How Do You Charge An Electric Car?

Whenever it’s time to charge your electric car, you’ll need to find a charging point to plug it into.

It’s a very different kind of ownership model to running a combustion-engined car. It’s unlikely that you will be going out of your way to find a garage or service station. Because from now on you’ll be able to access a growing network of chargers that will increasingly appear in places that you would never find a petrol pump.

So expect to be able to charge at home, on the street from charging bollards and lamp posts, in car parks, shopping centres, hotels, pubs and airports, and, of course, at more traditional service stations forecourts that are switching over to EV charging facilities.

UK Charging In Numbers

23,718 Public Chargers in the UK.

15,155 Locations.

246,000 full Battery Electric Vehicles registered in the UK.

(All data May 2021, courtesy of Zap Map)

Getting Your Head Round A New Way Of Fuelling

Because charge points are much more likely to be closer to you than a traditional forecourt, it’s worth trying to work out what your regular routines are and then planning ahead to understand what charge points are installed in the places that are most handy to you.

Naturally that will start with your home. If you are able to install a home charger then you are likely to be among the more than 80% of current owners who do most of their charging from the comfort of their living room.

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But wherever you stop, charging an EV is different from refuelling a traditional car. Because if you can find somewhere to plug in where you park then you are guaranteed to always return to a car that has more charge than when you left it. It’s a bit like finding someone has slipped 10 litres of unleaded into your tank without telling you…

So that means your workplace, supermarket car park and so on can all be valuable charging points to ensure that your car is effortlessly charging while you go about your day or your weekly shop.

Charging An Electric Car At Home

Still the easiest and most common method of charging an EV, home charging is convenient, economical and a real benefit for anyone who has the luxury of off-road parking.

A dedicated 7kW home charging point will give you charging speeds that are more than twice as quick as a standard three-pin socket. Depending on the size of your battery you can expect to get anything between 10 and 30 miles of range for every hour your car is plugged in.

Remember that home chargers come with either a universal socket or a tethered cable. The former is more practical if you think you will be plugging in different vehicles with different connectors, but you will need to provide the cable (your car will most likely come with the cable, so don’t worry). 

Think of this as being a bit like your phone charger, where you can physically remove the cable from the charger.

A charger with a tethered cable means you are restricted to one kind of charging connector, as the cable is physically connected to the charging unit, but you can plug and go into a car that fits without rooting around for your cable in the boot.

It’s worth noting that Vanarama offers a free home charger worth £900 if you lease an EV.*

Charging An Electric Car At Work

If you have access to workplace charging then thank your employer! If like many people your car sits parked at the office for long periods in the day then it is the prime candidate for a work charger.

Many companies have installed charging stations to support their environmental credentials and are now providing free charging as a perk. Remember, though, that workplace chargers will invariably be untethered (no cable) with universal sockets, so you will need to keep a charging cable in your car to connect to one of these.

You can expect to find workplace chargers rated at anything from 7 – 22kW. For more information on charging speeds, you can read our handy guide!

Charging An Electric Car At Public Destinations

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Charge points found in supermarkets, retail parks, airports, shopping centres and the like are often referred to as ‘destination’ chargers. These are the type that you might well plug into for a few hours while you do a shop, have a meal, watch a film or workout at the gym.

Again, the philosophy is simple: you shouldn’t expect to get a 100% charge from a destination charger but they represent the perfect opportunity for a top-up charge that means you never run the risk of heading towards empty.

Destination chargers will often provide free or discounted electricity. It’s a bit like getting free Wi-Fi – businesses are using free charging as an incentive to come and charge while you shop.

Like workplace chargers you will almost definitely need to bring your own charging cable and sometimes you may need to log into the charger via a smartphone app that can be downloaded prior to use.

Destination chargers usually offer 7kW charging, giving similar charging rates to fast home chargers (around 20-30 miles of range per hour depending on your battery size).

When You Need Lots Of Charge And Fast, Think ‘Rapid Charger’

The biggest fear of electric vehicle novices remains the concern that on long-distance journeys you will be forced into making long recharging stops.

There’s no getting away from the fact that long distances will inevitably require longer charging times but again, it’s important to get perspective around your vehicle use.

The fact is, if you’ve got your charging regime sorted, with regular mix of home and destination charging as described above, then a mid-journey charge at a motorway service station or similar, is probably going to be the only time you ever actually have to wait while your car charges.

Nevertheless, no-one likes to sit around unnecessarily, which is why shorter charging times via rapid chargers are an obvious solution.

Across the country, a network of high-powered rapid chargers (anywhere between 50 and 350kW) is being built to get EV owners charged up fast and back on the road. Find out more on where you can get charged up across the UK in our handy guide.

Nearly always providing DC (Direct Current) straight to your battery pack they can reduce charging times down to the region of 30-60 minutes for anywhere from a half to a full charge depending on your battery size.

Their speed comes at a price – rapid chargers will be the most expensive kind of charger you can plug into. And you will need to make sure that your car can accept a fast DC charge via either a CCS or CHAdeMO connector.

Rapid chargers are always tethered, meaning they will have the cable you need already attached and ready to go, so nearly every EV on sale will allow this kind of charging. It’s worth noting though that some smaller electric vehicles may restrict charging speeds to 50kW, meaning a faster charger will still be limited to that speed.

So whether you’re charging at home or plugging in during a journey, charging will quickly become second nature - just as a rest stop and a tank of petrol or diesel is now. And as the charging infrastructure grows by the month, you will be able to top up your EV in ever more convenient places.

*Terms and conditions apply.

Want to know more? Here's everything you need to know about charging electric cars.

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