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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 you charge an electric car 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 charge 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 the boot of your electric car.

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 EV 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 (single-phase) 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 for EV drivers to charge an electric car is at home, assuming you have off-street parking. EV charging at home allows you to control your energy usage and save money. We can arrange a dedicated electric vehicle charging point for you and, if you are eligible, there is currently a government grant for getting EV chargers installed.

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. Most cars have big, efficient batteries enabling them to go a long distance before they need to be recharged, essentially removing the need to charge during the day. The good news is that 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.

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

  • Some streets already have charge points installed on lamp-posts and/or pavements for low emission vehicles. There will be many more of these built out by local authorities and 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 vehicle 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 long trips in plug in cars, you will almost certainly need to charge your car en route. Look out for public 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. Generally you pay for this type of charging via contactless or an RFID card. More and more rapid chargers are being installed at motorway service stations – where you would normally stop in a petrol or diesel car – and other convenient locations. For example, one of the best and most reliable networks is InstaVolt. They have won contracts to install rapid public charging stations 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 an electric vehicle, and for how long, dictates how munch money you can save:

Charging an electric car at home

If you are lucky enough to have a garage or driveway at home, with a dedicated 7.4 kW charge point, you should charge your car 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 traditional petrol or diesel cars.

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 EV charging point to charge automatically to coincide with the off-peak slot. You can also use a mobile phone 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.

To get your EV charging costs down further, consider solar or even wind power for your home. Charging your car's battery for free with sunshine is very addictive!

Public and work-place EV charging points

If you can’t charge your car 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 charge points, or charge at work, or a combination of both.

The process of charging an electric car at work, supermarkets, shopping centres, gyms, B&Bs, carparks, etc., is normally quite similar to home charging. They often have a 7.4 kW rating and will add 25-30 miles’ range in an hour.

So the trick with electric vehicles 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 for EV drivers; 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 EV 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 times and speed. There are several different types of charging point for EV drivers 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 charge 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, single-phase 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 EV 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 increase your maximum charging speed by 50%, 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. It takes a bit of getting used to after a petrol or diesel car that can be refuelled in a few minutes. Vehicle manufacturers are steadily increasing maximum DC charging rate to make their models more attractive.

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 to charge an electric car.

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 charge points 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 EV charging cable for rapid charge points. 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

Frequently Asked Questions about Electric Car Charging (FAQs)

Once you drive an EV every day, electric car charging become second nature. Until then, read our FAQs for more tips and advice:

The main way of charging an electric car at home is by plugging it into a dedicated charging point. We can arrange installation for you via the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. Alternatively, you can charge your car by plugging it into a normal 3-pin socket, although this is a slow way of charging.

You can often charge when you are out and about say at a supermarket. Take your charging cable with you and plug in while you shop.

On trips, electric cars are charged at ‘rapid’ chargers. These are high speed chargers, located at convenient stopping points like motorway service stations, where you can get extra miles into your battery quickly.

Electric car batteries are also topped up while driving via regenerative braking. The forward movement of the car is used to charge the battery while slowing down. See our FAQ on regenerative braking below.

The cost to charge an electric car depends on the price you pay for the electricity when charging.

For example, if your car has a 50 kWh battery pack and you pay 20p per kWh for your electricity at home, then a full charge from 0% to 100% would cost you £10 (that is 50 kWh x 20p).

Read our Guide on EV Charging Costs for more information.

The time it takes to charge an electric car depends on (i) how big the car’s battery is, (ii) how much electricity the battery already has stored in it when you start charging, and (iii) how fast the charging point is.

For example, if your battery has 28 kWh stored in it, but a maximum capacity of 50 kWh, then you need to charge it with another 22 kWh to bring the battery up to 100%. On a dedicated home charging point rated at 7.4 kW, getting those final 22 kWh into the battery would take about 3 hours (the maths is: 22 kWh divided by 7.4 kW).

On the other hand, at a rapid charger rated at 50 kW at a motorway service station, you can add about 8 kWh with every 10 minutes of charging.

On a dedicated home charger rated at the standard 7.4 kW, most cars will charge at the same speed. The charge speed is limited to the maximum rating of a domestic charging point, namely 7.4 kW.

However, you may have a more powerful ‘3-phase’ electricity supply at work, and that allows charging at either 11 kW (e.g. Tesla Model 3) or even 22 kW (e.g. Renault Zoe), depending on the capabilities of your car.

Finally, it’s worth checking out the maximum ‘DC’ charging speed of your short-listed cars before deciding which one to lease. The on-board DC charging limit dictates how fast you can get extra miles into your car if you stop to charge on a longer trip.

For example, if your car has only a 50 kW DC limit, then you can’t charge any faster than 50 kW, even if you are plugged into one of the newer 150 kW charging stations. The electric cars that charge the fastest at the moment are the Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, BMW iX, BMW i4 and the Mercedes-Benz EQS.

Yes. As long as you have off-street parking or a garage with an electricity supply, you can charge your electric car at home.

You can either plug into a standard 3-pin socket with a suitable charging cable, or for faster and safer charging it’s better to have a professionally installed dedicated EV charging point.

More and more charging points are being installed at popular destinations, allowing you to top up your car's battery when you are out and about.

For example, you may well find convenient charging points at your local supermarket, cafes and restaurants like Costa Coffee and McDonalds, gyms, shopping centre carparks, etc. Don't forget to take your charging cable with you, as many of these chargers don't have cables attached.

If you go on a long trip and need to charge on the way, you can stop at a 'rapid charger'. These are usually located at motorway service stations, or near main roads, and allow you to charge your battery quickly (this is known as 'DC' charging). Rapid chargers have their own cables and plugs attached. Charger speeds vary, typically 50 kW, 120 kW or 150 kW, but some are even as fast as 350 kW. Bear in mind, though, that your car will have a maximum DC charging speed which will limit how fast you can charge, even if you are at a faster charging station.

How do you find all these public charging points? Your car may display chargers in the sat nav, but there are also useful apps, such as Zap Map, that help you plan your trip and find chargers quickly. Popular, reliable charging networks include Tesla Superchargers, InstaVolt and Osprey.

When an electric car slows down, rather than applying the physical brakes, it will often put the electric motor in reverse which in turn charges the battery. This is known as regenerative braking. In this way, slowing down in an electric vehicle increases your battery range. This is particularly noticeable if you drive down a long, steep hill. You will have more range at the bottom of the hill than you did at the top!

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