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A Guide to Charging an Electric Vehicle

Electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise and in the not too distant future we’ll all be driving them, but here at Car Lease Special Offers we know that many drivers are still apprehensive for a number of reasons. The two biggest reasons that our customers give for being concerned about electric vehicles is the range and charging them.

We’ve got a separate guide that looks at the range of electric vehicles and what can impact it, so in this guide we’re going to focus on EV charging.

A lot of the points we touch upon here will also apply to plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) as these also require regular charging in order to get the most from the hybrid benefits. For more information on hybrids and the benefits of PHEVS just click here.

Types of EV Chargers

In the UK chargers are divided into three categories depending on the speed of charging they can offer. These three speeds and categories are:

  • Rapid
  • Fast
  • Slow 

Within each of these categories, you can have tethered and untethered units. Tethered units have the charging cable permanently attached so you just need to plug this into your charging port. Untethered units do not have a charging cable fixed to the charger and so you will need to use the one supplied with your vehicle and connect this to both the unit and your car.

We recommend always carrying your charging cable with you as one of our top charging tips.

EV Connectors, Cables and Currents

Before we take a look at the different types of chargers available we thought it would be useful to first have a look at the connectors and cables that your EV will come with or use.

There’s a number of different charging connectors that your EV might use depending on the manufacturer, the speed of charging it can accept, the charging unit and socket it uses and the vehicle’s inlet port.

charger-connection-types-for-ev-charging

Rapid charging units will usually use a  CHAdeMO, CCS or Type 2 connector, while fast and slow units will use a Type 2, Type 1, Commando or three-pin plug connector.

EVs should always come with the necessary cables for you to charge them at an untethered unit.

Currents

There are two types of electricity currents: Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC).

With a DC the electricity only flows in one direction whilst in an AC the flow of energy can change direction.

Power flows off the electricity grid in an AC current but batteries that are charged to store electricity can only accept a DC current. So, when you are charging your EV the current will need to be converted by AC to DC. Some charging units will convert the electricity supply for you but with AC charging units your car will then convert the power to a DC current before it is stored in the battery.  There’s very little difference between currents in terms of charging your vehicle other than where the current is converted.

AC connectors include a UK three-pin plug, Commando Type 1 and Type 2 chargers. DC Connectors are CHAdeMO, CCS and Tesla’s supercharge connectors.

Rapid Chargers

Rapid chargers are the fastest of the three main chargers available for EVs, and all rapid charging units have a tethered cable so you will just need to connect your car.

There are ultra-rapid chargers that are being developed to make charging even quicker, however these are not currently common on the charging network though it is the next step in EV charging and we expect to see more and more appearing.

Ultra-rapid chargers can usually fully charge an EV within 20 to 40 minutes to get you back on the road as quickly as possible. You will still be able to use an ultra-rapid charger on a vehicle that is only capable of accepting up to 50 kW of power as the charger will adjust to restrict the power to your vehicle.

Both rapid and ultra-rapid chargers usually use a CCS or CHAdeMO connector unless it is one of Telsa’s Superchargers which sometimes use a Type 2 connector.

Not all EVs are compatible with rapid charging, so we recommend checking whether the particular model you have is able to accept rapid charging. You can usually check this in the vehicle’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website if you already have an EV.

If you’re in the process of looking for a new vehicle and considering an EV then one of our Leasing Consultants will be happy to advise you on the charging capabilities of any model you’re interested in. You can speak to us on 0330 221 0000 or request a call back via the purple phone in the bottom left of your screen.

Rapid chargers can provide up to 43 kW via AC charging, 50 kW via DC charging or over 100kW via DC ultra-rapid charging and because of the speed of charging that they provide you will usually find them at service stations, so that you can get back onto the road as quickly as possible. They will typically charge an EV to 80% in an hour or less depending on your battery’s receiving capacity and the starting level of charge.

Fast Chargers

The next level of charging available is via fast chargers which is the middle level of charging available, typically offering either seven kW or 22 kW of current for you.

Most fast chargers typically have an AC current and are untethered allowing you to connect your own charging cable to the unit. It will usually be a Type 2 connector that you need to use though there are some 25 kW DC chargers that are being installed with a CCS or CHAdeMO connection.

Some home and workplace fast charging units are tethered to make it easier for users as these will regularly be used by particular users and vehicles.

Tesla destination chargers are also classed as a fast chargers, with either 11 kW or 22 kW of electricity. Like Tesla’s superchargers they are only intended to be used with Tesla models however many also have a Type 2 charger at the same location which is compatible with any vehicle that has a Type 2 connector.

Just like with a rapid or ultra-rapid charger not all vehicles are capable of receiving seven kW of power or more, but this is less likely to be the case with modern EVs. Any vehicle that is not able to accept fast charging speed can still be plugged into a fast-charging unit but it will only be charged at its maximum power level.

Slow Chargers

The third level and speed of charging in the UK is via a slow charger, which offers you three to six kW of energy.

It is usually home charging units that fall into this category, though there are still a few on the public network which are usually older models or lamp-post charging units where existing infrastructure limits the power output.

Slow chargers can be tethered or untethered units and use one of a number of connectors.

The three-pin plug which goes into a regular power socket is classed as a slow charging method, however we do not recommend this as a long-term charging solution due to the length of time it takes to charge and the higher current demands an EV has compared to other household electronics. We can assist you with installing a home or workplace charging unit as an official PodPoint partner, just give us a call on 01722 322 888 to find out more.

Where to Charge

There are three main places that EV drivers can charge their vehicle:

Charging at Home

For most EV drivers a home charging unit is the best option. Charging your vehicle whilst you’re at home is the most convenient place, as you can go about your usual routine without having to worry about going out to charge the vehicle, or it getting enough charge while you do the weekly shop.

Although the majority of electric cars are supplied with a cable that has a three-pin socket for slow charging in a mains plug it’s not recommended you regularly use this to charge your vehicle as it is quite a slow process and can have a significant impact on your electricity usage.

The alternative is having a home charging unit installed.

In order to be eligible for a home charging unit, and to be able to apply for a government grant to aid with the cost of it, you will need to have off-road parking available as well as the permission of the homeowner if you are renting as the units are usually wall-mounted on the side of the property.

A home charging unit will either be supplied as a tethered unit with either a Type 1 or Type 2 cable depending on your vehicle or you can have an untethered unit with a Type 2 compatible socket.

Home charger units can offer slow or fast charging speeds, depending on the existing infrastructure at your property and the amount you want to spend on a charging unit as a fast unit is more expensive.

In order to be eligible for the government’s grant you must have the unit installed by a Office for Low Emission Vehicles approved professional installer.

We are an official partner of one of the UK’s top charging provider and installer, Pod Point. If you would like more information on the chargers Pod Point can offer you or have any questions on home charging then please give us a call on 0330 221 0000.

The UK government is currently running the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, through which you can apply for a grant that offers up to £350 off the installation cost.

You will need to have a PHEV or EV that was purchased after October 2016, or if you are still waiting to receive the vehicle proof that it is on order.

The cost of a charging unit can vary between £250 and £800 depending on not just the speed but also the brand and whether it is a smart charger, which is one that connects to your home and vehicle to share date, update software and much more whilst in use.

Please be aware that there is a maximum of two vehicle grants at one property and that depending on your existing electricity infrastructure then there may be an additional cost for installing the unit.

On-Street Charging

Not all homes have off-street parking, and for drivers looking to get an EV in these homes then a good alternative for home charging is on-street residential charging units.

In order to have on-street charging available for you to use you will need to speak to your local authority as they will be the ones responsible for installing and maintaining the units.

The central government also have grants available for local councils in order to assist with the cost of installation.

There are a number of charging units available for on-street chargers but the majority fall into two categories.

The first is a charger installed onto or in a lamp post. This is commonly chosen as it reduces the installation costs and does not need as much change to the existing road layout.

The second type you’ll see are freestanding or pillar units similar to the public charging units you get in car parks.

These units will usually be located close to the kerb to reduce cable trailing length to a minimum.

Both types of units are usually Type 2 untethered units that require the driver to use their own cable like most other public units.

Similar to with a home charging unit most on-street units will usually supply either slow or fast charging speeds depending on the existing infrastructure.

Most units will work like other public chargers with an RFID card or app needed to charge them.

Some units may have a smart cable, that includes a metre on the cable, which measures the electricity used for accurate billing to the driver, as well as activating and stopping the charge.

on-street-parking.jpg

Charging at Work

More and more businesses are trying to encourage their drivers to opt for a more environmentally friendly hybrid or fully electric model, and one way in which they are doing this is by providing chargers for their employees to use.

If your company does have workplace chargers available for you to use then you might find that daily charging while in the office is enough to meet your mileage needs without having to install a home charging unit.

There are a number of benefits to employers as well, and there is a government workplace charging scheme to help them with the cost of installation.

Using a Public Charger

Though we recommend having a home charging unit, especially if you have opted for a full EV rather than a PHEV, we know that this is not always an option for everyone and even if you do have a home charger there are times when your vehicle needs charging and you’re not at home. This is why the government and charging companies are working to improve the UK public charging network.

You will see public chargers in a number of locations but some of the most popular are in motorway service stations, public car parks at supermarkets and shopping centres.

The speed of charging you can receive varies between units and there can be slow, fast, rapid and ultra-rapid chargers on the public network.

In the UK there are a number of different companies that provide public charging units across the network and you will usually require an app on your phone or to use an RFID card to charge your vehicle for each of these different providers. This is because the account on the app or the RFID card is linked with your contact and billing details. Some might also be able to take contactless card payments at the unit as well.

The Cost of Charging

The cost of charging an electric vehicle varies depending on what type of charging unit you are using and whether you are charging at home, work or using a public charger.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy the average cost of electricity in the UK for 2019 was 16.3 pence per kWh.

kWh is the measurement of how much energy you are using, not the number of kilowatts you are using it is simply a unit that is equal to the amount of energy you would use if you kept one 1,000 kW appliance running for an hour.

Based on this measurement if you were to charge a 60kWh electric car it will cost around £9.80 depending on where you live.

Most employers will provide charging for electric vehicles free of charge if they have had units installed.

A lot of public charging units at supermarkets and car parks are also free of charge to use for the duration of your stay. Though some might also require you to pay for the energy used.

Motorway service stations usually have rapid charging units in order to get you back on the road as quickly as possible. They roughly cost around £6 for 30 minutes of charge.

Find out more about electric and hybrid vehicles by heading back to our EV guides homepage.

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