Electric car charging is one of the biggest concerns people have about owning an electric car. How do I charge up at home? Where can I charge up when I'm out and about? How do I access the public charging points? How can I find out where they are?
In reality, it isn't all that difficult to charge up your car, whether you are at home or whether you are out and about. After a very short while it becomes second nature to plug your car in when you get home, and you very quickly realise how simple and convenient it is instead of driving to a service station to refuel your car!
For most owners, 90-95% of all electric car charging will be done at home, either from a domestic power socket, or more commonly with a specialist electric car charging point.
Charging from a domestic power socket is fine if you are borrowing a power socket when visiting a friend or when staying away from home at a hotel. In North America, where domestic power sockets only provide 110 volts, it can often take 15-16 hours to provide a full charge for your car in this way, but in the rest of the world where 220-240 volts is the norm, you can typically fully charge your car from a domestic power socket in around six to nine hours, depending on which car you drive.
If you are charging your car whilst you are at work, or charging at home overnight, a six to nine hour charge is ideal: you leave the car plugged in and it is fully charged by the time you need to use your car again.
Most manufacturers recommend that you do not use a domestic power socket for every day charging. Because of the constant high ampage drain, constant charging from a power socket can lead to overheating and there have been cases where the socket overheats and burns with constant, regular use.
For regular home charging, it is recommended that an electric car charging point is installed at your home. These can be fitted to an outside wall by a qualified electrician quickly and easily. They provide a waterproof power connection and can also work at a higher ampage, reducing the amount of time it takes to charge your car.
Home charging points work at 220-240 volts, typically at either 16-amps or 32-amps. A 16-amp charging point will typically charge an electric car from flat to full in around six hours. A 32-amp charging point can charge an electric car from flat to full in around 3½ hours, although not all electric cars are capable of charging up that quickly.
If you live in the United Kingdom, there is a government grant scheme available for electric car owners to get a charging point installed at home for free. A number of different suppliers have subscribed to this scheme, giving you a great opportunity to have a charging point fitted at no cost. Companies that subscribe to the scheme include Charge Master, Pod Point and Rolec. It is worth shopping around and talking to different suppliers as each of the offerings are slightly different. For example, Charge Master and Pod Point only offer the 16-amp charging points free of charge and charge a premium for their 32-amp charging point. Rolec offer both 16-amp and 32-amp charging points under the scheme. They also offer a range of mounting options, such as a charging post, for when it is not convenient to fit a charge point to a wall.
If you live elsewhere, you can arrange for an electric car charging point to be fitted by your car dealer or by contacting your local electrical wholesaler. In the United States, you can buy units from retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Home Depot, or from specialist suppliers like EV Solutions and NRG eVgo.
Publicly accessible electric car charging points are now appearing in ever greater numbers in towns, cities and on major routes. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, now have a nationwide network of charging points that allow electric car owners to travel throughout the country much as they would with a conventional car, using rapid chargers to refuel their cars on route.
There are three different types of public charging points available:
Level one and two chargers are typically found in city centres and long stay car parks. Some hotels and restaurants also offer level one and two charging for their customers. These chargers are suitable for 'destination charging': plug your car in when you reach your destination and charge up until you are ready to leave again.
Level three chargers are much more like the fuel pumps you find at service stations. Drive up, plug in and refuel in just a few minutes. Level three chargers are typically installed on major trunk roads. In the United Kingdom, every motorway service station and many service stations on dual carriageways have level three chargers installed.
To use public charging points, you usually have to subscribe to an electric car charging scheme. Once you have subscribed to a scheme, you are given an access card that unlocks the charging point when you arrive. You then plug your car into the charging point. Depending on your payment plan will depend on how you are charged: some schemes operate on a pay as you go basis, other schemes work on a monthly fee. Some schemes are entirely free. In the United Kingdom, the Ecotricity 'Electric Highway' scheme that has provided all the rapid charging stations at motorways can be accessed entirely free of charge.
Whilst level one and two charging stations are universal: they will work with every electric car, not all electric cars are compatable with all level three charging stations. Some electric cars, such as the Mercedes B-Class, do not have rapid charge capabilities, whilst they are optional extras on other cars such the BMW i3. There are also three different standards for rapid charging points:
Find your nearest charging point by entering your postcode in the charge map below. Click on a link to get directions and to find out how to access it: