Electric Car Charging Explained

Electric vehicles have many fundamental differences to your standard fossil fueled car and charging is a big one. Not quite the same as filling up at the pump like you might be used to, and with so many ways and speeds to charge your EV, ‘topping up’ can be confusing for new electric drivers.

Electric Car Charging Explained

In this article you will learn everything you need to know on the topic.

 

Charging at home

Conveniently, a dedicated home charger can be installed at your house allowing you to charge your car. Much like your mobile phone, charging your vehicle can be done overnight and then topped up during the day when needed.

To get a charging point installed at your home you’ll need to get it done professionally. Certified charging providers will include the installation cost in the price of the unit, as well as the subtraction £350 Government grant (at the time of writing).

The process involves the mounting of the charging unit onto a stable surface near where you park, like a wall or garage door where it is the connected safely to the mains electricity.

Charging times at home can vary. Generally speaking, charging points at your house will be either 3.7kW or 7kW meaning that they can ‘fill up’ your EV to around 15-30 miles worth of range every hour.

 

Charging in public

Many public destinations are gaining charging points especially as the number of electric vehicles on the roads increase.

Charging in public isn’t necessarily a necessity if you already have a home charging point, but it is helpful for frequent top-ups if you don’t want to be in the situation where you need to be charging an empty battery over a long period of time.

Public charging points will mostly always offer at least 7kW charging, giving you 20-30 miles of range per hour. You’ll need to bring your own charging cable that is often supplied with your vehicle as standard, or can be bought easily online. Sometimes a special mobile app is needed in order to commence your charge.

To locate your nearest charge points there are many helpful websites that will do this for you. Zap-Map (www.zap-map.com) and Pod Point (www.charge.pod-point.com) are two very easy sites to navigate.

Charging at work is now becoming more common too. Some organisations have started to install their own charging stations for their workers and visitors as a sustainability incentive.

 

Rapid charging

On occasion there may be situations where you’re in desperate need for more range. Luckily for you many motorway service stations and other locations across the UK provide rapid chargers.

Ranging anywhere between 43-350kW, rapid charging can be expensive but it’s capable of dispensing high amounts of electricity in short periods of time. Many 43kW+ units may already have their own charging cable attached.

 

Charging cables

In order to understand charging an electric vehicle it is important to know how charging cables work.

Similar to charging your mobile phone, a car charging cable has two ends. One end that fits into the charge point socket and another that attaches to your vehicle. Different vehicles will need different cables.

Batteries in an EV need to be charged with Direct Current (DC). At home you’ll be drawing an Alternating Current (AC), so your Electric car of choice will have an in built converter that switches this from AC to DC.

AC charging is the most common form of infrastructure primarily found at home, the work place or at destinations. There are two types of AC vehicle-side connectors; type 1 and type 2.

Type 1

Type 1 typically has a power rating between 3.7kW-7kW, features 5 pins with no locking mechanism and can only manage single phase power.

Type 2

Type 2 generally has a power rating between 3.7kW-7kW, features 7 pins, an inbuilt locking mechanism and can manage 3 phase power.

Type 2 connectors are by far the most common on new cars, in fact In 2014 the European Commission ruled that all public charging stations must include a Type 2 connector or connecting capability.

Alternatively, a cable using a standard 3-pin plug can be used for charging EVs at home, however this isn’t the recommended method for regular charging because not only is it very slow, it can be dangerous too.

It is worth noting that most charge points across the UK, at homes or in public areas, are single phase power. 3 phase is much rarer but can be found at some larger commercial buildings.

DC Charging

DC charging will be seen with rapid chargers, typically along highways. This involves converting the power before it enters the vehicle, thus bypassing the car’s own converter. DC charging point installations require a lot of power from the grid which makes it a more costly but a much quicker form of charging.

For rapid charging, the cables are tethered on to the unit, but for non-rapid charging you will usually have to use your own cable which will often come with your EV as standard. In the UK this will usually be a Type 1 or 2 inlet socket. Your car’s manual will let you know whether it is compatible with DC rapid charging.

 

Cost

It is well documented that using electricity as your source of fuel is much more sustainable than fossil fuels, but how much will it cost you?

The price of electricity will vary between home, work and public settings. The average domestic electricity rate at home in the UK is about 14p per kWh, meaning that charging a 60kWh EV all the way could cost in the region of £8.30-£9.40, offering you about 200 miles in range. Electricity rates across the country do vary depending on where you live, so it is best to check with your supplier.

Many electricity suppliers offer their own special domestic tariffs designed for EV owners which are adjusted for cheaper night time rates that allow for affordable overnight charging.

Some employers offer free electric charging as an incentive for staff. In public places charging can be paid for via an app or an RFID card that can be ordered online, although again, some supermarkets offer this as a free service.

The cost of rapid charging can vary greatly as if you own a Tesla, for the Tesla Supercharging Network offers free charging at specific locations. However, for other EVs you’d usually expect to pay around £6.50 for 30 minutes which equates to about 100 miles of power.

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