Your Guide to Electric Car Charging in the UK

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It isn’t just the lure of shiny new technology that is fuelling EV sales. An ongoing global shift in environmental responsibility and the way we consume energy is changing the way we look at how we travel. “How can we get there cleaner?” is the mindset, and electric vehicles are the best answer we have right now on the road.

Electric vehicles emit no CO2 and consume no fossil fuels. Someone in the city would call them ‘smog-free’. The only question marks over their environmental credentials are how sustainably they are made, and how the electricity that powers them is generated. These, of course, are factors out of your control as a consumer.

And so, the purchase of an EV is a sound one from an environmental standpoint. They are clearly better for the environment than other options.

Having said that, there are barriers in the way of mass adoption.

These are twofold:

  1. Charging infrastructure
  2. Charging times

These barriers are also interconnected. Let us explain:

With charging infrastructure, not everyone has access to a charging point, and where they do have access to a charging point, charge times are slow relative to the time it takes to fill up with petrol or diesel. You’re talking minutes, not tens of minutes.

With current technology, it is simply impossible to create fuel stations for electric cars that offer the same convenience as those for petrol and diesel cars. If everyone had an EV right now, the queue for the ‘pump’ would be enormous.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The good news is this technology is improving rapidly — in the not-so-distant future, it is expected that we’ll be able to charge an electric car from <10 to 80% in under 10 minutes. Right now, we can do it in around 20 minutes.

There is a problem with our statement above though, and that is that to charge to 80% in 20 minutes, you need the right battery and the right charging station. You can’t just charge any old EV in that time at any old charging point.

The time it takes to charge an EV depends on the size of the battery, the speed of the charging point and the battery’s compatibility with the speed of the charging point. It can take up to 10 hours or as little as an hour to charge an EV.

So, the simplest answer to the question “how long does it take to charge an electric car?” is, it depends. We explain more below…

The different types of EV charger

The first thing you need to know about EV chargers is there is no universal standard for connectors yet. Different manufacturers provide different connectors, so not all EVs can top up at all charging stations.

Here are some of the different types of connectors:

Slow charge connectors

  • 3-pin 3kW AC
  • Type 1 3kW AC
  • Type 2 3kW AC

Fast charge connectors

  • Type 2 7-22kW AC
  • Type 1 7kW AC
  • Commando 7-22kW AC

Rapid charge connectors

  • CHAdeMo 50kW DC
  • CCS 50kW DC
  • Type 2 43kW AC
  • Tesla Type 2 150kW DC
  • Tesla V3 250kW DC

The second thing you need to know about EV charging is there are three types: slow charging, fast charging, and rapid charging.

We can also split these types of charging into where you would find them. At home and work, you will find slow chargers and Type 1 fast chargers (up to 7.5kW). At service stations, you’ll find Type 2 fast chargers and rapid chargers.

Relative charge times by charger type

Charging using a 3kW wall box takes 16 to 22 hours with most electric cars.

Charging using a fast charge 7kW wall box takes 6.5 to 10 hours (this charging effectively doubles up the charging rate).

Fast chargers up to 22KW charge most electric cars in 2-3 hours. Again, this charging boosts the charge rate over a 7KW wall box by double.

DC rapid chargers can top up newer electric cars to 80% in under 30 minutes and some (such as the Peugeot e-208) can charge to 80% in 20 minutes at a 100kW station. You can add half an hour to these times to get to 100%.

The reason manufacturers will often quote charge times to 80% and not 100% is because most lithium-ion batteries only support rapid charging up to 80%, after which the battery receives a slower charge rate to avoid overheating.

AC and DC chargers

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed we’ve written ‘AC’ or ‘DC’ next to the connector types above.

The difference between these types of charger is simple:

AC chargers

These provide power to the on-board charger in the vehicle, which converts that AC power into the DC power the battery needs. The on-board charger has an acceptance rate, which is why EVs can be slower or faster to charge than others.

DC chargers

Dc chargers pump DC power directly to the battery. They bypass the on-board charger in the vehicle. This means the flow is not limited by the on-board charger. This enables the vehicle to receive a rapid charge. The charging time at a DC station is dependent on the size of the battery relative to the output of the dispenser.

Now, you may be wondering why all charging points aren’t of the DC variety if they are so much better. The answer is because DC stations are a lot more expensive. This is because they have their own converter and are much larger. Because of this, they are not a volume item, making the engineering cost higher too.

Top tips for EV charging

  1. Plan your journeys

Whether you’re commuting to work or planning a family road trip, plan your journey with stops for charging. Use an app like OpenChargeMap to locate charging points.

  1. Search for the fastest chargers

50kW and 100kW rapid chargers are common at service stations now. Refer to your manufacturer’s handbook to find out the maximum power your battery accepts and make a note of all the max capacity chargers in your area.

  1. Install a wall box at home and work

If you can, install a wall box at home or work. 7.5KW wall boxes are relatively inexpensive now and there are two schemes to reduce the cost further:

  • The Government OLEV grant – this is for homeowners and grants you £500 towards the cost of a home charging point.
  • The Government WCS workplace charger scheme – this grants you 75% off the cost of purchase and installation with a capped price of £500 per socket.

These schemes are open for 2020.

  1. Be mindful of your range

The quoted WLTP range of your EV should give you a good idea of what to expect, but external factors can reduce it.

Cold weather is the biggest issue because it takes longer for the battery to reach its ideal operating temperature. Your driving style is also important. If you drive hard a lot of the time, your range will fall quickly. This will increase the need for you to charge and only bring inconvenience to your EV ownership experience.

Want to know more?

Hopefully, this guide has given you a solid introduction to electric car charging in the UK. If you’d like to find out more, we’re here to help. Contact us on 0333 050 8419 or send us a message

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