Getting the best from an EV requires you to charge it properly. But how do you charge an electric vehicle? Let us explain.

electric car charging port

Home charging

Home charging is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to add energy to your electric car. Particularly with many energy providers now offering electric car-orientated packages, charging a car at home can be one of the most convenient and cost-effective methods. 

But there are some steps you need to take. You can charge the car via a three-pin plug (and most manufacturers deliver their cars with a cable to do this) but it’s not as effective as other ways, is by far the slowest way of adding charge and isn’t seen as totally safe, either.

No, by far the best way is via a home wallbox. Many car companies will include both the unit and the installation of this with the purchase of a new EV, but if you have to install it under your own steam then there are incentives too. 

There’s a grant for EV owners who want to charge at home, which allows you to receive a grant for up to 75 per cent (capped at £350) of the total purchase and installation cost of an EV charger at home. Both company cars and leased cars are eligible for this too. When this subsidy is taken into account, it’ll cost around £750 to install the unit. 

However, by doing so you’ll drastically cut the amount of time it takes to charge an electric car and it’ll be more efficiently done too. Plus, when you return home to charge your car you’ll be able to easily plug it in, rather than trailing cables to it. 

electric car plugging in to chargeelectric car on charge

Public charging

Public charging is what you’ll be relying on to top up a car when you’re out and about. Though much criticism has been levelled at the UK’s charging infrastructure, it really is coming on in leaps and bounds with more chargers being added every week. 

In fact, according to ZapMap, there are now 33,521 connectors across the country, made up of 19,249 charge points in 12,121 individual locations. 

They’re reasonably spread out across the country, though a high concentration remains in London. However, consistent government funding means that the amount of chargers across the country is going to keep increasing, while private companies continue to roll out more units throughout the UK too. 

How to use a public charging point for electric vehicles

Electric cars are becoming a more common sight on our roads and with the government announcing that the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is being brought forward to 2030, EVs are set to get even more popular.

Though much has been said about home charging, it’s gaining charge when out and about which can prove an issue for some. Fortunately, we’ve put together the key ways in which you can add charge to your electric car while out on the road. 

Find a charger

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re running low on battery power, then you need to locate an electric vehicle charging point. Most EVs have these locations automatically built into their sat-navs, so they’ll be able to direct you in the right direction. As of December 1, 2020, there were 35,644 connectors in the UK - so there are plenty to choose form. 

However, if you’re planning your trip beforehand, then you can use websites such as Zap Map to plot out your route with charging stops programmed in. It’ll make your journey even smoother if you’ve got your charging locations already planned. 

Ensure your car is compatible with the charger

Here’s the next step. There are several different connectors on the market and, much like taking an electrical device abroad, you need to ensure that you’ve got the right adapter. Your owner’s manual will tell you what type of charger you need, or - again - ZapMap will be able to tell you both the type of connection a charger offers and the one your car accepts too. 

Sign in or register

Once you’ve found the correct charger for you, it’s time to read the instructions. Over the years many different charging providers have introduced their own networks, which does mean that the EV owner faces a dizzying number of different devices. Your best bet is to look at the instructions on the charger’s screen as, in some circumstances, you might have to open an account and use a mobile phone app to charge and pay. 

Once registered, most machines require you to use your mobile phone close to an RFID reader on the machine itself, and it’ll unlock and allow you to charge. Once finished, it’ll take payment automatically.

Some companies issue a small card instead, which you can loop onto your car keys. Tap this against the reader and it’ll unlock the machine, linking up to your account automatically via the card. 

However, by far the simplest way to charge is via contactless car. Most new chargers are being installed with this function, allowing you to unlock a charger and start adding charge simply by tapping your credit or debit card. However, be careful - some operators add extra costs on when you charge through contactless, so check beforehand. 

Plug in

Once you’re all logged in and ready to go, lift the plug up and attach it to your car. It should sit firmly into place. If you’re new to EVs, you might see a rubber grommet blocking part of the car’s charging port - simply pull this out in order to utilise the larger rapid charger connectors. 

Check the machine’s screen to check that a charge is being delivered and have a look on your car’s main screen to ensure that it too is registering a charge. If you’re planning on leaving your car there, then remember to lock it before you go. 

Ending a charge

Added enough charge and want to get on the move again? It’s now a simple case of reversing the above. Follow the instructions on the screen to end the charge and it’ll also show you how much the session has cost. Once ended, you’ll be able to remove the plug from your car and return it to the charger.

Struggling to remove the plug? Try pushing it firmly back ‘into’ the car before pulling once again. This is a quick hack to remove the charger quickly and easily. 

What about charge speeds?

Charging speeds are an essential part of using and charging an electric car. Measured in kilowatts (kW), the higher the number the faster the charging speed. You’ll find as high as 350kW in the UK, though these sites are few and far between for the moment. 

You’ve got Rapid, Fast and Slow chargers in the UK. Rapid, as you’d expect, is the quickest, and delivers a charge of up to 150kW, though 43kW and 50kW are the most popular. They’ll be able to charge most electric cars to 80 per cent in between 30 minutes to an hour. 

Tesla’s Superchargers count as rapid chargers and can deliver up to 120kW in certain locations. Of course, these are only available to Tesla owners and can’t be used by other brands. 

Fast chargers are anything which delivers between 7kW and 22kW, and will take around four hours to top up an EV. These are great for overnight stops or for longer periods away from the car when a rapid charge isn’t needed. A 7kW charge is also what you’ll get from a home charger.

A slow charger is anything up to 3kW, so essentially a three-pin socket. These are only really useful for when you can leave the car for an extended period of time, as via this charging source it’ll take many hours - and possibly days - to fully charge a modern EV, depending on the size of battery of course. 

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