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The Complete Guide to Electric Car Charging

Electric cars are so simple to drive, but when it comes to the question of electric car charging, it can often get quite complicated, quite quickly.

In our easy to understand charging guide below, we help you cut through to what's really important when charging at home, work, and in public.

Electric Car Charging Explained in 5 Easy Steps

We cover the main questions that people pose time and again:

  1. Electric Car Charging: All you need to know to get started.
  2. Charging Locations: Where can I charge my car's battery?
  3. Smart Charging Tactics: Charging times and saving money.
  4. Charging Speeds: How fast can I charge?
  5. Electric Car Charging Plugs and Sockets: What do I do?

Want a visual guide as well? Check out our explainer video with Nicki Shields.

#1 Electric Car Charging: All you need to know to get started

If you have off-street parking, this is what you should do:

  • Have a 7.4 kW charging point installed on your wall.
  • Open your car’s charging flap to reveal the charging socket.
  • Grab the plug from the charging point and insert it into the car's socket.
  • Leave the plug in until your car is sufficiently charged. You will normally charge overnight on a cheap, off-peak tariff and wake up to a fully charged car.
  • Finally, remove the plug from the car, return it to the charging point, close the car’s flap, and you’re good to go.

Tethered v. Untethered Chargers

Some home chargers come with a cable permanently attached. These are known as ‘tethered’ charging points. Home chargers without a cable attached are called ‘untethered’, ‘socketed’ or 'uinversal'. With this type of charger, you need to use the charging cable normally stored in your boot.

You can also connect the car to a normal 3-pin socket in your house to charge up. You’ll need a special cable to do this which will often come with your car. However, there are two disadvantages to charging from a 3-pin socket:

  • The charging rate is very slow. It will only add about 8 miles of range in an hour, instead of roughly 25-30 miles with a dedicated charger.
  • It’s not a very safe option. The plug is not secured to the socket and could be knocked out accidentally.

#2 Charging Locations: Where can I charge my car's battery?

As we've seen in the section above, the best (and cheapest) place to charge your EV is at home, assuming you have off-street parking.

If you live in a flat, or a house without off-street parking, then an electric car is still a viable proposition. You just need to work out where to charge.

Most likely, you won’t need to charge every day. Many modern EVs have big, efficient batteries which means they can go a long distance before they need to be recharged. 130-300 miles on a single charge is now quite common. If you generally drive up to 50 miles or so a day, you may only need to charge up once or twice a week.

Electric car charging, if you don’t have off-street parking, can be carried out at the following locations:

  • Some streets already have charging points installed on lamp-posts and/or pavements. There will be many more of these built out by councils in the coming months to meet demand.
  • Supermarkets and restaurants want to attract EV drivers and are installing electric car charging points. Arrive, plug in, shop/eat, and benefit from a quick top up.
  • You will also find EV chargers at many types of other common destinations such as gyms, community centres, B&Bs, cinemas, shopping centres, etc. While you go about your business, your car charges.
  • Companies are installing electric charging points for their staff and visitors. If you have a willing boss, you can potentially charge your car at work each day – maybe for free.
  • If you go on a long trip, you will almost certainly need to charge your car en route. Look out for special electric car charging points known as ‘rapid chargers’. These charge your car’s battery at a very fast rate, allowing you to get back on the road after typically 20-50 minutes. More and more rapid chargers are being installed at motorway service stations, traditional petrol stations and other convenient locations. For example, one of the best and most reliable networks is InstaVolt. They have won contracts to install rapid chargers at fast food locations such as McDonald's, Costa Coffee and KFC. So it's fast food with fast charging!

EV street charging

#3 Smart Charging Tactics: Charging times and saving money

When and where you charge your electric car, and for how long, dictates how munch money you can save:

Electric car charging at home

If you are lucky enough to have a garage or driveway at home, with a dedicated 7.4 kW charging point, you should do most of your charging at home.

Why? Because there are some excellent, EV-friendly electricity rates available which enable you to reduce your annual fuel costs by up to 80% compared to a traditional petrol car.

The cheapest solution is generally via a dual electricity tariff, offering both a higher day rate and a lower off-peak rate. Make sure you charge your EV during the off-peak hours – often in the middle of the night. You can programme the car or charging point to charge automatically to coincide with the off-peak slot. You can also use a smartphone app to take care of charging at the right time, for example the free ev.energy app.

Alternatively, go for a competitive flat rate tariff and charge any time, day or night.

Home chargers typically add 25-30 miles of range per hour of charging. Depending on the size of your battery and how low on charge it is, you will generally be charging for 1 to 8 hours.

Public and work-place EV charging points

If you can’t charge at home – or if you need a top up during the day – you will either use one of the growing number of public electric car charging stations, or charge at work, or a combination of both.

EV chargers at work, supermarkets, shopping centres, gyms, B&Bs, carparks, etc., are normally quite similar to home chargers. They often have a 7.4 kW rating and will add 25-30 miles’ range in an hour.

So the trick is to combine charging with other activities during the week if you can’t charge up at home. Some of these public chargers will be free to use; others will charge a fee. If a fee is charged, it will generally be more expensive than your home electricity tariff.

Rapid charging points

If you need to inject a lot of electricity into your electric car quickly, seek out a ‘rapid charger’, usually at a service station. Basically you will be waiting for 20-50 minutes while your car charges up to 80% full.

Most public rapid chargers are currently rated at 50 kW – much quicker than a home 7.4 kW charger – though new ones are being installed anywhere from 150 kW to an ultra-rapid 350 kW.

There are networks of rapid chargers around the country, owned and operated by different companies. Names you will come across include: InstaVolt, Tesla, Osprey, BP Pulse, Pod Point, Charge Your Car, GeniePoint, Ecotricity, Source London, Ubitricity, Shell Recharge, Ionity and Zero Carbon World.

You pay for rapid charging in various ways, for example: contactless, app, RFID card and subscription.

There is a huge range of pricing for rapid chargers: anywhere from free (very rare) to 25-69p per kWh and above.

Take a look at our dedicated Guide to Electric Car Charging Costs for more information on typical EV charging costs.

Want to discuss getting an electric car?

Why not phone us on 0118 920 5130 or email at enquiries@selectcarleasing.co.uk

#4 Charging Speeds: How fast can I charge?

The next area of electric car charging that can get confusing is charging speed. There are several different types of charging point all offering different speeds. In addition, your car is limited in terms of charging speeds for both AC and DC electricity supplies.

Your car’s on-board charger

Your electric car has an on-board charger – inside the car itself – that receives the AC electricity from the charging point and converts it into DC electricity that the battery can charge with.

The charging speed of on-board chargers varies from car to car. Here are the speeds of current electric car models available to lease in the UK: 6.6, 7.2, 7.4, 11, 16.5 and 22 kW.

So, if your car has a 6.6 kW on-board charger and you plug it into a standard home 7.4 kW charging point, you will be limited to charging at 6.6 kW.

Alternatively, if your car has an 11 kW on-board charger and you plug into a 7.4 kW home charger, you will only be charging at 7.4 kW. The car could take more power, but in this case the charging point itself is limited.

Some EVs, like the Peugeot e-208, can be upgraded from a single-phase 7.4 kW to a 3-phase 11 kW on-board charger. That would give you a 50% speed bump in charging time, assuming you are plugged into a suitable 3-phase charging point (the kind you might find at work).

At rapid charging stations

We’ve seen above that your electric car is limited by its on-board charger in terms of how quickly it can charge on an AC electricity supply (home, work, etc.).

Electric cars are also restricted when it comes to rapid DC charging. For example, the Jaguar I-Pace can charge at a maximum of 100 kW DC.

So, when an I-Pace is plugged into a 50 kW rapid DC charger, it can take the full 50 kW of power. However, when connected to a 150 kW DC charger, the I-Pace will only be able to charge at its maximum rate of 100 kW.

Before leasing an electric car, check its maximum DC charging rate. The faster the better to future-proof your car. Read our Guide to Choosing an Electric Car for more tips on what to look out for.

A quirk of rapid charging to be aware of: you generally only charge your EV’s battery up to 80% at rapid chargers. Why? Because the rapid charging speed between 80% and 100% is much slower than up to 80%. This is due to the automatic protecting of the battery cells as voltage rises sharply after 80%.

#5 Electric Car Charging Plugs and Sockets: What do I do?

If you open an electric car’s charging flap, you won’t always see the same shape socket. In fact, some cars have two sockets rather than one. As socket shapes vary, so too do the plugs.

AC charging at home, work, and common destinations like supermarkets

Most AC charging plugs – and the car sockets they go into – are known as ‘Type 2’.

On some older electric cars, and new Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) such as the Mitsubishi Outlander, you will find a ‘Type 1’ socket instead. Type 1 sockets require Type 1 plugs.

The majority of public AC chargers are untethered Type 2. Don’t forget to keep a Type 2 charging cable in your boot, otherwise you won’t be able to charge.

If you have a car with a Type 1 socket, you will need to carry a ‘Type 2 to Type 1’ cable.

In some cars, like the Nissan Leaf, you will be presented with two, separate sockets. The socket on the right is a normal Type 2 socket for AC charging. The one on the left is a CHAdeMO socket (see ‘DC charging at public rapid chargers’ opposite) for rapid DC charging.

DC charging at public rapid chargers

For rapid DC charging, there are two main standards adopted by the manufacturers. It would be simpler if there were only one standard for all cars, but life is never that easy. The standards are:

  • CCS, or ‘Combined Charging System’, and
  • CHAdeMO, or ‘CHArge de MOve'

CCS is also known as ‘CCS Combo’ or ‘CCS Combo Type 2’. This is because the socket is a combination of a Type 2 AC socket (top half) and a CCS DC socket (bottom half).

You don’t need to bring your own charging cable for rapid chargers. The charging unit itself always has the relevant cables and plugs permanently attached.

Some rapid charging stations will have a third cable and plug attached: Type 2. This looks like your standard home charging plug, but, depending on your model of car, can charge up to 43 kW (AC).

Type 1 & Type 2 charging plugs

CCS & CHAdeMO charging plugs

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