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Electric vehicles are on the rise for a number of reasons; increased social awareness of carbon footprints and desire to be a more environmentally-friendly citizen, the UK government’s ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2030 and the car industry’s shift towards electric powertrains.

One of the main concerns we’ve seen for drivers looking to make the jump to an electric (EV) or plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) is how they’ll keep the vehicle charged. So, today we’re going to explain all about electric car charging, the types of chargers and units available to you and hopefully answer any questions you have about charging a car.

Types of Charger

In the UK electric vehicle chargers are divided into three categories depending on the speed of charging they can provide and these are; rapid, fast and slow.

Within these, there are tethered and untethered units. Tethered units have the charging cable permanently attached and you plug this into your vehicle in the appropriate socket. Untethered units do not have a charging cable and so you will need to use the one supplied with your vehicle to connect to the charger.

We recommend always keeping your charging cables in the vehicle so that you are never stranded without them.  

Connectors, Cables and Currents

Before we break down the types of chargers available, we wanted to first take a look at the type of connectors and cables you will encounter with electric vehicles.

There are a number of different connectors which depend on the charger type, also known as the socket, and the vehicle’s inlet port.

Rapid units will usually use a CHAdeMO, CCS or Type 2 connector.

Fast and slow units will use a Type 2, Type 1, Commando or three-pin plug connector.

Your vehicle will usually come with the necessary cables for charging on untethered units.

There are two types of current – Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC). With a direct current the electricity only flows in one direction whilst the flow of energy can change direction in an AC.

Power from the electricity grid comes off in an AC current but batteries that are charged to store electricity can only accept a DC current. So, when you’re charging your vehicle and use an AC unit then your car will convert this into a DC current.

When you’re charging your vehicle using a DC unit then the current is already converted by the charger, so the difference between the two for an electric car is simply where the current is converted to DC inside or outside of the vehicle.

AC connectors include a UK three-pin plug, Commando, Type 1 and Type 2 chargers.

DC connectors are CHAdeMO, CCS and Tesla’s supercharger connectors.

Rapid Chargers

Rapid chargers are the fastest of the three options available and all rapid charging units have a tethered cable so you will just need to connect this to your vehicle.

Please note your vehicle will need to be compatible with rapid charging in order to use a rapid charger, as not all PHEVs and EVs are. You can check whether your current car is suitable for rapid charging by checking the manual. If you’re looking to lease an EV one of our Leasing Consultants can advise on the charging capacities for you, just give us a call on 0330 221 0000.

You’ll usually find rapid chargers at motorway service stations, as they are the quickest units to get you back on the road.

They provide up to 43 kW via AC charging, 50 kW via DC charging or over 100 kW via DC ultra-rapid charging.  This power output is the maximum charging speed available however as the vehicle gets closer to fully charged this will slow down to protect the battery.

Via DC charging a rapid charger will either use a CHAdeMO or CCS connector which can typically charge an EV to 80% in an hour or less depending on your battery capacity and the starting level of charge. DC chargers are the most common type of rapid chargers you will encounter.

Ultra-rapid DC chargers provide 100 kW or more of power for an even faster charging time. They’re the next generation of rapid chargers designed to keep the time down even on the newer, larger capacity batteries that are emerging. If your vehicle is able to accept ultra-rapid charging then it will typically be charged within 20 to 40 minutes. You can use an ultra-rapid charger on a vehicle that is only capable of accepting up to 50 kW as the charger will adjust to restrict the power. Like rapid DC chargers, ultra-rapid units use either a CCS or CHAdeMO connectors.

The other kind of ultra-rapid charger is Tesla’s Supercharger. The Tesla network provides rapid DC charging to their drivers with either a Type 2 or CCS connector, depending on which Tesla model you have. All Teslas are designed to be used on their supercharger network but you can also use CCS and CHAdeMO adaptors to connect to other rapid chargers.

Fast Chargers

The next level of charging is via a fast charger. A fast charger is the middle level of charging speed available and typically offer either seven kW and 22 kW of power.

Tesla destination chargers are also classed as fast chargers and offer 11 kW or 22 kW of power.  Like the superchargers, they are only intended for use by Teslas but some locations also provide a standard Type 2 charger as well, which is compatible with any vehicle that has a Type 2 connector.

The majority of fast chargers use an AC current and are untethered units so you will need to use your own charging cable. This will usually be the Type 2 connector you have though there are a few 25 kW DC chargers being installed on the network with CCS or CHAdeMO chargers.

Some home and work charging units are installed with charging cables included for ease of use.

The speed of charging at a fast charger depends on the car’s receiving capacity as well as the output of the charger. Not all vehicles are capable of accepting seven kW or more of power, these can still be plugged in at a fast charger but will only be charged at their maximum energy level.

Slow Chargers

The third speed of charging in the UK is with slow chargers.

These offer three to six kW of energy and home charging units usually fall into this category, as you are less likely to need rapid charging from these units.

Although the majority of slow chargers are home units you will also find them on the public charging network, though these tend to be older models or lamp-post chargers where existing infrastructure restricts power.  

Slow chargers can be both tethered and untethered and there’s a number of different connectors which are used on slow charging units, including the three-pin plug into a regular power outlet. Because of the time it takes to charge and the higher current demands of an electric vehicle if you are regularly charging at home or the workplace we advise to have a charging unit installed and not relying on the three-pin plug.

Public Charging Network

Although the majority of charging in the UK is done at home or work there is also a network of public chargers available for additional power.

They are available at a number of locations including public car parks, as well as supermarket and shopping centre car parks and many motorway service stations. Charging speeds vary but there are rapid, fast and slow chargers on the public network.

These are essential for drivers doing a journey that is longer than their vehicle’s range capability or for driver with PHEVs looking to maximise the EV mode.

There are a number of different companies providing public charging units, though many of these are interconnected, and require you to use an RFID card or an app in order to stop and start the charging process. These are also linked to an account with your contact and billing details, though many are also able to take contactless or card payments at the unit as well.

carwow have an interactive charger map where you can see all available chargers across the network. Just click here to view it.

Charging at Work

More and more companies are installing charging units at the business premises so that their employees can conveniently charge their EVs and PHEVs while parked at work.

If your business offers at work charging units then you might find this sufficient to meet your charging needs, depending on the amount of driving you do and the level of charge you can achieve whilst at the office.

There are a number of benefits for employers as well, and the government have a Workplace Charging Scheme in order to help businesses with the cost of installation offering up to £350 per socket to 75% of the total installation costs for a maximum of 20 sockets.

Charging at Home

The preferred method of charging an EV or PHEV is with a home charging unit. This is the most convenient way to charge your car, as you can do it overnight whilst you are home, and you are not just waiting for the vehicle to charge.

The majority of vehicles are supplied with a three-pin socket for slow charging in a mains plug. However, manufacturers do not recommend using this to charge your vehicle regularly. Instead, they advise installing a wall box home charging unit.

You will need to have off-road parking available and permission to have the unit installed if you are not the homeowner as these units are typically wall-mounted on the side of the property.

They will either be supplied as a tethered unit with either a Type 1 or Type 2 cable or untethered with a Type 2 compatible socket.

As mentioned earlier, home chargers usually fall into the slow charger category and provide you with three kW of power.  This allows you to fully charge the vehicle overnight, with charging times typically through six and 12 hours.

There are fast home charger units available with an output of seven kW of power. These units are more expensive because of the reduction in charging time they offer if your car is compatible with fast charging but can reduce the charging time in half.

There is a wide range of home charging units available for you to choose from but you must have it installed by a professional and an Office for Low Emission Vehicles approved installer.

We are an official partner of one of the UK’s top provider, Pod Point. If you would like more information on having a Pod Point charger installed or have any questions about a home charging unit them please give us a call on 0330 221 0000.

The Cost of a Home Charger

The UK government provide grants for chargers to individuals, businesses and local authorities to help with the installation costs.

For home charger units this is through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme with offers up to £350 off the installation cost.

In order to qualify you will also need to have the unit installed by an OLEV accredited company.

You will also need to have a plug-in hybrid or EV purchased or leased after October 2016 or if you are still waiting to receive the vehicle to be able to show proof of the order.

The cost of a home charging unit varies between £250 and £800 depending on the brand, speed of charging and whether the unit is a smart charger or not. A smart charger is a wall box that connects to your home and vehicle in order to share data, update software and many other features.

Please note that you can only apply for the grant for two vehicles at one property.

For more information on the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme visit the OLEV’s website.

On-Street Charging

For some drivers, a wall charging unit is not possible. If you do not have off-street parking or are renting then you might think that charging your vehicle while you’re parked at home overnight isn’t possible, but that’s just not true.

On-street residential charging units are becoming increasingly popular as we see more and more drivers who aren’t able to install one of the wall units explored above but still want to drive an EV or PHEV.

In order to have on-street residential parking installed you will need to speak to your local authority as they are the ones responsible for installing and maintaining these units. Though the government have a grant available for local authorities to cover much of the installation costs for the council to install on-street residential charging points.

There are a number of different charging points available however the most common types you will see fall into two categories.

The first is to install a charger in or onto lamp posts. This is commonly chosen as it reduces the install costs and does not require as much change to the road and existing parking systems like the other option.

The second type you’ll see in the UK are freestanding or pillar units that look similar to the public charging units you’ll see in car parks around the country. These units are often located close to the kerb to reduce the cable trailing length to a minimum.

Both types of units are typically Type 2 untethered units, requiring the driver to use their own cable, like most public units.

The power that on-street residential parking provides can vary but the majority will provide between three and seven kilowatts of power though this will depend on the existing supply available in the area.

Although the local authority is responsible for installation and upkeep of the chargers the driver will still need to pay to use the service. Usually this is done through a subscription or by the driver signing up for a tariff.

Most units work in a similar way to the public charging points where you will use a RFID card or an app to stop and start the charging, which is linked to an account with billing details.

Some units 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.

The Cost of Charging an Electric Vehicle

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.

Is Electric the Right Choice for Me?

We hope that our guide has helped ease the concerns you might have had about charging an electric vehicle and whether you could easily fit this in with your current driving habits and needs.

If you’re thinking of making the switch and are still concerned about the range of a fully electric vehicle then we want you to ask yourself one question, how many miles do you usually drive in one day. You’re usually going to be able to charge your vehicle once a day, whether at home, work or during a shopping trip and so instead of thinking of your mileage in terms of annual, monthly or even weekly if you break it down into how many miles you travel each day you’ll find that most electric vehicles range is larger than this.

If you’d like to know more about electric vehicles then check out this helpful guide to electric cars or this one on the benefits of electric vehicles.

Alternatively, if you’re not quite ready to go fully electric then we’ve also got a guide to hybrids and a detailed look at the benefits of each type of hybrid here.

If you’ve got any questions about chargers or would like to discuss an electric lease you can call us on 0330 221 0000 or request a call back via the purple phone in the bottom left of your screen.

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