For decades, motorists have been filling cars and vans with petrol or diesel, but plugging them in is fairly new to most drivers. It can be confusing to people in the market for an electric car with the array of charging speeds and charging connection types that currently exist.
Switching from a petrol or diesel vehicle to electric might seem daunting, but worry not as great strides have been made in improving both technology and infrastructure to make the transition much easier.
Ever-improving batteries and electric vehicle hardware are resulting in noteworthy increases in the real-world range of electric vehicles. This, in conjunction with quicker charging, often means there’s less justification for range anxiety. The UK’s charging infrastructure is continuing to expand and become more easily accessed.
In fact, Chancellor Rishi Sunak earmarked £500m for fast-charging networks for EVs in his 2020 budget. His party’s ambition on EV infrastructure is for no driver to ever be more than 30 miles away from a publicly accessible chargepoint.
The retail estate developer, Brookhouse Group opened “rapid” charging points at seven of its busiest retail parks during 2020. In addition, the electric vehicle firm Engenie unveiled plans in 2019 to install more than 2000 rapid EV points at locations such as shopping centres, pubs, retail parks and leisure centres across the UK by 2024. Furthermore, BP bought Chargemaster and have taken over the UK’s largest public network of EV charging points.
The new company BP Chargemaster includes Chargemaster’s 6500 charging points along with BP’s existing 1200 service stations. BP is rolling out 150kW rapid chargers that’ll deliver 100 miles of range in around 10 mins. The company is hoping to have 400 of its 150kW charging points by the end of 2021. VW and Tesco also teamed up to add 2400 new EV chargers popping up at 600 branches of the supermarket retailer.
However, if you’re able to charge your car at home overnight you might rarely have to use a public charging station. It’s possible that your employer might also have a charging point you can use during the working day.
Within this guide, Fleet UK will help explain everything you need to know about electric vehicle charging speeds and the charger types which deliver them.
Electric-vehicle batteries have to be charged with Direct Current (DC). If you’re using a three-pin plug, it’ll draw Alternating Current (AC), so electric vehicles and PHEVs have a built-in converter to turn AC to DC.
In simple terms, there are slow, fast and rapid chargers available, with different connectors and rates of charge. All three methods will top up your car with power, but the way they do so differs, as does the speed at which they recharge.
These are the fastest types of charger and come in both AC and DC forms. Both of these standards operate at between 43kW to 50kW of power. Rapid AC charging just uses more power (43kW), while rapid DC chargers supply DC current straight to the car, allowing the car to charge at 50kW. Rapid chargers can charge up to 80% of a battery in an impressive 30 minutes to an hour.
The Rapid DC connectors use CCS or the CHAdeMO standard, while the Rapid AC charger uses a Type 2 connector. Tesla’s “Superchargers” count as rapid chargers, and they use their own bespoke connection to achieve transfer of up to 120kW.
A fast charger is anything classed as between 7kW and 22kW and will charge a smaller EV in up to three to four hours. While not as fast as rapid chargers – and approximately four-times slower – they are probably the most common type of charger in the UK right now. These are ideal for home use, too.
A slow charger is considered as anything up to 3kW, and is primarily used for overnight charging. This is trickle-charging for electric cars, and your last resort when it comes to topping up. The good news? You can use any domestic three-pin plug to slow charge at home. The bad news? It’ll take between hours and maybe even days, depending on the size of your battery.
|Slow AC||3 kW|
|Fast AC||7-22 kW|
|Rapid AC||43 kW|
|Rapid DC||50 kW|
|Tesla Supercharger||120 kW +|
To find the nearest electric charging station, go to Zap Map, type in your postcode and it will show a map with all your local EV charging stations. Each site is colour-coded depending on the type of charging on offer.
ZapMap will also show you any problems reported with chargers too. You can also download iOS or Android ZapMap apps to your phone.
Tesla owners have access to an even more bespoke tool, one which allows users to map out any route with their Tesla. Because the tool is specific to Tesla, it’s able to accurately calculate your route based on the range of your car. It will also favour Tesla’s own speedier Supercharger network.
The capacity of an electric car’s battery is expressed in kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is a measure of the energy storage available in the cells. For example, the Nissan Leaf has a 40kWh battery in standard form.
A Tesla Model S packs a 100kWh battery. So, to calculate how much it would cost to charge your car, look at the cost of electricity (either your home supply or at a public charging point) and perform the following maths:
Size of battery (kWh) x Electricity cost of your supplier (pence per kilowatt-hour) = Cost to charge an electric vehicle from absolute empty to full.
Let’s take the 100kWh Tesla Model S as an example. A typical public rapid charging point in the UK might cost around 30p per kWh, so the total outlay would be 100 x 30p = £30 if you were to charge from completely empty to full.
If you switch to using a cheaper home supply with a good-value overnight tariff, the cost could potentially be 12p per kWh, which would work out to be a more agreeable 100 x 12 = £12.
This might seem a major saving compared to the cost of a £60-odd tank of fuel for a conventional petrol or diesel car. A Model S might go some 250 miles on a single charge, that said, whereas the alternatives will typically travel far further on a single tank.
A diesel car might rack up some 500 miles between refuelling stops; for the Tesla to do the same, it would have to be charged twice – bumping the outlay to £60 on a public charger or £24 on a home charger.
So, to produce meaningful running cost figures, you should factor in both an EV’s range as well as how you’re going to charge it. If you intend to rely on less expensive charging solutions, you could stand to rack up some considerable savings.
Fleet UK would recommend looking at how much you would potentially use your EV, and then calculate how much you’d need to charge it up at home against on the open road. It’s likely an electric car will save you hundreds, or potentially thousands of pounds a year compared to a petrol or diesel.
If you were purchasing an EV outright you would also have to factor in depreciation, but you don’t have to worry about that with personal or business leasing.
Batteries do deplete, but built-in systems stop the damage from frequent rapid or fast charging.
Given that private cars are usually parked overnight, most electric car owners rely on home charging to ensure that their EV is ready for use each morning. As well as being convenient, home-based overnight charging also has the advantage of being, in most cases, the cheapest time to recharge.
You should have a look at the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) run by the Government as a way to provide some financial support for EV buyers to install a charge point at their home. From 1st April 2020, the maximum amount available to customers will be £350 off a charger.
Contributions will cover no more than 75% of the cost of a charge point and its installation, and grants will only be available for those that have the unit fully installed by an OLEV-accredited installer. Other regulations that apply include the requirement for charge points to be smart – able to be remotely accessed and capable of receiving, interpreting, and reacting to a signal.
Prices will vary depending on the charge point manufacturer and speed. Typically a 3 kW unit will cost between £250 and £500, while a 7 kW charge point will cost between £450 and £800 – though these costs are only guidelines and subject to change.
It is worth noting that new EV buyers may well be eligible for a discounted or free charge point as part of a manufacturer-backed perk. There also are EV-focused tariffs that offer similar schemes. To be eligible to apply for the scheme, EV owners must provide evidence of keeper-ship, lease, be named as the primary user of an eligible electric vehicle (bought new or second hand), and have off-street parking facilities suitable for charge point installation.
Choosemycar.com recently carried out research on the cheapest electric cars to drive and we have taken the Top 10 and shown the results below:
|Vehicle||Cost to fully charge||Cost per 100 miles|
|Hyundai IONIQ Electric|
Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus
Tesla Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor
Hyundai Kona Electric
Tesla Model 3 Long Range Performance
Renault Zoe ZE50 R110
Volkswagen ID.3 Pure
Most of these vehicles are available on affordable monthly payments with Fleet UK’s personal or leasing plans.
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