One of the main concerns people have about switching to an electric car is the logistics of charging it. We've visited familiar petrol stations every time our fuel tank has been low for years, but an electric car can be plugged in at home, at work, while shopping, and at thousands of public chargers across the country. There's lots to get your head around!
How long does it take to charge an electric car at home?
Unlike filling up an ICE, which takes a few minutes regardless of which car you have or how empty the tank is, charging time for an EV varies hugely depending on the kind of car you have and the kind of charging point you’re using.
As most people come home and charge their cars overnight, the time it takes isn’t usually a problem. And overnight charging can work in your favour, too. If you have a smart meter, you can take advantage of variable tariffs and cheap overnight electricity rates by charging your car while you sleep. Guaranteed off-peak rates can be as little as 4 or 5p per KWh (not including standing charges), which can make charging your car very cost effective.
Read our article on EV tariffs.
Can you plug an electric car into a regular socket?
Yes, you can. Your car will probably come with an EVSE supply cable that will allow you to charge your car from a regular socket. However, it’s not ideal for all your charging. A typical home socket in the UK puts out around 2.3kWh of power. This is considerably less than a typical electric vehicle home charging point, which is capable of putting out up to 7kWh of power. If you have a car with a particularly large battery and you discharge it fully, you might find that you’re not even able to charge your car up overnight as a home socket can’t put out enough power.
How much does a home charging point cost?
In the UK, the government offers a grant of up to £350 for anyone having an electric car charging port installed in their home. As a result, the typical cost to the homeowner of having a charging point installed is around £500. This includes the charging point itself, a cable running from the charging point to your electricity supply, as well as other accessories and the cost of labour.
However, if ground works or a cable longer than around 10m are required, this cost may be higher. There are numerous companies who can do this work for you, and we’d encourage you to shop around when obtaining quotes to get the best deal.
What happens if I don’t have a garage or driveway?
This is where electric car ownership becomes a little more difficult, but not impossible. If you don’t have a garage or a driveway, it’s not really possible for you to fit an electric vehicle charger in your home. Now, you could just charge your car using a regular electrical socket in your home, but this relies on your car being outside your home, and if you don’t have an allocated parking space it’s likely that you’ll come home, low on battery, and someone else will be parked outside your house, meaning you’re not able to charge.
Of course, you could make contingencies for this, by contacting your local council and asking them whether it’s OK to run a cable across the road to wherever you’re parked as long as you use a safety kit, but you risk annoying your neighbours and pedestrians using the pavement.
There is always the possibility of lobbying your local council to install charging points in your street. Many areas are looking into electric car charging points that use the electricity supply in the same way your lamppost does, allowing for electric car charging points to be installed on the street.
If you don't have a driveway, charging away from home might be the only solution right now.
How do you charge an electric car away from home?
For a commuter without home charging, you'd ideally be able to charge your electric car at work. An eight hour period is usually more than enough time to charge an electric car to drive back and forth between home and work. However, work charging is not yet the norm, and chances are you’ll have to look elsewhere for an electric vehicle charging point.
With a growing infrastructure of electric car chargers, it’s likely that there is an electric car charging station close to where you live or work. Electric vehicle charging points are becoming better and the network is growing by the day. The fastest, ultra-rapid chargers can charge your car at rates of up to 150kW (compare this to the average 7kW home charger), delivering a huge charge in 20-30 minutes, but at a cost approaching that of a regular tank of fuel.
There are some commercial car parks that offer some electric vehicle charging, as well as private car parks in shopping centres and out-of-town stores where you can charge while you shop.
You can find details of all the chargers in an area by downloading the Zap Map app.