Making EV easy: How to charge an electric car
At Nathaniel Cars, our “Making EV easy” blogs are designed to make buying an electric vehicle (EV) as straightforward as possible. We’ve asked our plug-in car experts to share all they know about buying and owning an electric car. Everything from what you need to know before buying an EV to the different types of EV that are available.
Since we’ve already looked at the cost of charging an electric car, we thought we’d explore the more practical side of things. Here’s our easy guide to charging your EV.
How does charging an electric car work?
When we talk about an electric car that needs to be charged, we’re mostly referring to a battery electric vehicle (BEV). This is a 100% electric vehicle with zero emissions.
Put simply, charging your BEV’s battery isn’t too different to you charging your mobile phone. The same principles apply. The large battery in your car stores the electricity that powers the electric motor, which turns the wheels.
When you plug your BEV into a charging point, you’re filling up the battery with energy. You can choose to fully charge it in one go or top it up between uses.
When you need to charge your electric car, you can choose to do it at home, at work or a public charge point. Firstly, let’s look at how you can charge an EV at home.
How are electric cars charged at home?
It’s possible to charge your EV with the kind of three-pin plug that most domestic appliances come with. But we wouldn’t recommend it.
For starters, it’s going to take a long time to charge. A domestic socket can only draw a maximum current of 3kW, so it could take up to 13 hours to recharge a 40 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery in an EV. However, many EVs will have batteries with a larger kWh than this, which will take even longer.
You’re better off having a wall-mounted charging unit installed. A 7kW home charger will be three times faster than a domestic socket.
The good news is, the UK government is offering a £350 grant towards the installation of a charger. You can expect to pay around £500 for a wall-mounted home charger with the grant.
There are two types of charging unit, a tethered unit (with a charging cable permanently attached) or an untethered unit (without a cable).
To charge your EV with a tethered unit, you simply attach the tethered cable to your car’s charging port.
If you have an untethered unit, you attach the cable that came with the EV to the charging unit and then plug it into your car.
While we’re on the subject of plugs. Here’s an answer to another common question.
Do all electric cars have the same plug and socket?
An electric car will have either a Type 1 or a Type 2 socket on the vehicle.
You’ll need to choose a home charger that’s compatible with the type of socket on your EV.
A tethered unit will have the cable for either a Type 1 or Type 2 socket attached to it.
An untethered unit will connect to whichever cable came with your EV.
The benefit of a tethered unit is the fact that you won’t have to carry a cable in the boot of your car that could get lost.
The benefit of an untethered unit is that it looks tidier, and you won’t have a fixed cable length that needs hiding away. Plus, you won’t have to change the whole unit if you replace your EV with one that has a different socket type.
How do I charge my electric car in public?
As well as being able to charge your EV at home, you can also charge it at your place of work or at one of the public charging points up and down the UK.
Public charge points can be classed as slow (lamppost charging), fast (car park charging) or rapid (motorway charging).
Public charging points can be found at service stations, car parks, supermarkets, cinemas and sometimes just at the side of the road. Apps like Zap Map and WattsUp can show where your nearest charging points are.
These serve the same purpose as petrol stations and allow for rapid charging on longer journeys. Depending on the charge point speed, they can provide up to 80% of charge in 30 to 40 minutes.
Some charging points at hotels and shopping centres may offer free charging. However, you’ll need to pay at most charging points in the same way you would a petrol forecourt.
Some use an app, and you’ll need to connect through that before you can plug them in and start using them. Others will allow you to pay by card in the same you would “pay at pump” in a petrol station.
Depending on the type of socket your EV has, you can either use the tethered cable on the charging unit (so long as it matches your vehicle’s socket) or attach your own cable to it.
Once you’re attached, you can pay through the app or by using a card or contactless payment option.
Costs will vary but they’ll either be based on a cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or a flat fee.
The next thing you’re probably wondering is how often you’ll need to charge your EV and when it’s best to do that.
Should I charge my electric car every night?
The fear of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat battery is called “range anxiety”. We’ve looked at how far you can drive an electric car in another of our blogs.
Hopefully, we can dispel some of that anxiety by giving you a few tips on how to keep your EV charged and ready to go.
In answer to the question, “should I charge my electric car every night?”, it depends.
Most electric car drivers will charge their cars at home overnight. However, people with regular driving habits won’t necessarily need to charge the battery every night.
Electric car batteries hold their charge for a long time, which means you can hold off on charging for a few nights and still have plenty of charge.
After all, you probably didn’t refill your petrol car every night after you used it, did you?
How fast do electric cars charge?
You might not need to recharge your EV every night, but it’s good to know how long it might take to charge it.
It will depend on the size of the battery, the speed of the charging point and just how depleted the battery is, but it can take as little as 30 minutes to charge an electric car.
Here’s an example using one of our own 100% electric cars, the MG ZS EV.
A standard 7kW home charger will fully charge an MG ZS EV in approximately six to seven hours.
A 50kW rapid public charger will charge an MG ZS EV from 0% to 80%, giving 100 miles of range, in approximately 35 to 40 minutes.
As we mentioned previously, charging an electric car is a lot like charging a mobile phone. You can top it up during the day if you need to and occasionally give it a full overnight charge when it’s running low.
Can you run a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) without charging?
So far, we’ve only looked at charging BEVs, which are 100% electric vehicles.
A PHEV, also known as a plug-in hybrid, has an electric motor that’s powered by batteries and an engine that’s powered by petrol or diesel.
PHEV drivers can run on battery power for short, urban trips and the petrol engine will take over for longer journeys.
So, let’s look at charging PHEVs and how far you can drive one without charging it.
Although they can be driven without charging, plug-in hybrid cars are not designed to be driven without a full battery charge.
As ever, how often you’ll need to charge it will depend on several factors, but it’s unlikely that you’ll need to charge it every night.
Let’s look at two PHEVs that we offer in our range of electric cars.
The Jeep Renegade 4XE plug-in hybrid can be charged using a domestic three-pin socket, a wall-mounted home charging unit or public charge points.
It can also charge “on the move” thanks to regenerative braking. This is a process that collects energy from decelerating and braking and stores it in the battery.
The MG HS Hybrid can be charged using a domestic three-pin socket, a wall-mounted home charging unit or public charge points.
When plugged in, it can charge from empty to full in around three hours from a standard 7kw home charger.
Choosing the right EV for you
If you’re thinking about buying your first electric car, whether it’s a 100%-electric BEV or a plug-n hybrid, you’ll probably have lots of questions.
If you want to know more about charging an EV, or anything else about electric cars, the plug-in car experts at Nathaniel Cars are here to help. Just fill in the “Ask our EV Experts” form.
Or pop in to speak to us in person and check out the range of electric vehicles on offer at our Cardiff and Bridgend showrooms.