Thinking of buying an electric car? Make sure to read our handy guide to all things electric vehicle charging before making your decision
Understanding electric vehicle charging
Electric cars have become increasingly popular over the last few years. In early 2019 the number of electric vehicles on the road was more than 220,000 compared to only 3,500 in 2013. The benefits of owning an electric car combined with greater vehicle choice played a big part in increasing the popularity.
In future all service stations will be required to have charging points. The Government announced a ban on new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 so manufactures will have to up their game as electric cars become the norm.
If you are considering purchasing an electric car you are probably familiar with the benefits such as reduced pollution as well as both cheaper running and maintenance costs. Perhaps that all sounds very well and good but you don’t understand how the day-to-day running works. Read on to find out!
Do all electric cars have the same charger?
Petrol and diesel connecters are (give or take) the same across the world. Electric cars however aren’t quite there yet. Initially manufactures of electric cars developed connectors to best suit their cars batteries, as a result there are a few different types of connectors:
In 2014 the European Union decided to simplify things. The European Commission ruled that all new plug-in vehicles and charging stations should have a Type 2 connector. As it stands not electric vehicles have Type 2 cables however, they are available to be purchased separately.
There is also a Type 1 way of charging. This is a single-phase plug with a maximum charge speed of 7.4kw. Some home and public charging units come with Type 1 connectors, however a public charging unit will never have just the Type 1 connector available.
A rare connecter found on lesser-selling electric cars such as the Ford Focus Ev. Some public charging stations will have this connector.
Where can I charge an electric car?
Having a fully charged electric car is crucial for electric car owners, without enough charge you may not be able to complete planned journeys. You could say the same for fuel, however in many ways it is easier to access fuel, and once fuel is bought it’s ready to use. Electric cars require charging, which also requires time! There are a few places where electric cars can be charged. At home, with public charging units, and sometimes on the motorway.
Perhaps the most common way to charge an electric car, is at home. This is because an overnight charge is very convenient.
There are two ways to charge an electric car at home. Either by plugging a charger into a standard 3-point plug socket. Whilst that option could be viewed as easy, the wattage is low, so it takes much longer to charge the vehicle. This method is called slow-charging.
The second option is to have a fast-charging point installed which would charge the vehicle much quicker. Of course, you must arrange to have it installed, and will need a garage or driveway but considering how much time is spent at home- it’s worthwhile! The government will cover up to 75% or £500 of the install costs by an approved contractor.
Costs involved with charging at home
Ultimately the costs depend on how long it takes for the vehicle to reach full charge, and how frequently the vehicle needs charging. The cost is just the rate paid for electricity. It’s still much cheaper to power an electric car than it is to buy fuel. One wise way to keep costs low is to get the kind of tariff where electricity usage is cheaper after midnight. This way getting a full charge overnight won’t cost much.
You can find out more about how much it costs to charge an electric vehicle in our blog here.
Public charging points
Public charging points are very convenient for those moments when you’re on the go and have run out of charge. They’re becoming more common, popping up all over the place. They’re set to overtake the number of petrol stations! As of January 2019, there were roughly 6,800 charging locations providing 11,100 individual charging points.
Finding a charging point
New electric cars have a sat nav system that will direct you to the nearest, compatible charging point. There are also websites like ‘Zap Map’ that can do this and tell you whether they are in use or not.
How do I use a public charging point?
Depending on the provider, you may have to ‘unlock’ the charging point with a swipe card that you would apply for before. You may also be required to unlock the charging point with an app, using something like a QR code. Once you have access you ultimately just plug the connecter into the vehicle. It may vary slightly from charging point and vehicle but the concept is very much the same.
Costs involved with using a public charging point
Many charging points used to be free for the driver to use, however since then many companies have caught on and now charge drivers. For example, a common rate is £6 for 30 minutes. There are also monthly tariffs with some providers such a ‘Polar’, the biggest company at a cost of £8 per month. There are still some charging points that provide free charges, and Tesco supermarkets are installing free charge points for customers in several of its stores throughout 2019. Nissan lets drivers of Nissan vehicles charge for free at its dealerships.
Charging on the motorway
A company called ‘Ecotricity’ has very much monopolised motorway charging. They provide 50 charging stations throughout the UK with 300 charging points. The tariff is £6 for 30 minutes. Using the satnav or dedicated website will help to find a suitable point whilst travelling.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Charging time depends on the wattage available that the charger can provide, and the wattage the vehicle can accept.
At home there are two speeds available.
Slow charging- Takes place at a rate of 3kW. From empty, a full charge will take 8-14 hours.
Fast charging- Takes place at rate of 7-22kW. From empty, a full charge will take 3-4 hours.
Public charging stations charge at a faster rate. Often 43-50kW, which means a full charge could be achieved in as little as 2 hours.
There is also rapid charging. This isn’t something that’s compatible with all electric cars as the wattage is a lot higher. It is a very rapid charge meaning that from empty a driver could be at 80 per cent in 30 minutes.
How long does a fully charged vehicle last?
Most electric vehicles currently have about 100 miles of driving before they need to be charged, apart from the Tesla Model S, which can travel about 250 miles on a charge. A standard electric car can do roughly approximately two hours on the motorway before needing to be topped up. With the rapid charging you can stop to charge for 30 minutes whilst travelling. This stop will need to be factored into the estimated arrival time! The charge would last significantly longer if only local journeys were being made.