How to charge an electric car at home
By: Ryan Jay
13 Feb 2020
It’s fair to assume that charging an electric car is a bit more complex than if you were to charge a phone. Well, maybe not.
Once you’re up and running with a home charger, the process isn’t as daunting as you might have thought. That being said, setting up a steady charging routine is a big step, and there are a few things to be aware of before you get started. Here’s a handy guide to give you all the know-how on charging your electric car at home and in public.
Where can I charge my electric car?
Charging your car at home
Let’s start with the obvious question. Is charging an electric car as simple as plugging into the mains? Well yes, you do plug in, and it does use your existing electricity supply. But using a standard three-pin socket isn’t recommended. That isn’t as safe as specific home chargers, and they take a month of Sundays to fully charge a car. Your best bet is to set yourself up with a smart charge point at home.
So, where does it go? A charge point needs to be mounted on an outside wall near where you park, or if you were to do it at home, you will need a home charging point installed. If your garage is used for storage, then it’s probably best to install your charge point outside. You’ll need to arrange for a home charging point to be installed by qualified specialist installers. Here’s the good news, though - if you opt for our special charge point offer in partnership with NewMotion, then we’ll take care of the installation for you, as it’s included in the cost.
Other charging locations
Sadly, if you live in a flat or don’t have any wall space outside your home, then it’s unlikely that you can install a home charge point. But all’s not lost. More charging points are becoming available in residential areas across the country, making it more public. Zap Map, a UK-wide map of charging points, aims to help electric vehicle drivers locate available charge points. With a bit of luck, you might find that there’s a point conveniently close to your own home. And more are being installed every day - by the end of 2020 we’re aiming to have 200 at Shell sites across the country. You can find your nearest charge point by heading over to the Zap Map website. It also features cost calculators based on public and home charging: https://www.zap-map.com/live/
Can I charge my electric car in the rain?
Charge points are completely weatherproof, come rain or shine. Their built-in safety features protect against wet weather and can cope with stuffy heatwaves. That means there’s no need to check the weather forecast ahead of time to charge your car. You can also rest assured that your charger will have longevity without you having to fork out for the cost of fixing or replacing it.
What's the cost of charging my electric car?
The OLEV grant
Having your off-street charge point doesn’t come for free. But the OLEV Grant is in place to help electric vehicle drivers get set up with their charger. Also known as the Electric Vehicle Home Charge Scheme (EVHS), the grant provides up to £500 off the cost of buying a home charging point. That means it's much more affordable for electric vehicle drivers.
There are a few checks in place to qualify for an OLEV Grant to make sure you can commit to having an OLEV-approved charger installed. Once the OLEV Grant factors into the cost, you’re looking at between £300 - £700, depending on the type of charger you opt for. There are three levels of charging – we’ll go into further detail on this later.
Managing the cost
Once you’re in the habit of regular charging, you’ll begin noticing the extra expense on your energy bill. While running an EV is cheaper than a petrol or diesel car*, charging still costs money, so it’s important to be mindful of when you’re plugging your car in. If you mostly depend on public charging, there are tools available to help you forecast your spending on charging. Zap Map’s handy cost calculator gives you an accurate view on how much you’re likely to spend on each charge, and how long it will take. All you have to do is pop in the details of your vehicle and it’ll take care of the rest, giving you the cost per mile as well as the overall charge cost.
How long will it take to charge my electric car?
Charge times depend on the type of charger you may use. The length of time it takes can also depend on the type of vehicle you have and how much charge it can take. There are three levels of chargers, ranging from rapid, fast and slow. They’re available in residential spaces, petrol stations and street charging points. Charging speeds for electric cars are measured in kilowatts (kW). The higher the number of watts the car can handle, the faster the car will charge.
Establishing a charging routine
Home points tend to use slow charging points; the charging time ranges between 11 to 22 hours, with the two speeds being either 3.7kW or 7.4kW. The idea is that you let your home charger do its thing while you’re relaxing at home. That’s why it’s recommended that you charge your electric vehicle overnight. After a night's charge, you’ll always have a full battery before you set off for your day. So, no matter how grouchy you might be feeling in the morning, at least your car will be raring to go.
A sure-fire way to keep your vehicle topped up is by using fast and ultra-rapid chargers found while you’re out and about. Fast charging ports typically range from 7kW to 22kW, with a full charge taking between four to eleven hours, making them ideal for the odd top-up charge here and there. Rapid chargers are where it really starts to get interesting. A rapid charger will either be an AC or DC unit, with most AC units producing up to 43kW. Find yourself a DC charger, though, and you could be enjoying some serious power. DC units can produce anything between 50kW to 150kW, with a speedy charging time of between 20 minutes to two hours. So, if you need a full charge in minimal time, DC is the way to go. But remember - charging speeds can vary between different car makes and models. If you’re unsure, your best bet is to contact your manufacturer.
When you’re out and about, you should try and top up your charge whenever you get the chance. Think about it. Your car spends most of its time stationary, so what better opportunity is there to charge it? Also, many places of work will offer their employees free or discounted charging. You can also find charge points at supermarkets, in town centres, at the gym… you name it. More and more public places are embracing smart charging, making it easier for drivers to keep their vehicles topped up.
Conclusion: Make the best of both worlds
Charging an electric car might seem daunting if you’ve never done it before. But really, whether it’s at home or when you’re out and about, it’s all about routine. There’s no devil in the detail to be wary of, it’s just a case of figuring out what works for you. And with home charge points becoming more affordable, and public charge points becoming more accessible, there’s never been a better time to make the switch to an electric vehicle.
*On average 7,134 miles driven by a UK motorist in 2019 based on Data from the Department for Transport, with an annual saving of £426.