low-Frequency RFID cards operate around 125 kHz or 134 kHz and are used for access control and proximity cards.

High-Frequency RFID cards operate at 13.56 MHz and are common in contactless payment and identification systems.

Ultra-High Frequency RFID cards operate between 860 MHz and 960 MHz and are popular for inventory and asset tracking.

EVs charging in a supermarket car park

What’s inside an RFID card?

Inside an RFID card, there are several key components that let the RFID card communicate wirelessly with an RFID reader:

  • Microchip
    The microchip is the brain of the RFID card. It contains an integrated circuit that stores and processes data, such as unique identifiers or authentication codes. The microchip handles communication with the RFID reader and performs various operations based on the card’s application.

  • Antenna
    The antenna is a conductive coil or pattern embedded in the RFID card. It acts as a communication interface between the card and the RFID reader. When energised by the reader’s radio frequency signal, the antenna generates an electromagnetic field and receives data signals from the reader.

  • Substrate
    The substrate refers to the material that provides structural support to the components within the RFID card. It is typically a thin, flexible layer made of materials like PVC.

  • Protective Overlay
    The protective overlay is a transparent layer added to the surface of the RFID card. It serves to protect the embedded components from physical damage, such as scratches or water.

What’s the difference between an RFID tag and an RFID card?

RFID tags and RFID cards differ in how they look and what they are used for.

RFID tags are small, compact devices attached or embedded onto objects for tracking and inventory management purposes. They come in various shapes and sizes and are customized based on specific requirements.

In contrast, RFID cards look like credit cards. They are carried by people and often include additional features depending on their use (i.e. photographs for identification, card numbers for EV charging cards).

The final word on how to use an RFID card for EV charging

RFID cards provide a streamlined and convenient approach to using EV charging stations.

These cards are widely used for identification, authentication, and access control in loads of UK industries, including EV chargings.

By simply tapping or holding the RFID card against the card reader at the charging station, EV owners can easily start charging an EV without the hassle of manual log-in or payment procedures.

Different types of RFID EV charging cards are available, including subscription-based cards, pay-as-you-go cards, and even business fleet cards. So whether it’s accessing public charging networks or managing business charging, RFID cards offer a user-friendly charge card for electric vehicles.

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