How to Charge an Electric Car
We all feel comfortable filling up a petrol/diesel car at the pump. It’s been a part of our lives for so long. So for many of us, the idea of charging an electric car is strange and unsettling.
But it really shouldn’t be! Charging is actually very simple. Not to mention cheaper and more convenient than getting fuel.
This is our quick guide to charging your electric car, both at home and on the road.
Cables & Connectors
Before we talk about charging, a word on the equipment. It’s useful to keep in mind that no matter how big, snazzy and important the equipment looks, you are still just connecting an appliance to a plug with a wire.
Something you do all the time with your phone, your kettle etc…
Confusingly, there are several different types of connector (sockets) and so several different types of cables to match. You can read all about the different cable and connector types here.
But this only matters so you know which public charge points you can access with your particular car.
For home charging and untethered public charging (where no cable is provided at the station - see below), your elmo car will come with the correct cables – including a 3-pin so you can just plug in to a regular domestic socket if you need!
If you want to understand charging for your specific electric car, you can find the correct guide on Zap Map here.
Charging your electric car at home is just like charging your mobile phone. Generally speaking, you’ll plug it in to charge while you sleep, and top it up as required during the day.
Charging at home is the cheapest and most convenient way to charge. Your energy usage for charging will simply be added on to your home energy bill. (Unless, of course, you are a subscriber on elmo and chose to integrate home charging into your subscription payment!).
Your electric car charges in the same way as any other battery powered domestic appliance. You just plug it into the mains and wait until the battery is charged! You can even use a regular 3-pin plug to do this…
But we don’t recommend using a 3-pin plug for a number of reasons. Firstly, the charging time can be very long. A domestic plug will only supply around 2.3kW of energy (on average) – so it will take around 15 hours to charge a 30kWh Nissan Leaf.
There are also some questions around the safety of using a standard plug to charge your car.
So, most electric car drivers (provided that they have access to private parking with a power supply) choose to install a ‘wallbox charger’.
Despite the name, appearance and some clever technology, it’s still just a plug. To use it, just connect the cable from your car to the charging unit.
The elmo Option
We provide Easee smart chargers to those who choose to include the home charge point as part of their subscription.
The Easee unit is made up of a base plate which is installed by a qualified installer and a detachable charging unit (which can be returned at the end of the subscription).
The Easee unit is capable of supplying either 7kW or 22kW (depending on whether your home has a single or three-phase connection).
This means that a 30kWh Nissan Leaf will charge, safely, in either around 4 hours 15 minutes or around 1 hour 20 minutes.
The easee unit is also ‘smart’. This means you can tell it (remotely using a phone or computer) when to charge.
How to Use your Easee Charger
It’s very simple…
- Connect the charging cable to the charging robot and your electric car. Charging will start automatically.
- The charger will automatically adapt to the electric car, the power grid and your fuse rating.
(If the car does not start charging, check that charging is activated in your car and that the connectors are properly plugged in. If charging still does not start, check what it might be under troubleshooting on page 30.)
When to Charge at Home
You can charge whenever you need to!
Many people charge overnight, so they have a full ‘tank’ in the morning. And if their energy is supplied on a ‘time-of-use’ tariff, they will also benefit from cheaper rates at night.
The Easee charger you can include on your elmo subscription is also what’s known as a smart charger. This means that you can control when your car charges. Check out the Easee manual for more details here.
If you have any questions about charging at home, drop us an email on email@example.com
On the Road
- There are over 24,000 public charge points in the UK (and this number is growing fast
- There are 3 main types of charger: Slow, Fast and Rapid
- Public charge points are owned and operated by different network providers which means there are different access methods
The 24,000+ public charging stations in the UK are broadly categorised as follows:
- Slow – charge at speeds of around 3kW (though lampposts go up to 6kW). Mostly ‘untethered’ so you need to provide your own cable (your elmo car will come with the right cables).
- Fast – charge at speeds of 7kW or 22kW. Mostly untethered.
- Rapid – charge at speeds of 43kW, 50kW and 100+kW. Always tethered, so no need for your own cable.
The type of cable you’ll need for untethered charge points will depend on the charge point and your vehicle.
If you want to find out about your specific car, check out Zap Maps’ guide here.
How to use Public Charging
There are 4 main ways to access public charge points:
- Plug & Play
Just drive up and plug in to use these. They're great because you get instant access. The only downside is you don't get any usage and billing data. Usually found in workplaces and some public charging locations.
Anyone with the relevant app can access these. You get detailed insight into your usage and billing and can look up details for charge points in your area. Only issues are that each network requires a different app and if you've got no phone signal it won't work! Usually found in workplaces and public charging locations.
- RFID card
Just tap your card to access the charge point. You don't need signal and all your billing and usage data will appear in your account associated with the card. Again each network requires its own card and if you lose/forget your card, you might be in difficulty. Usually found in workplaces, public charging locations and rapid charging spots.
- Contactless bank card
Just tap your credit/debit card to start charging. No account required so you get instant access. The energy rate tends to be more expensive and you may be charged a transaction fee though. Found on rapid chargers.
For full details on each of the networks in the UK and how to access them, Zap Map has created a fantastic guide here.
It’s hugely frustrating that there is no single solution to access all charge points. And while network operators try to outmuscle one another and refuse to collaborate for the good of the system and its users, this problem may continue in the short term.
The elmo Option
As part of your subscription on elmo, we give you the option to be included on our Polar Plus account.
The Polar Plus Network is operated by BP Chargemaster and is the leading provider of public charging in the UK with over 7,000 charge points.
If you choose to include this membership in your subscription for just £10 per month, you’ll get:
- an RFID access card (delivered by post or with your car)
- unlimited free charging on their regular network (around half of their charge points).
- unlimited free charging on their paid network which includes rapid charge points (usually found on motorway routes) which normally cost 15p/kWh with a Polar Plus subscription (so about £4.50 for a full charge on a 30kWh Nissan Leaf)
- additional access to 2000+ points operated by Charge your Car which BP Chargemaster acquired in 2016.