How to charge an electric car

Charging an electric car is more straightforward than you’d think, and it’s getting easier all the time. It still takes a little planning compared to a traditional internal combustion engined machine, particularly on longer journeys, but as the charging network grows and the battery range of cars increases, you’re less and less likely to be caught short.

There are three main ways to charge your EV – at home, at work or using a public charging point either at the roadside or a service station. And of course if you run a Tesla, then there’s the firm’s dedicated Supercharger network that encompasses over 800 sites, from motorway services to numerous hotel and shopping centres. Finding any of these chargers is fairly straightforward, with most EVs featuring sat-nav with sites plotted on, plus mobile phone apps such as ZapMap showing you where they are and who runs them. BP Pulse, Polar, Ecotricity and Ionity are some of the best known providers. NewMotion is the new name of Shell’s recently charging network that uses a card or an app to access over 3,000 charging points over 17 different networks across the UK, including Ionity rapid chargers as well as its own Shell Recharge stations. You can also use the service across Europe, increasing your available chargers to around 200,000 over 35 countries. 

Public charging stations offer a range of ways to pay, often via a special card or payment app on your phone. That said, many chargers increasingly feature contactless technology, meaning you can pay with an ordinary debit or credit card. Legislation has been also enforced to allow “Ad-hoc access” without the need to pay a membership fee, or enter a long-term financial commitment, before being able to charge.

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Ultimately, where and when you charge depends on how and where you use the car. However, if an EV fits in with your lifestyle it’s likely that most of your charging will be done at home overnight, with only short top-ups at public charging points when you’re out and about.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The length of time it takes to charge your car essentially comes down to three things – the size of the car’s battery, the amount of electrical current the car can handle and the speed of the charger. The size and power of the battery pack is expressed in kilowatt hours, or kWh, and the larger the number the bigger the battery, and the longer it’ll take to fully replenish the cells.

Chargers deliver electricity in kilowatts (kW), with anything from 3kW to 150kW possible – the higher the number the quicker the charging rate. Use the most basic charger and even something like a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery will require up to 12 hours for a full charge. By contrast, the latest rapid charging devices, usually found at service stations, can add up to 80 percent of a full charge within half an hour. So which charger is best?

Types of charger

There are essentially three types of charger – slow, fast and rapid. Slow and rapid chargers are usually used in homes or for on-street charging posts, while for a rapid charger you’ll need to visit either a service station or dedicated charging hub, such as the one in Milton Keynes. Some are tethered, meaning that like a petrol pump the cable is attached and you simply plug your car in, while others will require you to use your own cable, which you’ll need to carry around in the car. Here’s a guide to each:

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