How to Charge an Electric Car

We all feel comfortable filling up a petrol/diesel car at the pump. But one question that many prospective EV owners have is: how do I charge my electric car?

In this blog post, we’ll cover the various ways to charge an electric car in the UK, so you can decide what’s best for your needs.

Summary

Someone plugging in a FIAT 500e to charge while parked

EV Charging 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.

There are several different types of connectors (sockets) and so several different types of cables to match. For home charging and untethered public charging (where no cable is provided at the station – see below), your car will come with a type 2 cable, and may also come with a 3-pin so you can just plug into 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.

Image showing different types of EV charging cables & connectors
Image source: enelx.com

Electric car charging at home

The simplest and most convenient way to charge your electric car is at home. With a home charging station, you can easily plug in your vehicle overnight and wake up to a fully charged battery. This is especially convenient if you have a driveway or garage, as you can install the charging station right there.

Why?

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. Or, see below for more information about the elmo Home Charge option! 

How?

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 Home Charge option

Thanks to our partnership with Easee and AES, you can buy an Easee One unit and have it fully installed at your home in just a few weeks from £949 with standard installation (RRP is £999)*.  You’ll also be able to choose payment options to spread the cost. You can read more about our home charging partnership and how it works here

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.

Cost of charging your electric vehicle at home

According to a recent survey carried out by Which?, the average annual mileage is 8,100 miles. Based on tests carried out by Which?, the following is a rough estimate of the average cost per mile and annually for those who charge their electric cars at home. These costs are based on the current average energy price per unit of 34p per kWh, which is in line with the Energy Price Guarantee that took effect in October 2022 and will be revised in April 2023.

For small city cars, such as the VW E-Up or Renault Zoe, the cost per mile ranges from 9.3p to 10.4p, or around £750 to £840 per year. For medium and large cars, like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3, the cost per mile is between 9.8p and 12p, or approximately £800 to £975 annually. Compact SUVs, such as the Hyundai Kona, have similar costs. For large SUVs, such as the Audi e-tron, the cost per mile is between 12p and 14.2p, or about £975 to £1,150 per year.

The amount of power an electric car uses is largely dependent on its size and weight, and some electric cars are more efficient with their battery usage compared to others.

Charging an EV on the road

As the most recent data from Zap-Map shows, as of January 2023, there are 37,851 electric vehicle charging stations in the UK spread across 22,355 locations. This represents a 31% increase from January 2022.

These numbers reflect the availability of public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the UK and do not take into account the estimated 400,000 charging points located at private homes or workplaces, some of which are available to the public through community or visitor charging.

What’s available?

The time it takes to charge an electric vehicle can vary from 30 minutes to 8-10 hours. This is dependent on several factors such as the battery size, driving habits, charging habits, and the power rating of the charging station being used. There are three main types of charging stations:

 

  • Slow chargers: typically rated up to 3kW, are mainly used for overnight charging at home or at the workplace and can take 8-10 hours for a full charge.
  • Fast chargers: rated at 7kW or 22kW, can be found at locations such as car parks, supermarkets, and leisure centers and typically take 3-4 hours for a full charge.
  • Rapid chargers: with a power rating of 43kW or higher, can be found at motorway service stations, petrol stations, and supermarkets. They provide a full charge in 30-60 minutes but are only compatible with electric vehicles that have a rapid charging function.

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.
  • App-enabled
    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 a 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.
Image showing the elmoCharge card with Fiat 500e in the background

The elmoCharge option

With all the different charging providers, apps and cards, public charging can get a little confusing! That’s why we’ve launched elmoCharge with the aim of simplifying the EV charging experience. 

All of our subscribers now receive an elmoCharge card in their car when it’s delivered. One card gives our subscribers access to over 20,000 chargers from 20+ providers through our partnership with Paua, the UK’s largest charge point roaming provider.

With elmoCharge, you’ll be able to keep track of your spending and you won’t need to set up direct debits with lots of different companies. Find out more about elmoCharge here

The future of EV charging in the UK

According to a new plan set out by the government in January 2023, electric vehicle owners will potentially benefit from lower energy bills and cheaper motoring thanks to a plan to unlock the potential of smart electric vehicle charging.

The Electric Vehicle Smart Charging Action Plan, sets out steps being taken to seize on the significant potential of smart charging and make it the preferred method of long duration charging by 2025.

Smart charging harnesses the potential of energy use data and the latest energy innovations to deliver significant benefits for consumers, including allowing motorists to charge electric vehicles when electricity is cheaper or cleaner, allowing consumers to power their home using electricity stored in their electric vehicle, or even sell it back to the grid for profit. It is expected high mileage motorists could save up to £1,000 a year through smarter charging.

To further back this up, the government has also announced £16 million funding from the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) for technologies that will draw the potential of smart charging, including a smart street lamppost which will enable motorists to access smart charging on the move, and projects that will enable domestic appliances, from heat pumps to electric vehicle charge points and batteries, to integrate into a smarter energy system.

You can read more about this here

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