The ideal solution to charging an electric vehicle would be to do this overnight from the owner’s home.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Not everyone has the available space outside of their home to place a home charging point or have access to an on-street charging point or station. Even when leaving home with a fully charged electric vehicle, the journey might be outside the range of the fully charged vehicle or you might need to be away from your home overnight.

Charging times are often quoted for an EV to be charged to 80% capacity. This is because the last 20% charge takes a disproportionately longer time to complete.

Charging rates

There are three rates of charge which are categorised as: slow, fast and rapid

Slow charges – 3 to 6kW using AC

These will charge a car between 6 to 12 hours dependent on the actual wattage being delivered and the capacity of the battery being charged.

Fast chargers – 7 to 22kW mostly using AC

The charging time for these chargers is between 2 to 6 hours (typically between 3 to 4 hours) dependent on the wattage being delivered, number of phases used, and capacity of the battery being charged.

Rapid chargers – 50 to 120kW using either AC or DC

The charging time of these chargers will be between 20 minutes to an hour. As before, the charging time will be dependent on the actual configuration of technology used.

Tesla use a ‘supercharger’ which uses DC through either a Tesla Type 2 or Tesla CCS connector which can charge up to 150kW.

Charging modes

The charging rates (slow, fast, rapid) are sometimes talked about as charging modes. These modes indicate the level of sophistication of the charging equipment. There are four modes ranging from simple direct AC charging (mode 1), through to AC charging with some intervening electronics (box) along the cable (mode 2), and on to AC charging with inbuilt smart features to communicate between the charging point and the electric vehicle (mode 3), and then finally (mode 4) which is a DC connector in which an off board charger allows for very fast charging speeds.

Home charging

Although you can charge an electric car using a 3 Pin socket and a EVSE cable, it is recommended that a dedicated home charging point is installed. This is because of the additional safety features these charging units offer.

Some manufacturers supply their own domestic ChargePoint equipment, however there are many independent suppliers of equipment offering a range of features designed to be compatible to your circumstances such as: cable length, power rating, tethered/untethered, smart features and so on.   

As of April 6th 2020, the UK government, through the Office of Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV), offer a grant of up to 75% toward the cost of installing a home charging point. This is capped at £350 and includes VAT.

The government also publishes a list of approved domestic charge point models as well as a list of approved domestic ChargePoint installers, see useful links below.  

Public charging

It has long been recognised that one of the key enablers to the wider uptake of electric vehicles is to provide a robust and extensive public charging network. Although there has been much progress with providing this in the metropolitan centres throughout the UK, there is still much to do in the more rural and less populated areas.

The public charging network is provided by different operators with 16 major providers and a similar number of minor providers. Each network will offer their own payment arrangements and tariffs however there are an increasing number of cross network agreements. Each network will require the EV owner to become a member of its network and will typically issue an RFID card to allow access and billing. This in practice can mean the EV owner will often have a number of network RFID cards.

There are several software applications (APPs) which are free to download on to a phone, tablet/laptop or desktop and provide the location and current status of the public charging network. The most popular of these is called Zap-Map and claim a 2/3rds live coverage of all charging points in the UK. Some EV manufacturers will have their own software identifying the whereabouts of public charge points which are integrated into the vehicle’s satellite navigation system.

Useful links

Homecharge scheme - eligibility 

Homecharge Scheme - authorised installers

Homecharge Scheme - approved model list

Energy Savings Trust - electric vehicles

Spirit Energy - recommended domestic chargers

Autotrader: Electric Cars & Accessibility: What Drivers with Disabilities Need to Know

Zap Map