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Charging your electric car: all you need to know

Charging your electric car is simple. It’s really just a case of plugging it in and waiting till it has enough power to get you to where you need to go. But as with anything relatively new, it can be a little intimidating and confusing to the uninitiated. That’s why we’re here to take you through all the steps about charging your electric vehicle. We’ll go through every detail, from:

  • Where you can charge your electric car
  • Charging your EV at home
  • Charging your EV on the go
  • Charging your EV at work
  • How long EVs take to charge
  • The types of chargers and plugs available
  • The cost of charging an electric car
  • Car charging etiquette
  • Top tips for electric car charging
  • Car charging FAQs

Where can I charge my electric car?

Unlike petrol and diesels, electric vehicles have a range of places to choose from when it comes to ‘refuelling’ or in this case, recharging. The 3 main places for electric charging, include:

  • Charging your electric car at home
  • Charging your EV at a dedicated charging station/charge point
  • Charging your electric vehicle at work

Let’s go through each one of these points in more detail to break down what’s involved and the costs. We’ll start with electric car charging at home.

Charging your electric car at home

We’ve heard people ask: can you charge an electric car at home? The answer is yes. Absolutely. And if you own an EV, it’s best to charge your electric car at home overnight. Then your EV will be ready to go in the morning. It’s convenient and it’s often the cheapest option too, especially with an electricity tariff that has lower evening rates.

How to charge an electric car at home

Charging your car at home using a dedicated wallbox that you’ve had installed is really easy. If you have a tethered wallbox, with a permanently attached cable, all you have to do is:

  • Open the charging flap on your electric car, which will reveal the EV’s charging socket
  • Next, get the the plug from your wallbox charging point and insert it into the charging socket
  • Then just let the car recharge – it’s best practice to do this overnight on an off-peak electricity tariff for cheaper costs
  • That way, when you wake in the morning your EV will be ready to take you where you need to go
  • Finally, all you have left to do is remove the plug from the car, return it to the charge point, and shut the EV’s charging flap, and you’re ready to drive to your destination

If you have an untethered wallbox – also known as a socketed or universal unit – then you’ll have to use your EV’s charging plug usually found in the boot. Then just follow the above steps connecting the electric car to the wallbox charger.

For charging with a normal 3-pin socket from your house, you’ll need to use a special cable that is typically included in the sale of an EV. However, recharging an EV this way only adds around 8 miles an hour. It’s not only really slow, it’s also not as safe as using an installed wallbox. So, our advice is to use this method only as a last resort.

What’s the cost of installing a dedicated home charger?

The cost of installing a dedicated wallbox charger at home depends on the manufacturer and kilowattage of the charger. Typically, a 3kW unit will cost between £250-£500, whilst a faster 7kW wallbox charger will be priced between £450-£800. For the even faster 22kW charger, you’re looking at around £1,000-£1,500.

Electric car buyers may also be eligible for the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which will help cover the costs of a dedicated wallbox charger and its installation. From April 2022, however, this grant will only apply to flats and rental accommodation. It’s worth noting, some manufacturers may offer perks for new EV buyers that could include the cost of installation for a wallbox charger.

How fast can you charge an electric car at home?

How fast you can charge your electric car at home will depend on the type of charger you have. We’ll discuss each car charger type in more depth later on, but the short answer is:

  • A 3-pin plug socket will take the longest adding roughly 8 miles/hour
  • A 3kW wallbox charger will provide a full charge between 8-12 hours
  • A 7kW wallbox charger will provide a full charge between 4-6 hours
  • A 22kW wallbox charger can provide a full charge in around 2 hours

Take note, the above is an approximation because charge speeds also vary from EV to EV. Different electric cars feature different charge rates, with current UK models using either a 6.6kW, 7.2kW, 7.4kW, 11kW, 16.5kW, and 22kW charging speed. That means regardless of your wallbox type, you’re EV will be limited to the speed of its charge rate.

So, when you buy an EV, you want to get the relevant wallbox charger that suits your car’s on-board charging speed. For example, a Renault Zoe has a 22kW charge rate so it will certainly benefit from a 22kW wallbox. Whereas, a Nissan Leaf has a 6.6kW charge speed, so a 22kW wallbox would be unnecessary, as a (cheaper) 7kW one would provide the same recharge times.

How often should you charge an electric car at home?

You should charge your electric car at home as often as you need to. That way you can ensure your EV always has the power to get you where you need to go. In that respect, it’s really no different from owning a petrol or diesel car.

Tips for charging an electric car at home

To get the best from your EV and home charging, here’s some top tips. It’s a good idea to:

  • Get a dedicated home wallbox charger
  • Make sure the wallbox charger is relevant to your car’s charging speed
  • Look for a good electricity deal with cheaper evening tariffs for overnight charging
  • Charge your EV overnight so it can serve you during the day

Charging your electric car on the go

When you’re not at home and your EV needs a boost to its battery, there are a number of places you can go to recharge your electric vehicle. You can find public charging locations at:

  • Major petrol stations, which is always handy
  • Motorway service stations, where you’ll typically find really fast rapid chargers
  • Shopping centres, retail outlets, supermarkets, and restaurants, where you can often refill your EVs battery for free whilst you shop or dine

What is a charging station?

A charging station is anywhere that has two or more charge points dedicated to electric vehicles. This could be at a petrol station, in a car park, a set area within a motorway service station, or even at a supermarket.

Charging Networks and costs

Charging networks are the infrastructure system behind a group of charging stations. Currently, there are over 20 different charging networks that are available to EV car owners. The various network operators have different access and payment methods and differing fees too.

Some offer monthly memberships providing reduced costs per kWh, others have pay-as-you go fees, and some offer both methods of pay. Charge points and charging networks usually have a variety of payment methods as well, from contactless card payments, to smartphone apps. Check in advance to see if you need to register or have a specific app in order to use a certain network. Below, you’ll find a selection of the major charging networks found in the UK and the average cost* to use them:

Charging Network Approximate fees/kWh Memberships*
BP Pulse (Formerly Polar) 28p-50p £7.85/month (3 months free)
ChargePlace Scotland Often free £10 one-off fee
Charge Your Car Flate rate charges £20 per year
EV Power (MFG) 39p None / Free app
GeniePoint 42p Free to register
Gridserve Electric Highway 39p-45p None
Osprey 40p None
Pod Point Often free Free membership and app
Shell Recharge 45p-49p None
Tesla Destination Often free None
Tesla Supercharger** 28p None

* Membership tariffs as of March 2022

** Pre-2018 Tesla models may also qualify for free use of the Tesla Supercharger network.

UK Map of electric car charging points

Knowing what a charging station is and the cost for each charging network is great. Of course, you’ll also want to know where all the electric car charging points are as well. And for that, we’d recommend checking out Chargemap.com or Zap Map. Both have handy mobile apps and route planners, with the former providing a global map of the charging network, and the latter a detailed UK-wide map of charge points.

Charging your electric car at work

As most car owners spend their time between home and work, it can be really handy to have EV charging at your workplace. Businesses can apply for the government’s Workplace Charging Scheme grant, which reduces up to 75% of the cost for a workplace charging station. It’s capped at £350 per socket, but a business can claim for up to 40 sockets, which would result in some big savings. Eligibility rules and criteria apply.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

How long it takes to charge your electric car all depends on two factors: the kilowattage (kW) that the charge point can provide and the kilowatts the battery can accept. The higher the kW, the faster your electric vehicle will be recharged.

Types of car charger: slow, fast and rapid

There are 3 main types of car charger, which will determine how long it takes to charge an electric car. These are known as slow, fast, and rapid chargers.

1. Slow car charger

Slow charging uses a 3kW rate and it’ll take around 8-12 hours to fully charge your electric car (depending on the make and model). Slow chargers are perfect for recharging your EVs battery overnight or whilst at work – which is why you’ll typically find such charging points at home and at the workplace.

2. Fast car charger

Fast charge points use a 7kW charger or 22kW charging rate, depending on the unit. Most fast chargers in use are 7kW and they deliver a full charge in around 4-6 hours. A 22kW is a lot faster, recharging your EV in 1-2 hours. Fast charge points are often located in supermarkets, car parks, and retail outlets. You can also get a fast wallbox charger installed at home

3. Rapid car charger

Rapid chargers are a very fast way of charging your electric car. That’s why you tend to find them at motorway services and at electric vehicle charging stations on major roads. They provide 43kW to 50kW of power to charge the battery to 80% in around 30 minutes to 1 hour. 50kW rapid chargers are the more common of the 2 types on UK roads. Also, rapid chargers cannot be installed at home and only cars with rapid-charging functionality can use them.

In addition, there are ultra-rapid chargers, delivering 100kW, 150kW, and even 350kW of power. These can add around 200 miles of range to your EV in as little as 10 minutes. The Tesla Supercharger network uses ultra-rapid charging with speeds of 120kW and 150kW.

Types of car charging plugs and sockets

Like phone charging cables, there are different car charging cables/plugs for different EVs. It sounds and looks complicated at first – but (again) like phone chargers – it’s actually quite straightforward. The charging connectors you need to know about are:

Type 1 Plug – a 5-pin connector usually found in older EVs and first-generation models, as well as in some plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) like the Mitsubishi Outlander. Type 1 is designed for Alternating Current (AC), accepting slow 3kW and fast 7kW charging. Type 1 public chargers are usually untethered (without a permanently attached charging cable), requiring EVs of this type to use an adaptor to plug into public charge points.

Type 2 – this 7-pin plug has become the most common type used in the UK. And that’s only set to increase with recent EU legislation requiring most manufacturers to fit this as standard. Type 2s accept slow and fast charging, as well as 22kW charging (as long as your EV make and model allows it). Furthermore, most tethered – with a permanently attached cable – public charge points use a type 2 plug. Type 2 connectors can also be ‘locked’ so they can’t be removed whilst charging, unlike Type 1 connectors.

Combined Charging System (CCS) – also known as combination plugs, this system is for Direct Current (DC) rapid charging. Brand-new all-electric vehicles tend to be fitted with this system as it allows use of DC rapid chargers and AC home wallbox charging. Basically, it combines a type 2 or type 1 plug with a 2-pin DC plug, which allows you to switch between the two when required.

CHAdeMO plug – an abbreviation of Charge de Move, this plug type is another one for the DC rapid chargers. It’s favoured by Japanese car manufacturers, such as Nissan and Honda, and was created in Japan too. EVs that use the CHAdeMO system have two plug sockets, one for a Type 1 or Type 2 plug to connect to AC chargers, the other for the CHAdeMO DC charging.

3-pin plug – this is your standard domestic plug socket for plugging in at home. Most EVs are able to do this, with a Type 1 or Type 2 plug attached to the car and (via a transformer box) the 3-pin plugged into your home’s wall socket.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The cost to charge an electric car will depend where you charge your EV. Typically, for a full charge you can expect to pay:

  • At home around £15
  • At work usually free
  • At a public charge point also often free
  • At a rapid charger around £6.50 for a 90-mile charge

Which electric cars cost the least to charge?

Whilst the average price to charge most EVs from home is approximately £15, there are electric cars which are even cheaper to recharge overnight. That’s why we’ve listed the 5 EVs that are amongst the cheapest to charge – so you can see how much you could save in running costs, even between models. Please note, the approximate charging fee per day is based on an overnight home charge on a typical low-cost evening tariff.

  1. Smart EQ ForTwo / ForFour – costs roughly £1.30
  2. Volkswagen e-Up – costs roughly £2.40
  3. Honda e – costs roughly £2.65
  4. Volkswagen e-Golf – costs roughly £2.70
  5. Hyundai Ioniq Electric – costs roughly £2.90

Where can I charge my electric car for free?

There are thousands of free charge points in the UK. You can typically find them at car parks, retail outlets, supermarkets, hotels, shopping centres, and even at service stations.

Electric vehicle charging etiquette

When using a public charging point, it’s a good idea to be mindful of other EV drivers and to follow the etiquette rules of electric vehicle charging. You should:

  • Watch your charge status – don’t hog electric car charging points longer than you need to, and allow other EV drivers to have their turn. It’s best practice to recharge your battery to 80%. Doing so, will also help maintain the battery’s lifespan, as fully charging and fully depleting the battery can reduce the battery’s capacity in the long term.
  • Put the charge cable away – put the cable away neatly after finishing with it. Don’t leave it hanging out as a trip hazard.
  • Help your fellow EV drivers – if you’re in line and you see someone struggling with the charger, a helpful offer of assistance can aid the driver in getting back on track. It can be a particularly nice gesture for a new electric car owner to experience.
  • Let pure-electric cars go first – if you have a plug-in hybrid vehicle, it’s nice to let EVs recharge first, especially as PHEVs can use their petrol or diesel engines. An EV, on the other hand, needs that battery power.
  • Charge station damage – if you spot a damaged charge station you should notify the supplier straight away. Their phone number will be on the charge point.
  • Don’t unplug other EVs – if you’re waiting in line to use a charge station, don’t unplug someone else’s EV (even if it’s 80% or fully charged). If it’s at a station, ask staff if they can make an announcement to find the owner so they can unplug and sort it themselves.

Top tips for charging your electric car

To get the most out of your electric battery, we’ve compiled our top car charging tips. If you follow these points below, your EV’s battery should last longer and be able to retain more of its charge.

  • Minimise rapid charging (as long-term frequent use can strain the battery)
  • Try to maintain an optimal state of charge between 20%-80% (fully depleting and fully recharging the battery can, again, strain it over time)
  • Go for regular, short drives (this will help keep your EV and battery in peak condition)
  • Fully-charge your battery only when you need to (for long journeys etc)

Frequently Asked Questions about Electric Car charging (FAQS)

Once you know how, electric car charging is really easy. So let us help you ‘know how’ by answering your EV charging FAQs.

We’ve covered every aspect of electric car charging, from where to charge your EV, how to do it, how much it costs, and a whole lot more. Whilst there’s a lot to this guide, the process is simple and easy in practice once you get the hang of it. Our aim here was to give you everything you need to know about charging an electric vehicle, so you can come back to this article and recap on any section with ease and clarity.

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And see which EV’s can travel from London to Edinburgh on a single fully-charged battery, with our Top 10 Electric Cars with the Longest Range.