Charging Electric Vehicles



 

Wondering How To Charge An Electric Car Or Van?




EV Charging For Beginners


Every driver will be familiar with the routine of refilling petrol or diesel cars, but recharging an electric car or van is a different proposition.

Unlike the short fill-up at your local fuel station, current electric cars and vans need much longer to recharge the batteries.

Our guide to electric vehicle charging will take you through the maze of cable types and connectors and the pros and cons of home and away recharging.

And why not check out our guides to how EVs work and EV finance too!



    Where To Start   


Getting Started


Let's start with the basics about charging an electric car or van. If you already have an ICE powered car you may well have experienced the frustration and dread when you try to start your car and the battery is flat.


You can often get out of that situation with a quick push start or by 'jumping' - connecting your battery to someone else's car and then starting yours*.


Forget that when it comes to electric cars or vans.


Electric power is the essence of an EV, and without power in the batteries your electric vehicle is not going anywhere and you can't push or jump start it either*.


So, with this in mind, how do you charge an electric vehicle? Here's a summary of the basics of getting power into your EV.



HOME CHARGING


A socket and a cable

All you need is a cable plugged into a suitable electric socket in your home, but it should be protected by a Residual Current Device or 'RCD' for safety reasons.

You'll need a plug that matches the charging socket on your electric car or van, but the dealer will normally have supplied this with the vehicle.

Whilst it's cheap it's not quick; a plug-in cable will take a long time to recharge your EV as the power delivered from a regular electrical socket isn't much in comparison to the hungry recharging needs of your EV.

Dedicated Charging Point

A properly installed EV charging point will recharge your car or van's battery much faster than a standard plug socket.

The UK Government offers a 75% grant for the installation of smart chargers for new EV drivers (click on this link for more information).

The latest 'smart chargers' can be controlled by a mobile phone app and can even be paired with solar panels to use renewable energy created during daylight hours.

How fast your electric car or van recharges will depend on the power delivery from your smart charger - most domestic chargers deliver either 3kiloWatts (electrical energy measured in kiloWatts - 'kW') or 7kW of energy.

7kW chargers will charge your car quicker, yet still only use the same amount of electricity as a 3kW charger, so they are better option if you can afford the additional cost.


AWAY CHARGING


Public Chargers

These are being installed in pavement lamposts around the country so that you can recharge electric cars or vans by simply plugging into a suitable lamppost.

Coverage varies, with no guarantee a parking space will be available at a charging station as, currently, anyone can park next to a charging lamppost.

You'll need a subscription with the charging company appointed by the local authority, though you can also 'Pay And Charge' ('PAC') using a smartphone.

Private Chargers

These are typically installed in places like car parks, supermarkets and motorway service stations and you'll need to subscribe to the provider of the charging station.

As privately operated charging spaces are usually dedicated for EVs only, you should have a better chance of finding a space than using public lamppost charging, but demand is increasing and can outstrip supply on popular routes such as motorways.

The electric car manufacturer Tesla is also opening its own dedicated network of 'Supercharger' stations to take advantage of very fast recharging for its brand of cars.

Workplace Chargers

Some employers are now installing chargers at the workplace to encourage employees to drive electric vehicles, especially where these are provided as company cars.




    Choosing Home Chargers   



How To Choose A Home Charger



If you're ready to install a dedicated home charger the next step is to consider the charger type and cost.


What Is A Charger?

Throughout this page (and our site) we've used the term 'charger', but do remember that, in fact, the charger isn't the box on the wall or car park that you plug into. The charger is actually inside your car.

The charger converts the alternating current ('AC') delivered by mains electricity into the direct current ('DC') used by electric vehicle battteries and replenishes the batteries with 'fresh' DC power when the car needs a recharge.

For everyday purposes though, most of us refer to the charger as the box where you plug in your electric vehicle.

Home chargers are typically fitted to a convenient location on your garage or house wall and connected to the electricity distribution board (or 'fuse board') in your home.


Choosing An Installer

Choosing the right charging point for your home can seem daunting due to the large variety of manufacturers and installers, but the Government has helped first time chargers by introducing a subsidy scheme and appointing approved installers.

Go to the Government web page for home charging for an explanation of the subsidy currently offered for installing home chargers or click on this link for a list of approved installers.

Speak to at least 3 installation companies on the approved list to get quotes and preferably ask around the electric car and van community (through online forums etc) about installers in your area.

Remember: if you do not own the property where you are installing the charger then you will need to check with your landlord prior to having a charge point installed.


What Type Of Charger?

Most home chargers on the market are either 3kW or 7kW and the higher the kilowatts, the quicker the charging.

More powerful 22kW chargers are available if your property has 3 phase electricity (though this tends to be more for industrial or commercial buildings).

Discuss with your potential installers the maximum charger power you could install - the quality and condition of your home electricity distribution board and electricity company fuse rating (in Amps - typically 80-100Amps in a domestic property) could limit your ability to have a very fast charger installed.

Chargers are split into two types; tethered and untethered. A tethered charger comes with the cable and plug for your type of car hard-wired into it. An untethered charger doesn't have the charging cable but you can plug in the one supplied with your vehicle.

Because tethered chargers have the cable permanently connected, it means that the entire system will need to be updated if you change your EV to another model that is not compatible.

An untethered charger is generally universal, but it will mean that you will constantly have to plug in and pull out your charging cable (which is generally kept in the boot of the car).

Cables for an untethered charger tend to cost around £100 and come in various lengths, though with a tethered charger you rule out the risk of losing the cable as it is permanently fixed to your charging box.




Money-Back Offer On New Chargers!



Well, sort of ....



The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) has been set up by the Government's Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to help offset the upfront cost of installing your first home charger for an electric vehicle.


The EVHS provides funding of up to 75% (maximum £500 inc. VAT) towards the cost of installing a smart EV charger point in your home.


You have to be either the registered keeper of the electric vehicle or leasing the car/van to be entitled to the grant and the vehicle itself must be on an approved list of models.


A full list of the qualifying vehicles can be found here.


Make sure you only use an installer on the OLEV list who will then apply for the EVHS grant on your behalf when fitting the charger.




    Using 'Away' Chargers   

Using An 'Away' Charger



Once you're on the road, unless you manage your mileage very carefully, you will eventually need to recharge your electric car or van at a public or private charge point.


The Charging Conundrum

Recharging your electric vehicle at a roadside or car park charge point presents two problems:

  1. Finding a charger with the correct power output and connector for your electric vehicle.
  2. Paying for your recharge.

The solution to the first problem can often be found in the answer to the second.

You'll normally need to join one of the subscription services for recharging electric vehicles - charge points in public places or at supermarkets and service stations are typically run by companies who allow members of their service to recharge at their charge points.

Normally they will have a smartphone app or a website with details of their charge points and the fees for using them. Some require a monthly subscription whilst others also offer a Pay And Charge ('PAC') option so you can use them as little or as often as you want, though you will typically pay more per recharge for 'PAC' than with a regular subscription.

Quite often you can sign-up on-the-spot to a recharge service at the actual charge point, so if you find an available charge point and you're not already a member of the charge point owner's service you can just join immediately if you have a debit or credit card.


Get It Right!

Finding the correct away charger for your electric car or van is vital, especially for many of the early electric vehicles.

This is because the charging capacity of older electric vehicles is much lower than more recent models and the charge rate needs to be slower to prevent damage to the batteries and associated charge management components.


Types of Charge Point

When you're on the look-out for charging stations you'll find quite a range, so here's our guide to the types of charger you're likely to come across.

Slow Charger: These typically provide a 3kW charge rate, though some lamppost chargers now provide 6kW. They typically don't have a tethered cable so you'll need to provide your own. Charge times are typically between 6-12 hours for a full charge, depending on battery capacity.

Fast Charger: Normally providing 7kW, a fast charger will typically charge a compatible EV in about 4-6 hours, though more powerful 22kW fast chargers can do it in 1-2 hours. Once again you'll need to provide your own cable.

Rapid Charger: This class of charger provides the fastest type of charging that's available generally in the UK at the moment. Typically rated around 43-50kW, rapid chargers have tethered cables so you will need to find one with the correct type of connector for your electric car or van. A rapid charger should recharge your EV to 80% of battery capacity in around 30 minutes.

Ultra-Rapid charger: These charge points aren't as widely available as Rapid Chargers but the numbers are growing. They can provide 100kW or more, providing a full recharge for compatible vehicles in less than an 45 minutes. These chargers will also work with some earlier cars that can take 50kW recharging as they match the charge to the vehicle's ability to accept power.

Tesla Superchargers: Designed only for Tesla cars, these charge points can provide up to 150kW of recharge power through a special Tesla-only connector. Depending on your model of Tesla you may need a special adapter to connect to their Superchargers.





EV Charging Connectors


When you connect your EV to a charging point you'll notice that not all connectors are the same. The electric car or van manufacturer will have provided you with a cable, in fact usually two so you can use both slower home chargers and fast or rapid chargers on route.


The variation in the types of electric charger connections is due to evolution in the capabilities of electric vehicle charge points.


When you look into the front of a connector you will typically see a profile that looks something like this:





But the actual profile of the socket could look like any of these below or one of the proprietary sockets for Teslas (the one in our photo above is a Type 2, the last one in the image below).



TYPICAL EV SOCKETS*

*There are other adaptations of the above profiles too





The connectors are also given some memorable model names including CHAdeMO, CCS (Combined Charging System), Mennekes (a brand name) and Type 2 or Tesla Type 2.


Fortunately you can look up the type of connector on your new EV by clicking here.




    Warning!   




Warning!



Whilst we've mentioned push and jump-starting cars as a way of getting them going, we're definitely not suggesting you do it, nor are we endorsing it, especially on public roads and particularly for electric cars or vans as it could ruin the electric motors (towing can have the same effect for EVs).




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Contact

0330 444 0400
(+44 1792 224319 outside UK)

info@drivesmart.co.uk