Guide to Charging an Electric Vehicle

Everything you need to consider

Charging is one of the most important parts of owning an EV. As discussed in our Buying an EV guide, owning an electric vehicle requires a little more planning than with a more traditional petrol or diesel engine, particularly on longer journeys. However, this is considerably more straight forward than most people think and with a fast growing charging network this continues to get even easier.

Whether charging at home or using the public network of charge points, in this guide we will explain all you need to know. From the different connection types available to charging on the go, charge point speeds and what is needed to own and charge an EV, we hope to cover everything.

How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Car?

This is a question our team get asked a lot at Cambridge Electric Vehicles. Our experts are always here to help but read on for details on the different factors that will impact the time it takes to charge.

Essentially, the length of time it takes to charge an EV comes down to three important things.

  • The size of the car’s battery.
  • The amount of electrical current the car can handle.
  • The speed of the charger.

As we discussed in the Owning an EV section, the size and power of the battery is expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh), and the larger the number the bigger the battery, and the longer it will take to fully recharge the cells

All EV chargers deliver electricity in kilowatts (kW) and depending on home charging or faster rapid chargers, output can vary dramatically. Expect anything from slow 3kW to ultra-rapid 350kW with the higher the number the quicker the charging capacity.

We will discuss types of charger later in this guide but using a basic 3kW charge point can take up to 12 hours to fully charge most EV’s. Use a faster 50kW charger found at most service stations and plug it into an MG5 and you will get 80% charge in just 50 minutes.

Another factor which will impact how long a charge will take is the on-board charger fitted to your EV. This receives the AC electricity from the charge point and converts it into DC electricity that the vehicle’s battery can charge with.

The charging speed can vary from 6.6 kW to 22kW depending on make and model of car. If your EV has the smallest 6.6 kW on-board charger and you plug it into a standard, single-phase home 7.4 kW charging point, you will be limited to charging at 6.6 kW.

Alternatively, if your car has an 11 kW on-board charger and you plug into a 7.4 kW home charger, you will only be charging at 7.4 kW. The car could take more power, but in this case the EV charging point itself is limited.

Our experts here at Cambridge EV are always here to guide you through the complexities of EV charging and to future proof your purchase.

There is a fantastic home charging calculator www.zap-map.com/tools/home-charging-calculator and public charging calculator www.zap-map.com/tools/public-charging-calculator available to use at Zap-Map – a website that shows the UK-wide map of charging points.

So, lets discuss the different types of chargers available.

Types of Electric Chargers Available

Refuelling a petrol or diesel car is reasonably straight forward. You drive to a fuel station, choose the correct fuel type, put the nozzle into the fuel cap and press the trigger. Minutes later the car is full, and you drive off after paying.

Electric vehicles are not quite as simple because different EV’s can accept different amounts of power. There are also different types of connectors, plus there are different levels of EV charging that determine how long it takes to charge an EV.

To make things simple, there are three types of EV chargers available. Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.

  • Level 1 - Slow Charging
  • Level 2 – Fast Charging
  • Level 3 – Rapid Charging

When an EV is plugged in, the vehicle communicates to the charge point before the charger is energized. The car determines how much power the charger can deliver, and then calls for the maximum amount of power that the charger can deliver, and the vehicle can accept.

The vehicle always calculates how much power it can accept, so there’s no need to worry about plugging into a charging station that can deliver more power than your EV can handle. The car will never allow the charger to deliver too much power.

Level 1 - Slow Charging

  • 3-pin 3kW AC
  • Type 1 3-6kW AC
  • Type 2 3-6kW AC
  • Commando 3-6kW AC

Level 1 charging or slow charging uses a common domestic three-pin plug. All fully electric cars or plug-in hybrids can be charged on Level 1 by plugging the charging cable supplied with the car into a regular three-pin wall socket.

However, level 1 is the slowest way to charge an EV and typically adds between 3 and 5 miles of range per hour of charge. With ever increasing battery sizes you can expect recharge times of up to 24 hours for some of the larger pure EV models. 

Level 2 - Fast Charging

  • Type 2 7-22kW AC
  • Type 1 7kW AC
  • Commando 7-22kW AC

Level 2 or fast charging is the most common way to charge an EV every day at home or work and requires the installation of a dedicated home charge point which we would highly recommend. If you wish to speak to an expert, then give us a call and we can walk you through the different options available to you for installing a home charge point.

Fast charging equipment can also be found at workplaces, as well as in public locations like shopping centres, supermarkets, train stations and many other destinations. Level 2 charging using a 7 kW charger will recharge a compatible EV with a 40 kWh battery in around 4-6 hours and using a 22 kW charger in 1-2 hours.

Most fast chargers are 7kW or 22 kW and untethered which means the charging cable is not connected to the charging unit which makes it more flexible and can be used with any lead. However, it is common for home charge points to be tethered where the cable is attached to the unit and compatible to your EV.

Level 3 - Rapid Charging

  • CHAdeMo 50kW DC
  • CCS 50-350kW DC
  • Type 2 43kW AC
  • Tesla Type 2 120kW DC

Level 3 or rapid charging is by far the fastest type of charging available and can recharge an EV at a rate of 3 to 20 miles of range per MINUTE! But can only be used on an EV that has rapid charge capabilities.

Unlike Level 1 and Level 2 charging which use alternating current (AC), Level 3 charging uses direct current (DC). The voltage is also much higher so unlikely you will see a rapid charge point at home but commonly found at motorway services. The reason rapid devices are so fast is that they supply high power direct or alternating current – DC or AC – to recharge a car as fast as possible.

Rapid DC chargers provide power at 50kW, use either the CHAdeMO or CCS charging standards and typically charge an EV from empty to 80% in 20 minutes to an hour depending on battery capacity.

Ultra-Rapid DC chargers go even further and can provide power at 100kW or more. These are typically either 100kW, 150kW, or a massive 350kW!! For EV’s capable of accepting 100kW or more such as the latest Tesla’s, it can take as little as 20 minutes to fully charge the battery from empty.

Charging at Home

Hopefully the above will have helped explain the different types of chargers available today. We know from experience that most EV owners will be charging their car at home, and we would highly recommend customers consider installing a home charge point for convenience and speed.

As an electric vehicle specialist, we recommend a local company who carry out bespoke installations for our customers. They carry out a site visit and tailor any installation to meet your needs. Get in touch to find out more.

Charging on the Go

The network of public EV charge points for electric vehicles is growing rapidly and there are already over 42,000 public charge stations in over 15,500 locations in cities, service stations and towns across the UK.

As this continues to grow, range anxiety for longer journeys become easier to plan for when you need to top up the charge. With more and more rapid chargers being added across the UK, it becomes quicker to charge.

If you are planning to rely on an EV charging network, make sure you’re signed up to the correct network for any chargers you’re planning on using.

ZapMap is a fantastic site to help you plan any journeys using an interactive map showing where every charge point is located across the UK and what network runs them.

If you have any questions on EV charging then our experts here at Cambridge Electric Vehicles are always here to help so get in touch with us today.

 

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