How to charge your electric car

By 2030 the UK will ban sales of petrol and diesel cars and vans. And even with 10 years still to go more people are already switching to electric vehicles (EVs) voluntarily.

If you’re thinking about making the switch to an electric car but concerned about where and how often you’ll need to charge it, our guide covers the different places you can top up your battery.

Charging your car at home

As long as you have off-street parking such as a garage or private driveway available, charging your electric car at home is the most convenient and cheapest option.

You’ll need to install a dedicated home charger and although they can cost up to £1000, government grants are available to help with up to 75% of the cost up to a maximum of £350. If you’ve bought a new electric car, some dealerships will fit them for free as part of the service. 

Charging Electric Cars

Charging cars at public stations

Charging your car at home will mean your electricity bills will increase so shop around to make sure you’re on a suitable energy tariff. You can take advantage of off-peak tariffs by charging your car overnight and some energy suppliers have started to offer discounted tariffs to customers who own or lease electric vehicles.

The most popular types of home charger run at 7kW and will typically give you between 10 and 30 miles for every hour charged. You can also buy 3kW chargers and although they will cost less to buy your car will take longer to charge.

The charging point will have built-in safety features and if it’s Wi-Fi enabled will provide access to additional features such as energy monitoring and automatic software updates.

Most home chargers are wall-mounted and will include an attached ‘Type 1’ or ‘Type 2’ cable that you simply plug into your car. They are also available with universal ‘Type 2’ sockets that accept a separate cable and plugs into your car in the same way. You’ll need a Type 2 cable to plug your car into public charging stations.

You can plug an electric car into a standard 3-pin plug socket, but the car will take longer to charge and as it will not include any of the safety features this is not recommended.

If you live in a property with no available parking, you can share a charging point with your neighbours. Apps are available that match people who have chargers with people looking to charge their cars nearby. The app will handle the booking and payments and is a good option for those who want to make the switch to an electric car but don’t have the space for a home charger.

Charging your car at work

Charging your car at work is another convenient option as you can leave it charging all day.

Many organisations are installing charging stations for their employees with the government offering support to businesses and charities who wish to do so.

Charging points at work are usually similar to home charging points and offer the same charging speeds. They will often have Type 2 sockets which means you’ll need to take your own cable to plug in.

Some businesses may install higher-powered 50kW rapid chargers. However, these are fairly expensive so tend to be used for companies charging their own fleet vehicles rather than for employees’ cars in general.

If you want to have the option to charge your electric car at work, speak to your boss and point them in the direction of the government scheme.

Charging your car at public charging points

More and more public charging points are being installed over the UK including at supermarkets, retail parks, petrol stations, and on streets. Charging stations usually offer 7kW charging although rapid charging points are also starting to be rolled out.

Electric Car Socket

Plug your car in and charge

The current market is fragmented with over 20 different companies providing the services. The costs vary and different payment models are available such as pay-as-you-go or subscriptions. You may be able to charge your car for free at some shops, such as Tesco and IKEA, as long as you spend in store with them.

There are 4 main ways to access public electric charging points:

  1. App-enabled – download an app onto your smartphone which will enable you to manage your usage and billing. You’ll need a different app for the different providers and you may run into issues in areas where there is poor network coverage.
  2. RFID card – this is similar to an Oyster card and allows you to manage billing and usage even in areas where there is a poor signal. However, these types of cards are gradually being phased out and they do not offer drivers the flexibility that an app does.
  3. Contactless payment – this is the most flexible method as you don’t need to sign up for an account with a provider, but it can be the most expensive.
  4. ‘Plug & Charge’ – simply plug in your car and charge.

To use public charging points you’ll need to bring your own cable, and have signed up to an account with the relevant provider. Charging your car at a public charging station is likely to be more expensive than at home – unless you take advantage of a free spot – but you don’t need to do a full charge. Just like you would with your phone, top it up whenever you can rather than letting it run right down.

Charging your car en route

Electric cars vary on how long they can run between charges. Cars with larger batteries will be able to go further than smaller models, and although manufacturers make claims that some cars can drive almost 300 miles between charges you’re unlikely to manage anything much over 200 miles. Unless of course, you’re driving a Tesla Roadster which has a range of a whopping 600 miles.

This means on long-distance journeys you’re going to have to find somewhere to charge your car on the way. In these situations you can use the UK network of high power rapid charging points that are found in motorway service stations and other locations.

These chargers have a power range of between 43 kW and 350kW and are usually offered on a paid-for basis. You can generally add anything from 100 to 200 miles in about half an hour.

To use a rapid charger you’ll need to register with an appropriate provider or use your phone or in some cases a RFID card to access the service. You will not need to use your own cable with en route charging stations as they are all fitted with 3 types of connectors that fit different makes and models of car.

As well as at service stations you can also find rapid charging points in supermarket car parks and petrol stations.

Tips for making the most out of each charge

Drive smoothly and avoid harsh acceleration and braking

Check your tyres

Make use of regenerative braking

Go easy on the heating and air-conditioning