A guide to charging an electric car

A guide to charging an electric car

Want to learn more about the different ways you can charge an EV? Unsure as to what's the best approach for you? Read our helpful guide to charging an electric car.

With electric cars becoming a much more frequent sight on British roads in recent years, there is a constant demand for ways to keep them charged.

However because of the wide variety of methods, and the multitude of technical terms involved, you may not be familiar with the best approach to suit your lifestyle.

In this guide we explain the different methods of charging an electric car, both at home and at public places.

How long do you charge an electric car for?

How long it takes charge an electric car depends on several things. This includes the car itself and the size of its battery, what type of charger you use and how much charge you intend to put in.

Fully charging an electric car could take anywhere between about half an hour or as many as eight hours. Read on below to see how long charging an electric car will typically take with different types of chargers available.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The cost of charging an electric car is a lot less than you have to spend to fill a petrol-run or diesel-run car’s tank.

A typical fully-electric car could be fully charged for just under £1, but even in the most expensive scenario you’re unlikely to spend more than a few quid charging a car with a range of around 100 miles.

Where are the charging points?

There are various options which electric car owners can consider when it comes to finding somewhere to charge their vehicle.

Charging at home

Being able to charge at home is an essential part of owning an electric car. Ideally, you’ll be able to charge your electric car overnight when it’s parked off-street, either on a driveway, in a garage or a covered car port.

All electric cars usually come with a standard charging cable (slow charger) which can plug into the car and a normal wall socket, via a domestic socket - the same kind you’d use to power a microwave or phone charger. Before you can use this, however, you’ll have to have the home socket inspected by a qualified electrician to confirm that the wiring is good enough to handle the high electrical draw.

You also need to make sure the socket you plan to use is near enough your electric car, as many of the cables are not particularly long and it’s unsafe to use an extension cable.

If you do intend to charge your car with a domestic plug then overnight is the ideal time because for a car with a range of 100 miles, you are looking at a waiting time of around six to eight hours to fully recharge. Nowadays, most of the established names in the electric car market, including the Nissan LEAF, Renault ZOE and BMW i3, all have official travel ranges of over 120 miles.

To make charging at home a much speedier process, electric car owners can get themselves a dedicated charging unit installed at their home. These can cut down the time it takes to fully charge your car dramatically and put ease on any sort of concerns you may carry about using a domestic plug socket. However, these home charge units do cost money and they can get very expensive depending on what type it is and what company is supplying.

Most manufacturers which sell EVs have teamed up with other companies that can install the charging points at home. For example, Nissan and Renault offer charging units from British Gas. Most charge units are priced from just under £200 to about £500 but some of the best can cost over £1,000.

Charging at a public building

Is it possible to charge your electric car at work or somewhere else in public? In short, yes, and it’s a handy way to keep your car’s travel range high when you know you won’t be doing any driving for a while.

Similarly with home charging units, there are numerous electric/power supplying companies which offer chargers that can be installed at public places such as an office. The vast majority of them will cost businesses money to install however.

Public charging stations

You’ll probably do most changing at home or in work. But you’ll also want to know about places out in public you can stop by if you’re tackling a lengthy journey or it’s just urgent to find somewhere nearby to your location at the time.

There are websites dedicated to showing where public charging stations are available. One of most notable examples is which not only identifies where charging stations are but also what type they are.

Knowing where the nearest public slow charger, fast charger and rapid charge to home and work is all very useful information to acquire before even completing the purchase of an electric car.

Different types of charging points

Whether you’re at home or somewhere out in public, there are different types of electric car charging methods available. They are mainly categorised by how much power they produce, measured in kilowatts (kW), and therefore how quickly they can charge up a vehicle.

When using a special EV charger unit, remember to check what connectors are on the charge cable you intend to use. You’ll need a cable with connectors that match the relevant sockets on both the charger itself and the vehicle.

Below are details of the four main charge point types:

Slow chargers

Currently the most common type of charger available for electric vehicles – slow chargers produce up to 3kW of power, which is about what you get from a standard 13 Amp three-pin plug. The first wave of public chargers delivered this amount of power as well.

Virtually all electric vehicles are compatible with slow chargers and a full charge with one of these usually takes around 8 hours.

Fast chargers

Fast chargers are available at most public charging stations nowadays, and compared to a slow charger they take about half as long to use – 3 to 4 hours for a full charge.

Fast chargers are compatible with not all but the majority of electric cars and vans on the market and use 7kW of power. However, there is a three-phase fast charger which delivers as much as 22kW of power, but this is typically only used for trucks and buses that contain larger battery packs.

Rapid AC chargers

Rapid AC chargers offer power ratings of up to 43kW and they can typically charge 80 per cent of an electric car’s battery capacity in less than half an hour. This type of charger, however, has been around far less compared to slow or fast chargers and not many electric cars are currently compatible with it.

Rapid DC chargers

Rapid DC chargers supply up to 50kW of power and can recharge 80 per cent of a car’s battery in around half an hour. These are more common than rapid AC chargers and support more vehicles, albeit still nowhere near as many as slow or fast chargers.

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