EV (Electrical Vehicle) Charging Points

EV charging is an important aspect of owning an electric vehicle. Power rating, connector type, cabling requirements and vehicle specification are all things to consider when purchasing an electric car.

EV charging explained

The three main types of EV charging are rapid, fast, and slow. The types of charging represent the power outputs and charging speeds, available to charge an electrical vehicle. For the purposes of EV charging power is measured in kilowatts(kW).

Rapid charges are by far the quickest way to charge an EV and chiefly cover DC charging. There are two categories; ultra-rapid and rapid charging with ultra-rapid points charging at 100+ kW often 150kW and as much as 350kW though these are for DC only. Traditional rapid points cover the majority of the UK’s rapid charging infrastructure charging at 50 kW DC with a 43kW AC rapid charging being available too.

Fast chargers provide power from 7kW to 22kW and will usually fully charge an EV in 3 – 4 hours. In the UK the most common public charger is a 7 kW untethered type 2 inlet with tethered connectors available for both type 1 and type 2. The 3 kW slower charging units are better being used overnight as they can take between 6 and 12 hours for a pure EV to charge or 2 – 4 hours for a PHEV. Electric Vehicles charge on a slow device using a cable which connects the vehicle to at three pin or type 2 socket.

Public network charging

There is a large number of public electrical vehicle charging networks across the UK, some offering national coverage whilst others are found only in a particular region. Some of the major UK networks include, Pod Point, Charge Your Car, BP Chargemaster Polar, Tesla, Instavolt and Ecotricity.

Regional networks generally cover defined areas such as London, Scotland, the Midlands or the South West. A number of these are operated by or have links with national networks so it is often possible to use the points, within these regional networks, with a national account. The level of access depends on the network available and specific charge point.

All public points should offer ad-hoc access though this does vary across networks. Access is typically via an app or RFID card and web access is common too. Using a contactless bank card is becoming more available particularly on the rapid charge points where no prior registration or account setup is necessary. Some EV charge points are free to use but mainly the fast and rapid ones require payment. Charging tariffs comprise of a cost per energy consumed i.e. pence per kWh although a price per charging time i.e. pence per hour may be charged or there may well be a set fee per charging session.

EV charging at home

Charging an electrical vehicle at home is frequently the most convenient and probably the most cost-effective way to recharge an EV. Grants are available from the Government for the installation of a home EV charge point and many companies now offer a fully installed charger for a fixed price. The majority of home chargers are 3kW or 7kW and the higher-powered wall mounted units will normally cost more than a 3kW power. The time for charging is halved with the higher-powered units. Manufacturers of EV’s often have deals or partnerships with suppliers of charge points and will, sometimes, provide a free home charging point as part of a new car purchase. You will require off street parking to use a home-based charging unit to ensure there are no trailing cables across public footpaths and areas. On street residential charging points are starting to become more available in some areas of the UK.

EV charging at work

More and more companies are installing workplace electrical vehicle charging points for use by their employees and visitors. Charging an EV at the workplace makes sense as an employee’s vehicle will be stationary for the majority of the day. Having a work based EV charging point can help to attract customers to visit a commercial or retail site.

Although work placed charge points are similar to home-based points the power ratings are usually higher i.e. 7kW and 22kW points are normally installed. Charging points also feature a double socket allowing them to charge two cars at the same time. Higher power units allow company fleet vehicles to plug in to the charger in the middle of the day to increase the effective number of business miles driven in a day. Having work-based charging units would mean that they would not have to use the more expensive charging on the public rapid network.

Companies have the opportunity to benefit from the available government grants and enhanced capital allowances which are accessible for workplace charging units. Company owners have the decision whether to provide free charging or to charge a fee for the use of charging units. It appears that many companies opt to not make a charge or offer it at a low cost to incentivise EV usage within the company and by its customers and visitors.

Charging your electric car

All electric vehicles have set inlets which require specialist connectors to plug them in to a charging unit. They are covered normally by the cables provided with the car and allow for slow or fast charging within the UK. Rapid chargers have connectors as part of the charger which means that drivers do not have a need to carry around cables to cover the charging type.

New electric vehicles will normally use the Type 2 standard for charging with a Type 2 CCS inlet fitted to allow for rapid charging. Type 1 inlet is mostly found on older models of car and Type 2 is now becoming the most common charging standard for new EV’s. Rapid charging is split between CHAdeMO and CCS standards with the former becoming more popular.

Many potential electric vehicle buyers do not realise that cars allow charging at different rates. There are on-board chargers or maximum charging rates which will, for example, mean that you can plug in a car that can charge at 7 kW to a 22 kW charge point but it will still only charge to a maximum of 7 kW. Many plug-in hybrids are unable to rapid charge and electric vehicles will offer different rapid capabilities depending on the model of the car.