Complete Guide on EV Charging
The ultimate guide to everything you need to know about electric car charging, including charging equipment, how long it takes to charge, and how much it costs.
Last updated: Sept 13, 2023 • 8 min read
With electric vehicles (EVs) becoming increasingly popular in the UK, more drivers are learning how electric car chargers work than ever before.
Unlike fuelling a petrol or diesel car, drivers have more to consider when using an electric car chargepoint, such as different connectors, compatibility with their EV, and different charging rates.
This may seem complicated, but in reality, it’s actually quite easy once you get to grips with it.
Use the links below to navigate to the relevant section, or keep scrolling to read on.
The UK charging ecosystem
Before we explain how to charge your electric car, it’s worth understanding how the charging ecosystem works.
Many drivers assume that electric car charging works in a similar way to refuelling petrol/diesel cars, but that isn’t the case. Gone are the days when you need to drive to a service station to fill up your tank.
That’s because electric car chargepoints can be installed in any location where there’s enough available power, with many relatively lower powered EV chargers installed at places where drivers spend a long time parked.
This way, their car will be charging whilst they’re spending a long time at that destination, giving them a fuller battery when they return to move to the next location.
For the majority of drivers, this will either be overnight at home, at work, or at a public destination like a supermarket or shopping centre. There’s also en-route charging for long-distance journeys, which must be higher powered for faster charging. This is what we call the charging ecosystem.
Be sure to follow the general EV charging etiquette when using chargepoints at your workplace or in public!
How to charge an electric car
Most of the time, you’ll charge your car at home, at your workplace, or with public chargepoints, when your car is parked for a long time.
But instead of waiting for the battery to run to empty and charging from 0% to full, it’s a good habit for drivers to charge their car whenever it’s parked to keep their EV topped up. As they say, “ABC: Always Be Charging”.
If you’re on a long trip, you may also stop at a service station for a quick charge on a rapid charger. See our handy tips on how to prepare for a long journey in an EV.
Where you charge determines how long it takes to charge, how much it costs, and what type of equipment you’ll need.
Once you’re moving, there are ways to optimising the range of your electric vehicle to maximise the amount of distance you can cover in a single charge.
EV charging equipment
Some chargepoints - including all rapid chargers and a handful of fast chargepoints - are tethered, which means they have a charging cable already attached.
Most AC chargers have sockets, so you should carry your own charging cable. This way, you can access any untethered (or universal) electric car charging ports, which instead have a socket and no cable.
Charging cables have two connectors - one for the chargepoint socket, and one for the electric car. Electric vehicles either have a Type 1 or, more commonly, Type 2 socket for slow/fast charging and CHAdeMO or CCS for DC rapid charging (for those vehicles that can).
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
There are a few factors that go into determining how long it takes to charge an EV. But in general, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12+ hours, depending on the charging rate of the chargepoint, size of the car’s battery and its connectors.
The most commonly found chargers at homes, workplaces and public destinations are 7kW. An EV with a 60kWh battery will take less than 8 hours to charge from 0-100% on a 7kW charger.
Rapid chargers, which can mostly be found en-route at motorway service stations, provide even more miles of range-per-hour (RPH) and will provide plenty of charge for most cars in about 30 minutes.
Note that rapid chargers aren’t made to 100% fully charge cars. They slow up as the battery gets close to full, as they’re meant to provide enough charge to continue the driver's journey, quickly.
How much does it cost to charge an EV?
Calculating the costs of EV charging in the UK depends primarily on where your EV is parked and of course the price per kWh.
At home, it costs approximately £15.10 for a full charge, based on an average domestic electricity rate of 28p per kWh and a usable battery size of ~54kWh.
Workplace charging is typically offered by employers for free, with access often controlled either by RFID cards or via an app. Public destinations with 7kW chargers sometimes also offer free charging.
Charging at public rapid chargers typically cost around £11 for a 30 minute charge, assuming a tariff of 44p per kWh and using a 50kW chargepoint. A typical EV will cover about 3.5 miles per kWh, though the least efficient will cover little more than 2 miles, and super efficient EVs may get a little more than 5 miles per kWh.
How to charge an EV at home
Charging at home is the most convenient option, provided you have dedicated off-street parking.
Although you can charge your electric car from a domestic socket using a standard 3-pin plug, it’s not recommended. They aren’t designed to support the consistent loads needed, which can result in overheating that puts your home at risk.
Instead, it’s better to get a dedicated home chargepoint, as they include numerous safety features to keep your home safe. They’re also much quicker than 3-pin plugs, and can include smart features once connected to your home’s Wi-Fi.
EV charging at work
Businesses are increasingly looking to provide workplace charging as part of their employee benefits and perks, which can help with retention and workplace satisfaction.
The UK Government offers a grant, called the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) to encourage more adoption amongst businesses. It reduces the cost of purchasing and installing single-socket chargepoints at workplaces by 75% (capped at £350 per socket).
Charging an EV at work can be very convenient, as people typically spend a decent amount of time at their workplace.
Also, as most commuting drivers cover fewer than 30 miles to get to work, their EVs won’t need long to recharge to full, so 7kW charging stations are often sufficient. Rapid chargepoints may however be beneficial to quickly refill fleet vehicles which can’t park up for long.
Commercial EV charging at public destinations
Businesses can benefit from offering public charging. From attracting and retaining customers to covering costs or even generating a profit, there are a number of business models available for commercial EV charging.
For drivers this means another convenient location to top-up their battery when out and about. This can be especially useful if you can’t get a charger installed at home.
As coverage is expanding, soon drivers can be sure to find a chargepoint wherever you park.
These places range from supermarkets and shopping centres to longer-stay destinations like train stations and airports.
There are four common methods of accessing public chargepoints: plug in and charge instantly, via an app, tapping a contactless payment card, or using an RFID card.