When looking to buy an electric car there are several things that can seem daunting, with some of the top concerns being: how and when it can be charged, what it will cost you and what to do if you run out of charge out and about.
In this Beginner’s Guide we’ll be talking you through all of these points and more, including:
- How Do I Charge My Electric Car? Types of Charging Points/Stations
- Home Charging Points: Installation and Costs
- Public Charging Points/Stations & related FAQs
- What if My Electric Car Runs Out of Charge?
How Do I Charge My Electric Car?
Charging an electric car is exactly the same, conceptually, as filling up your tank with petrol – it is just another fuel type. The bonus of going electric, however, is that you can use public electric charging points out and about, as well as charging your electric car at home.
Charging My Car At Home
There are two ways of charging your electric car at home:
1. Using A Domestic Plug:
Most electric vehicles come with a charging unit that you can plug into domestic power outlets.
Charging your electric car from a domestic plug, however, doesn’t tend to be recommended as a permanent solution as it takes a long time (between 4 and 12 hours depending on your car type) and it isn’t considered to be as safe as using a professionally installed home charging point.
2. Electric Car Home Charging Points:
A home charging station will charge your car more quickly than a domestic outlet and, because it will have been installed to directly communicate with your particular car, it is a safer option.
While initial installation is costly (with charges of up to £1,000), the government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) offers grants of up to £500 towards the costs of the installation of a home charging point.
Electric Car Charging Point Installation
You should always get a home charging point installed by a qualified installer. There are several different types of charging points for you to choose from depending on the speed that you want to charge your car at and the type of car you will be charging.
Using the Government’s electric vehicle homecharge scheme authorised installers guide, you can find a reliable and trustworthy installer for your home charging point. These qualified installers can also help you to decide on the right charging point for your electric car.
How Much Does It Cost To Charge An Electric Car At Home?
Once you have your electric car charging point installed, charging your car at home is generally cheaper than using a public charging point. However, the costs involved are very much dependent on the speed that you choose to charge at, your electricity provider and the car that you are charging. By using a Home Charging Calculator you can work out the costs specific to you.
As an example, at the time of writing, to charge a Nissan LEAF Tekna 40 kWh Auto up to 80% using a 3kW Charger at home it would cost around £5.30 (using an electricity cost of 16.5p/kWh). Charging the same vehicle at a public charging point, at the same charging speed would cost around £9.60 (depending on the network).
Public Charging Points
Public electric vehicle charging points offer back-up power sources for when you are out and about and can be found all over the UK. As the demand for electric cars grows, we anticipate the number of public charging points to increase on a national and international level.
There is an array of apps that you can download to keep you up to date with the latest locations of public charging points.
How Do Public Charging Points Work?
Public charging points are a bit like petrol pumps, in that they are owned by a network of providers – a bit like the equivalent of a BP, Shell or Texaco garage – and as such vary in how much and how they charge.
There are currently 15 main public charge point networks that cover a variety of areas within the UK. These are supported by some additional, smaller companies. There are also two “taxi networks”, which provide charging points solely for taxi drivers.
All public charging points offer three settings for the rate/time it takes to charge your car. The below table gives an average for the slow, fast and rapid options – though of course times will vary according to your car type:
|Car charging points||Power generated(kW)||Duration for full charging (hours)|
|Slow charging||up to 3||6-8|
|Rapid charging||43-50||Up to 80% in 30 minutes|
The costs involved will increase significantly from a slow to rapid charge.
How Much Does It Cost To Use A Public Car Charging Point?
Just like different petrol pump stations, the variety of network providers for charging electric cars differ in their charging methods and costs. Some are free, a few charge per hour, and others charge a fixed per session fee.
Memberships and Discounts Are Available For Public Charging Points
As you would with your preferred supermarket, you can also become a member of specific networks. Ecotricity for example, offers half price charging at their Electric Highway stations if you sign up to their Fully Charged Bundle, which includes a saving of over £400 on the cost of charging your vehicle at home with 100% green electricity.
Tescos Claims To Be Offering Free Charging At Their Stores
In November 2018 Tesco announced that it is partnering with Volkswagen to provide “the largest retail Electric Vehicle charging network in the UK”. Excitingly, using Pod Point, they aim to install these across Tesco Extra and Superstore car parks, with those using a normal 7kW charger being given free fuel, and those after a quicker charge incurring a small cost in line with the market rate.
Where Can I Find Public Electric Car Charge Points?
Public charging points are located all over the UK. They can be found at motorway service stations, shopping centres, supermarkets, at places of work and in on-street car parking bays.
Ecotricity, for example, offers a multitude of charging points on UK motorways. You can also choose from several apps to download to locate your nearest and most compatible public charging points – or pin point where you might want to stop if you are going on a longer journey.
Charging At The Workplace
Many workplaces such as the NHS have already initiated the installation process for public charging points. As with the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, the government offers a Workplace Charging Scheme grant to businesses, charities and local authorities. They can claim up to £500 for 75% of the total installation costs per socket, with a maximum of 20 sockets per company.
If you are keen to get your company involved it is worth reading the application details prior to suggesting it to your employer as there are limits to the eligibility of firms to the scheme. Our partner, EVBOX can help to arrange a quotation and supply the installation services.
What If My Electric Car Runs Out Of Charge?
If your electric car runs out of charge you will simply need to be towed to the nearest charging point, as you would be taken to a petrol station if you ran out of petrol. As with a conventional vehicle, it is always recommended that you take out breakdown cover which will prevent unnecessary expenses in the unlikely event that you do need to be towed.
Electric cars, like all powered vehicles, have a limit to how far they can travel without refuelling. But with public charging points and the ability to charge from home, you are unlikely to suddenly run out of charge, assuming you plan accordingly.
Understandably, with the relative newness of electric cars, and less overtly obvious public charging stations as compared with petrol stations, running out of charge can be a concern. As technology advances, however, electric cars will have ever-increasing range, and as such “range anxiety” should become less of an issue.
How To Avoid Running Out Of Charge
Running out of charge for your electric car is unlikely if you follow these few, simple instructions.
Understand Your Electric Car’s Range Capabilities
You need to understand your fuel gauge, the capacity of your “petrol tank” (i.e. the battery) and the relative distance that your particular vehicle can go based on the way that you drive it and the type of car that it is.
Always Set Out With A Full Charge
With the ability to charge your car at home, there really should be no need to set out on a journey without your car being fully charged. You wouldn’t set out with your phone with low battery, so why would you do this in a car?
Look Up Public Charging Points On Your Route, Before You Travel
As you would with a conventional car, you should look up public charging points along your way before you set out on a long journey.
Carry A Portable Electric Car Charger Cable
Carrying a portable electric car charging cable won’t help you if you run out of fuel, but it will mean that you can charge your car when you arrive at, for example, a friend’s house who doesn’t yet have an EV (why not?!).
Going electric really isn’t as difficult as it might seem, and charging your electric vehicle is just one example of that. In fact, you could see it as easier than filling up a conventional car since you have so many more choices available to you, namely that you can always set off from home on a full charge. Add to the mix that pledges, such as Tesco’s, will soon mean that going electric will allow you to charge your car for free and it soon starts becoming a no brainer to make your next car an electric one.
For more information on buying an electric car, have a look at our electric car jargon buster…What is an EV?