Don’t worry. Although charging an EV can seem confusing at first, the reality is far more straightforward – and easier than using a filling station!
Understanding how to charge an EV is fundamental to getting the best from owning one. Before you even take delivery, it’s handy to research the various options available, to make sure choosing an EV will be right for you.
Thanks to the rapid roll-out of EV charging options in the UK, the barriers to ownership are falling all the time. Already, millions of people are ready right now to own an EV – and will find charging one far easier than filling a petrol or diesel car. Here, we explain everything you need to know about charging an EV, no matter where in the country you are.
You may be surprised at just where you can charge an EV. The public network is becoming more comprehensive by the day, from supermarkets to service stations. But the easiest place, if you have a driveway, is charging at home, particularly overnight. This becomes an immediate benefit of EV ownership – because if you plug it in, you’ll start each day with a full tank, without ever having to visit a filling station again. In terms of convenience, it’s unbeatable. For similar reasons, charging an EV at work is also recommended, if your firm has charging facilities.
EV chargers fall into three broad categories: Slow, Fast and Rapid.
SLOW: up to 6kW. Include 3-pin home charging, and basic wall boxes. They are generally ‘untethered' so require a cable to plug into both the car and the charger
FAST: 7-22kW, with most rated at 7kW. Most streetside chargers are fast chargers, as are higher-end wall boxes. Units are both tethered and untethered
RAPID: Generally, 50kW, and use DC rather than AC current. Most motorway public chargers are now rapid chargers. For safety, they are all tethered
A new generation of ultra-rapid chargers are also rolling out. These can charge at speeds of 100kW-plus, using either CCS or CHAdeMO cables. Ultra-rapid chargers promise an 80% charge in as little as 20 minutes. In the future, 350kW ultra-rapid chargers should become commonplace in the UK.
EVs come with several different types of AC charger sockets. On the vehicle side, there are two main types, with the ‘Type 2’ Mennekes inlet now the most popular. These are able to use DC ‘CCS’ rapid charging at public chargers. The alternative Type 1 is becoming less popular: these can use DC ‘CHAdeMO’ rapid chargers. Tesla uses its own DC ‘Supercharger’ connectors.
Most EVs will also come with an adapter that allows charging from a domestic three-pin socket. They have a rectangular box that manages the charge and protects against overvoltage or overheating. They are sometimes called ‘granny cables’ as they can only recharge at domestic socket speeds – which is much slower than using a wall box or public charger.
Although you can use a 3-pin plug socket, a dedicated wallbox is preferable. It is a must-have if you want to get the best from EV ownership. A wallbox allows you to charge your car at a faster rate than the 3kW maximum you can get from a 3-pin plug socket. Using one is also safer and more convenient.
A typical wallbox can charge at around 7kW, more than doubling the time it takes to recharge. Those with three-phase power can charge even faster. Wallboxes must be installed by a qualified electrician. There are many companies offering an all-inclusive service with fitting included in the purchase price.
The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles operates an Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. This will fund up to 75% of the cost of installing one, up to a maximum of £350.
The wallbox must come from a government-approved company, and has to be installed within four months of the delivery date of your new EV. A similar scheme operates for companies: the Workplace Charging Scheme.
There are numerous ways to locate EV public chargers. Many EVs have standard sat nav which displays nearby chargepoints, for example. These are becoming increasingly sophisticated – A Tesla, for example, will even automatically plan a long journey to take in Superchargers en route.
There are numerous apps to find public chargers too. One of the most popular is called Zap-Map, and will let you search by charger type, speed, network and other factors. Or simply use the map here at JustGoEV!
It’s best to plan in advance if you plan on using an EV public charger. Although contactless payments are slowly coming, many still require you to have an account with the particular provider, and either an RFID card or a smartphone app.
Many EV owners are already signed up to the major EV charge networks, such as BP Pulse, Ecotricity, Ionity, Pod Point, Instavolt and others. Tesla owners are able to use their own dedicated public network.
The time it takes to charge an EV depends on the type of charger you are using. The Vauxhall Corsa-e has a 50kWh battery. Using a 3kW domestic plug socket, it will take more than 17 hours to fully charge it. If you have a 7kW wallbox, this time is cut to 7 hours – perfect for charging overnight.
If you’re travelling and use a 50kW public rapid charger, it will take 40 minutes to charge the Vauxhall Corsa-e from 20% to 80%. That delivers 97 miles of charge every 30 minutes – compared to the mere 9 miles an hour delivered by a 3-pin plug…