Electric car charging explained

We’ve covered some of the common questions people have around charging electric vehicles (EVs), as well as providing some handy example charging times for a range of plug-in vehicles.

Where can I charge my electric car?

You can charge your EV at home, at a public charging point, or at work if your employer has made this facility available. All you’ll need is a power source, and the ability to plug into it.

Charging at home

If you cover a lot of miles and will need to charge your vehicle often, you may want to invest in a home charger. Generally speaking, these are wall-mounted units that let you charge your car faster than simply plugging it straight into a standard 3-pin wall socket.

Helpfully, the Electric Vehicle Home Charge Scheme (EVHS) reduces the cost of purchasing and installing a home charging point by up to £350, covering 75% of the total costs. You can check if you’re eligible for the EVHS scheme here.

Charging on the go

These days, you can find public charging points at places like petrol stations, supermarkets and motorway services – there are more than 20,000 across the UK.

Many new electric cars even come with a sat nav that will locate the closest charging point, or you can use the fantastic Zap Map [and accompanying app] to find charging points near you when you’re on the go.

People with home chargers can even choose to share their home charger with other EV drivers via the Zap-Home network.

Charging at work

A growing number of employers are installing chargers on-site for their staff to use. If this is something you think would benefit you and your colleagues, the Workplace Charging Scheme covers a maximum of 20 sockets with up to £350 off each socket (75% of the total installation cost).

How do I connect my electric car to a power supply?

Most EV models are supplied with two cables – one for slow charging, and one for fast charging. In general, the slow charging cable will enable you to plug into a 3-pin socket, while the fast charging cable will use of the industry-standard connections so you can plug directly into a rapid chargepoint.  

Slow chargers are the most common method of charging – they are typically used to charge overnight at home. Due to longer charging times, they aren’t normally used at public charging points. Slow charging is done through a 3-pin charger, Type 1 cable, Type 1, Type 2 or Commando connector.

Fast chargers can be found in places where you are likely to be parked for an hour, like supermarkets, leisure centres and car parks. Fast charging is done through a Type 1, Type 2, or Commando connector.

Rapid chargers are the fastest way to charge an EV, and can be found close to main roads and motorway services. Rapid charging requires a CHAedMO, CCA or (typically) a Type 2 connector, with some models offering a specific branded connector.

Remember, though, a 3-pin plug can be plugged into a regular UK wall socket, whereas the other options are only compatible with a specific EV charging points, as they have multiple pins.

For even more information on connector types and speeds, visit Zap Map.

How do I know which charging setup to use with my vehicle?

You should be made well aware of the charging ability of your particular EV by the dealership you bought it from, but if not, check your vehicle’s manual, or failing that, an internet search should help.

Not all electric cars have the rapid charge feature, which is the ability to charge the vehicle in the shortest amount of time; most come with an on-board charger, and can only charge at the on-board charger’s maximum level. Connecting to a more powerful charger will not change the maximum capacity the vehicle can charge at, so this is something to check before buying an at-home charger.

Do I just plug the charger in like with my mobile phone?

Yes. When charging at home or at work, your vehicle should start charging automatically. When using a public charger, however, there is an activation process before the vehicle begins charging. This may require a smartphone app or Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) card, which are linked to a personal account from which you’ll pay for charging.

How long will my electric car take to charge?

The time it takes to charge your electric vehicle will depend on the power source, and whether you’re using a rapid, fast or slow connector speed.

Charge times can also be affected by factors such as ambient temperature, and charging can slow down as maximum charge is approached; most ‘rapid’ charges reduce power flow before reaching 100% to maximise efficiency and to protect your vehicle’s battery.

Read on for some example charging times for different EVs, each in different scenarios.

smart EQ forfour

Charging times

  • Fast 22kW: 45 minutes (0-100%)
  • Fast 7kW: 2.30 hours (0-100%)
  • Slow: 7.30 hours (0-100%)

Additional info

Eligible for the OLEV Category 1 PiGC, taking £3,500 off the cost of a new model, making it likely to qualify for the EVHS scheme.

View Zap Map’s smart forfour ED charging guide.

Kia e-Niro

Charging times

  • Rapid 100kW: 30 minutes (0-80%)
  • Rapid 50kW: 1 hour (0-80%)
  • Fast 22kW: 9 hours (0-100%)
  • Fast 7kW: 9 hours
  • Slow 3kW: 26 hours

Additional info

Eligible for the OLEV Category 1 PiGC, taking £3,500 off the cost of a new model, making it likely to qualify for the EVHS scheme 

View Zap Map’s Kia e-Niro charging guide.

Volkswagen e-Golf

Charging times

  • Rapid 50kW: 35 minutes (0-80%)
  • Fast 22kW: 5 hours (0-100%)
  • Fast 7kW: 5 hours (0-100%)
  • Slow 3kW: 12 hours (0-100%)

Additional info

Eligible for the OLEV Category 1 PiGC, taking £3,500 off the cost of a new model, making it likely to qualify for the EVHS scheme 

View Zap Map’s VW e-Golf charging guide.

Jaguar I-PACE 

Charging capabilities

  • 7kW on-board charger for Type 2 AC charging, in addition to a rapid 100kW DC capability
  • CCS charging standard; a combined AC and DC inlet port

Charging times

  • Rapid 100kW: 45 mins (0-80%)
  • Rapid 50kW: 1.5 hours (0-80%)
  • Fast 22kW: 13 hours (0-100%)
  • Fast 7kW: 13 hours (0-100%)
  • Slow: 30 hours (0-100%)

Additional info

Eligible for the OLEV Category 1 PiGC, taking £3,500 off the cost of a new model, making it likely to qualify for the EVHS scheme 

View Zap Map’s Jaguar I-PACE charging guide.

If you’re thinking about making the change to electric, check out our round-up of the 12 best hybrid and electric cars to buy in 2020.

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