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How To Charge Electric Cars At Home, Work & In Public | 2022

Learn how to charge an electric car, how long it takes, the cost, locations and using the UK public charging network. Read Mer's guide to 2021 EV ownership.

how to charge an electric car

To charge an electric car, you will need to plug it into a charging point – either at home, at work, at the roadside, or at a public service station. It can take anything from 20 minutes to 24+ hours to fully charge depending on the charging point you use, and the type of car battery you have.

You’d be easily forgiven for finding the world of electric charging complex. There’s a lot to get your head around.

In fact, the RAC have specifically criticised the ‘lack of standardisation of connectors’ and ‘bewildering array of types of charge points, connectors and tariffs’.

However, understanding the charging options available to you is a vital step to take, prior to purchasing or leasing your first electric vehicle – and even more so if you are electrifying your entire business fleet, or wanting to offer employees EV charging options. We’ve broken down the essential facts below, to help you get to grips with the basics of electric charging.

 

How does an EV charger work?

Charging an EV is a straightforward action – using an EV connector, you plug your vehicle into a charge point, and power-up. The efficiency of the charge and amount of power you can obtain, will depend on the ability of your vehicle to accept high-powered charging, and the charge speed of the charge point you use.

So, what’s an EV connector? In order to charge, EVs have to be connected to a charge point via a cable. This cable has a ‘connector’ at either end – one to plug into the car inlet, and one to plug into the charger unit outlet. It’s worth noting at this point, that many public charging units do already have the connector tethered to the unit.

EV connectors are perhaps the most confusing part of electric charging – because there is no universal connector type…

 

The most common EV connector types are:

  1. UK 3-pin – AC – S13A / 2.3-3kW (Granny chargers)
  2. Type 1 – AC – 3-7kW
  3. Type 2 – AC – 3-43kW
  4. Commando – AC – 3-22kW
  5. European Combined Charging System (CCS) – DC – 50kW
  6. Japanese JEVS (CHAdeMO) – DC – 50kW
  7. Tesla Supercharger (Type 2) – DC – 50-120kW

The connector type accepted by the vehicle inlet varies from model to model, and when it comes to the charging unit outlet, it varies depending on the power rating.

When you’re deciding which electric vehicle to buy – to ensure you get the most efficient charge – you ideally want to pair your car’s connector type, with the type of charging station you will be using most regularly. We will come onto the types of charging stations available later on.

In the majority of cases though, you should always be able to charge your car while out and about, as most EVs come with 2 extra cables that enable you to charge via different charge point connectors – the charge may just be less efficient. But be aware of your model’s limitations!

 

The connectors required on some of the most popular EVs:

Vauxhall Corsa-e: these vehicles use the CCS charging standard, which consists of a combined AC and DC inlet port. For public slow and fast AC points, it can be charged with a Type 2 connector, and for rapid DC charging, a CCS connector.

Nissan LEAF: It accepts two connector types – Type 2 for slow and fast AC charging and CHAdeMO for rapid DC charging.

BMW i3: this model also has a combined AC and DC inlet port. Part of the inlet is for a Type 2 connector for slow and fast charging and the other is for a CSS connector, for rapid charging.

 

Can I charge an electric car at home?

Yes. In fact the majority of drivers choose to charge their EVs overnight at home, and then use public charging points for quick top-ups on long trips.

You can technically use a 3 pin domestic plug as mentioned above, but it’s not advised you do, due to the time it will take to charge and safety considerations. EV owners are best purchasing an EV wallbox charger alongside their new vehicle, which can speed up the process considerably.

how to charge an electric car

 

How long does it take to charge an electric car at home and on the go?

The time it takes to charge an electric car can be as little as 20 minutes via a public rapid charger (charging within the suggested safe range of 20%-80%), or as much as 24+ hours for some models if you were to use a domestic plug at home (not advised).

Your personal charge time will depend entirely on the size of your EV battery and the speed of the charge point you use as well as the capacity of the vehicle to accept the charge speed. For instance, there is no point in charging on a 300 kWh Ultra Rapid charger in a car which accepts a maximum of 50 kWh, as is the case for most vehicles other than a Tesla which were available before 2018.

 

An example of charge times with two of 2020’s best selling UK EVs:

Nissan LEAF: the LEAF has a 40kWh battery. Using a domestic socket, fully charging the battery will take 21 hours. If you were to get a 7kW home charging unit installed, or use a fast public one, it would take 7.5 hours to charge. Or if you used a 50kW public rapid charger, you can charge from 20-80% in 60 minutes. With the Nissan LEAF, a full charge will take you up to 168 miles.

Vauxhall Corsa-e: the electric remake of the hugely popular model, uses a 50kWh battery. Using a domestic socket, charging the battery to 80% will take 19.5 hours. If you were to install a 7.4kW home charger, you could reach 80% charge in 6 hours. And finally, using a rapid 100kW charging station can get you to 80% charge in just 30 minutes. Charging to 80% will take you an estimated 168 miles.

 

How much does it cost to charge an electric car at home?

On average, a family sized electric car costs just 3.7 pence per mile to charge at home, while the cost of an equivalent petrol car costs 14.2 pence per mile.

As already mentioned, the majority of EV owners will charge their car at home overnight as this offers the cheapest solution – and occasionally top-up using public chargers. So the majority of the cost will depend on an individual’s electricity tariff and it will show up on their domestic electric bill.

 

How much does it cost to charge an electric car at a charging station?

On average you can expect to spend £1.50 per hour of charge when using a fast public charger, and £6 for a 30 minute charge with a rapid charger. But the cost of public charging points vary – and some charge point hosts such as shopping centres offer free charging while you visit them.

Some charge points will charge based on the time spent charging, and some based on electricity used. Rapid charge points are naturally more expensive, as you can cram in more power in a short amount of time. As a result, many charge based on time spent, with a surcharge on the amount of electricity used.

 

The costs of charging your EV

Car Magazine offers a handy way to calculate a rough estimate of what you can expect to spend when charging at home or in public: Size of battery (kWh) x Electricity cost of your supplier (pence per kilowatt hour) = Cost to charge an electric car from empty to full.

The average domestic electricity rate is about 14p per kWh. And the average cost of using rapid chargers is 40p per kWh.

 

Examples of charging costs at home with 3 of the most popular EVs:

How much does it cost to charge the Nissan LEAF?

With the Nissan LEAF, which has a 40 kWh battery and 168 mile range, you’d be expecting to pay roughly £5.60 for a full charge at home (40 kWh x 0.14p = £5.60) – that’s 3.3p per mile.

Charging your Nissan LEAF on the move to 80% with a rapid charger, will likely cost around £12.60 – 7.6p per mile.

 

How much does it cost to charge the BMW i3?

With the BMW i3, which has a 33 kWh battery and 146 mile range, you’d expect to pay roughly £4.62 for a full charge (33 kWh x 0.14p = £4.62)  – that’s 3.2p per mile.

Charging your BMW i3 on the move to 80% with a rapid charger, will likely cost around £10.56 – 7.1p per mile.

 

How much does it cost to charge the Tesla Model 3?

With the Tesla Model 3, which has a 60 kWh battery and 250 mile range, you’d expect to pay roughly £8.40 for a full charge (60 kWh x 0.14p = £8.40)  – that’s 3.4p per mile.

Charging your Tesla Model 3 on the move to 80% with a rapid charger, will likely cost around £24 – 7.7 per mile.

And with Tesla, you have Supercharger stations open to you, estimated to cost around 24p per kWh for an 80% charge. For the Model 3 this would cost you £11.52 – that’s 4.7p per mile.

 

EV charging station installation costs – domestic & business

Domestic wallbox chargers

One last cost-consideration is the initial outlay for an EV charge point installation.

Chargers don’t come cheap, but the government’s EV Homecharge Scheme currently provides funding of up to 75% towards the cost of installing (smart) charge points at domestic properties.

It’s important to note that the government’s grant is only available for smart wallbox chargers. Smart functionality allows you to control your charger remotely via an app – you can view your spend, and choose when your car charges to take advantage of cheaper tariffs.

And EV drivers may soon be seeing much larger gains from their wallbox charger thanks to the introduction of Vehicle-To-Grid technology (V2G).

Although still in trial mode, V2G has the potential to be game-changing – enabling consumers to control when their vehicle charges and take advantage of the lowest energy rates, power their house with unused energy from their vehicle, and even sell excess energy back to the grid. According to Which?’s calculations, it could cover the majority of the running costs for an electric car.

 

Business charge point installation

And if you’re looking to electrify your fleet, or offer workplace charging, you will most definitely need to consider the costs of charging units. The cost of EV chargers will vary depending on the charge speed you want, ranging from hundreds to thousands. But government discounts are available to businesses, enabling you to get a £350 discount on each socket, for up to a total of 40 sockets.

To qualify for the grant, businesses need to use a supplier (such as Mer) approved by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) – formerly OLEZ.

Installing EV chargers at your business location can bring a lot of advantages with it, enabling you to quickly see the return on your investment. Read more about the benefits of EV charging stations for businesses in our recent blog.

 

EV chargers speeds – the 3 types you need to know about

There are 3 main types of chargers used to power EVs in the UK, and they are most commonly referred to as ‘Slow’ ‘Fast’ and ‘Rapid/Ultra Rapid’. The clue is in the name as to what to expect – each one offers a different power output and therefore a different charging speed…

  • Slow chargers charge up to 3.6 kW, can take between 6-12 hrs for a full charge and are most commonly used at home.
  • Fast chargers charge between 7-22 kW in 3-5 hrs and are the most common type of charger found at public charging points.
  • Rapid chargers charge at 43-300 kW, allowing you to reach 80% charge in 20-40 minutes, and are usually found at motorway service stations and other on route locations, as well as retail parks and restaurants.

As mentioned earlier, each charger type has its own connector requirements. It’s important to understand where your model of EV can be charged – for example some EVs and plug-in hybrids cannot use rapid chargers.

 

Slow EV chargers:

These units are the cheapest and least hassle to install, but they also take the longest to charge and provide the lowest range per hour. As a result, they are typically the choice for homeowners charging their vehicles at home.

What you need to know:

 

How long does it take to charge?6-12 hrs for a pure EV, Or just 2-4 hrs for a hybrid
Suitable for commercial or personal use?Personal
How many miles of range per hour of charging?Up to 15 miles per hour of charge
How many Kilowatts of power can it give you?Up to 3.6 kW
What’s the installation process?The charging unit can be plugged into a standard outlet, no extra equipment necessary.
AC or DC Charging?AC
What connectors are required?3-pin 3kW AC, Type 1 3kW AC, Type 2 3kW AC, Commando 3kW AC

Fast EV chargers:

As the name suggests, you’ll get an accelerated power-up with a fast-charger – but expect a higher initial financial outlay if you want this type of charge unit at home. You can also find these types of charge points at both public and workplace charging stations.

What you need to know:

How long does it take to charge? 3-5 hrs
Suitable for commercial or personal use?Both
How many miles of range per hour of charging?10-90 miles per hour of charge
How many Kilowatts of power can it give you?7kW to 11kW (occasionally up to 22kW)
What’s the installation process?Professional installation required.
AC or DC Charging?AC
What connectors are required?Type 2 7-22kW AC, Type 1 7kW AC, Commando 7-22kW AC

Rapid/ Ultra-Rapid EV chargers

Rapid and Ultra-Rapid chargers are typically found at service stations or EV charging hubs, due to the level of installation and maintenance required although they are starting to appear in cities too. They offer the fastest charge – but this comes at a higher cost.

What you need to know:

How long does it take to charge?Get an 80% charge in 20-40 minutes (most rapid charging units will stop at 80% to protect the battery life)
Suitable for commercial or personal use?Commercial
How many miles of range per hour of charging?60-100 miles
How many Kilowatts of power can it give you?Rapid AC chargers can give you 43kW, Rapid DC chargers can give you 50kW, Ultra-Rapid DC chargers can give you up to 350kW
What’s the installation process?Professional installation required.
AC or DC Charging?Both options possible.
What connectors are required?CHAdeMo from 50kW DC, CCS from 50kW DC, Type 2 43kW AC, Tesla Type 2 120kW DC

>> Mer offers a range of charge point solutions suited for both workplace and public use, get in touch to discuss your specific needs. >>

 

Finding & using public EV charging stations in the UK

The last thing to get to grips with, is making use of public EV charging stations.

In terms of finding a charge point, according to ZapMap there are now more than 24,651 charge points (42,344 sockets) across the UK. Zap Map makes it easy to find a location via their website or App. The network is growing exponentially as EV sales increase.

The UK EV charging station network is operated by several different companies.

However, many charge point owners, require you to register and use an app or charge card. This can get frustrating if you’re planning a long trip where you may encounter charge points owned by a variety of firms.

Some charge point owners (such as Mer) are promoting roaming agreements to offer EV drivers a seamless experience. These agreements between charge points operators allow drivers to use one charge card or app across several networks. At Mer, we have partnered with fuel card provider Allstar to allow electric vehicle fleet members in the UK to seamlessly charge on Mer’s growing network of charging points with Allstar’s One Electric Card.

how to charge an electric car

 

Workplace EV charging

Many businesses have started to install EV charge points for their employees – as part of CSR initiatives, to attract new employees and service their growing EV fleets. So you may already be able to leave your car on charge while at the office (once you’re back in of course!).

If you’re a business weighing up the pros & cons of workplace/fleet EV charger installation, take a look at our recent blog on workplace EV charging.

 

Get started today.

Hopefully this guide has broken down the key facts around EV charging, so you know what to expect before you decide to buy or lease your first EV, convert your fleet, or maybe provide workplace charging stations for your employees.

Get in touch to find out how we can help you get set-up for EV charging!

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