How to Charge an Electric Car?
To charge an electric car, you’ll need to plug it into a charging point. In the UK there are four main places you can find these; at home, at work, at public locations, and at service stations.
You’ll sometimes need to take your own separate charging cable with you. Most EV drivers plug into a charging point whenever they park to stay topped up. Sometimes drivers need to charge en route, using higher-powered chargers. Depending on the location, you can start charging simply by plugging in, or by using an app, contactless card, or RFID card.
Charging an electric car
Charging an electric car is different from filling up a petrol/diesel vehicle with fuel; electric car drivers plugin whenever they park and return to a vehicle with a fuller battery than when they left it.
It’s best to think “where do I park most regularly?” and look to use charging points installed in these locations. For most people that means home, then work, then your other destinations.
Occasionally you will need to drive further than the range left in your battery and need to charge en route at a high-powered rapid charger.
How to charge an electric car at home
To charge an electric car at home, you should have a home charging point installed where you park your electric car. You can use an EVSE supply cable for a 3-pin plug socket as an occasional backup.
Drivers usually choose a dedicated home charging point because it’s faster and has built-in safety features. A home charger is a compact weatherproof unit that mounts to a wall with a connected charging cable or a socket for plugging in a portable charging cable. Dedicated EV chargers for your home are installed by qualified specialist installers
Cost of installing a dedicated home charger
A fully installed home charging point costs £449 with the government OZEV grant. Electric car drivers benefit from a £350 OZEV grant for purchasing and installing a home charger. Once installed, you only pay for the electricity you use to charge.
The typical electricity rate in the UK is just over 17p per kWh*, while on Economy 7 tariffs the typical overnight electricity rate in the UK is 10p per kWh*.
By switching to an electricity tariff designed specifically for EV drivers, like EDF’s Go Electric 35 you could reduce this to just 4.5p per kWh and charge up for under £5 while you sleep**.
How fast you can charge an electric car at home
Charging speed for electric cars is measured in kilowatts (kW). Home charging points charge your car at 3.6kW or 7kW giving about 15-30 miles of range per hour of charge (compared to 2.3kW from a 3-pin plug which provides up to 8 miles of range per hour).
Maximum charging speed may be limited by your vehicle’s onboard charger. If your car allows up to a 3.6kW charging rate, using a 7kW charger will not damage the car.
How to get an electric car charging point installed at home
Electric car charging points need to be professionally installed. A certified charging provider will include installation costs in the price of the unit.
The installation process involves wall mounting the charging point on an exterior wall or garage, near where you park, and connecting it safely to the mains electricity supply. An installation should take around three hours to complete, depending on the individual requirements of the driver and the complexity of the installation.
Installations can be booked directly online, over the phone or through car dealerships, with most providers happy to provide free advice and talk through the options available.
How often should you charge an electric car at home
You can charge your electric car at home as often as you need to. It can be treated the same as charging a mobile phone, fully charging overnight, and topping up in the day if necessary.
While it is not necessary for most to charge every day, many drivers plugin each time they leave their car out of habit, giving them maximum flexibility should they have to make an unexpected journey. By charging overnight, electric car drivers can take advantage of cheap night-time electricity rates and drive for as little as 2p per mile.
Overnight charging also ensures that the car’s battery is full each morning for the day ahead. You don’t need to unplug once the battery is full, charging will stop automatically with a dedicated home charger. Most drivers also make use of charging facilities at their workplace or public destinations to a top upcharge.
Charging an electric car at work
It is highly convenient to charge at work, because, much like charging at home, your car is often parked for an extended period during the day.
Many organizations are now installing charging stations for staff and visitors as a perk, for sustainability reasons or to facilitate the switch to an electric fleet.
Workplace chargers typically offer the same charging speeds as home charging and normally have universal “Type 2” sockets, which means you will need to take your own cable to the units.
Depending on your organization’s preference, your charge may be started by simply plugging in, as with a home charger, or by using an RFID swipe card or an app on your smartphone.
Very occasionally your workplace might install higher-powered 50kW style rapid chargers, but given the cost, these would usually be installed for highly utilized, return to base fleet vehicles, rather than employee cars.
Charging an electric car at public destinations
You can charge your car when parked in public locations, like at the supermarket, gym, cinema, retail parks, town-center car parks – you name it.
It’s not usually necessary to fully charge your battery at your destination, but frequent top-ups mean that you don’t run low or have to wait while your battery recharges from empty.
Destination charging stations usually offer 7kW charging, giving 20-30 miles of range per hour plugged in for full battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
Many of them are provided free by businesses who use them as an incentive to visit their premises.
You’ll need to bring your own charging cable and often need to download a smartphone app to start your charge (although in some cases it’s as simple as just plugging in). Some older charging points require you to send off for an access “RFID” card, however, these are increasingly being phased out, as they do not offer ad hoc access for drivers.
We recommend taking the time to understand how to use the charging point that you intend to visit before you get there. Charging networks (like us) are working hard to make the process as effortless as possible, but some planning – particularly if you are relying on the charging point – does go a long way.
Charging an electric car on long-distance journeys or in emergencies
On long-distance journeys, you will find that there are times when the remaining range in your battery won’t get you to your destination.
In this scenario, you can make use of the network of high-power rapid chargers (43-350kW) found in motorway service stations and other locations across the UK. This is known as en-route charging.
Because they are expensive and dispense a lot of electricity in a short period, rapid chargers are usually offered on a paid-for basis. The cables are always tethered to the 43kW+ units, so you do not need to bring your own cable to them.
There are 3 rapid charge connector types, depending on your car. Modern rapid chargers offer either all 3 or at least both DC standards. In some situations, you may find that you have run low on battery from lots of local driving and need an emergency charge.
Rapid chargers are also great for this purpose and if you’re not near a motorway service station, they can be found in convenient places like supermarket car parks.