Before Buying Your Electric Car Charger
So, you’ve just purchased, or are about to purchase, your new electric vehicle (EV). You’re excited to help save the planet by producing less pollution, both air and noise, and to cut the cost of petrol. Whilst deciding on your car you’ve probably become aware of the potential problem with mile range. It is a reality that you will need to do long journeys a bit differently but this simply requires fully charging your car before the journey and planning your route - where and how often you will stop, take a break and charge.
Here’s our recommended “must dos” before purchasing chargers or choosing charger networks to join:
Familiarise yourself with the types of connectors/chargers for slow, fast and rapid charges appropriate to your vehicle.
Plan how you will charge at home (this will most likely be the cheapest charging scenario)
Consider the long journeys you often make and match them with the most appropriate charging network. Luckily regulations have changed so all charging networks must allow guest charging.
Electric Car Charger/Connector Types
The most basic type of charger, often included with your car, is the “occasional or portable” (mode 2) charger. This consists of, a three pin plug at one end, to plug into a standard domestic socket; a control box in line, to assure the appropriate current for charging your cars battery in this mode; a type 1* or 2 connector to plug into your car depending on your socket type. This type of charger will allow you to top up wherever you can find someone willing to let you let you use a domestic socket, but will typically take over 12 hours to give you a usable mileage, charging at around 2.4KW. So, unless your car is only for the occasional local journey, you should consider installing a fast charger at home.
Fast chargers, Mode 3, move the control box to the wall or a pillar. For most domestic settings this will half the charge time, charging at around 7KW (3.6KW is also available). It is possible to get Mode 3 chargers up to 22KW (and even beyond) but to do so you would require a 3 phase electricity supply and your car may limit intake to below 11KW, a common safety setting built in by the manufacturers.
A Mode 3 charger is offered with either a “tethered connector, which favours convenience as the input connector is tied to the control box, or a “connector socket”, which favours flexibility as the portable connector needed can be used at other charging points. Be sure to order the correct connector type if choosing the tethered alternative. These charging units offer multiple features and design options which are worth investigating such as timed charging and remote switch on and off, however, do check that the feature is worthwhile and not already provided by your car/car’s application. Whilst a fast charger at home will allow you to fully charge your car quickly, if your plans take you beyond the range of your car you will need to refuel along the way. Most public electric charge points will allow you to use the modes above, but the wait will rarely be practical. Therefore, find rapid charger points you can plan into your journey.
Rapid chargers, mode 4, use a different approach to those above. Rather than the charger in the car converting AC to DC, DC is delivered directly from the charging unit. The connector will be different to the type 1 or 2 AC connector and there are 2 major types, CCS and CHAdeMO. They are easily told apart by looking at your cars charging sockets. With CCS you will see an extension socket to your type 1 or 2 AC socket and the single connector will plug into both these sockets. With CHAdeMo the DC socket will be separate from your type 1 or 2 AC socket and the single connector will plug only into your DC socket . These chargers are commonly rated at 50 to 150KW allowing substantial charge to be delivered in under an hour.
It should be noted that charging options (slow/fast/rapid) overlap, in terms of the speed of charge and continue to evolve. In general terms all mentioned connectors types can be accommodated by both home and public charge points although Type 2 AC connectors and CCS DC connectors are the most common.
*Type 1 chargers still exist for converted vehicles and some early EVs but are no longer common in the EU.
Electric Car Charging at Home
As mentioned, it is highly likely that the cheapest charging you will do will be at home and this can cover short day-to-day journeys. Getting into the habit of charging at night, and topping up whenever parked is most conveniently achieved via a wall charger. Currently a £350 OLEV grant is available from the government making it possible to achieve a fully installed unit at home for a few £100, which will be made worth it by the convenience gained (physical and charge times). Whilst the occasional charger, most likely supplied with the car, could suffice, it is not uncommon for issues to arise that pause charging due to overheating because of plug, socket and/or temperature conditions, adding to the long charging times needed.
Your wall/pillar charger will be connected into your household supply (fusebox) and competes with the electricity being drawn by your house to provide charge to your car. This should not cause any issue in most settings, but talk with the installer to be sure of the most appropriate installation. In most cases your house will have a single-phase supply offering 15KW to the house and the fusebox will allow the creation of a new circuit dedicated to your charger, comfortably accomodating a 7KW wall box/pillar. You should think about where you place the box for the maximum convenience of installation, charging and security. Multiple cable lengths and locking systems are available to provide more solutions. There are also design options and end to end energy systems (solar) for those who can afford to invest further.
Should your premises benefit from a 3 phase supply you can opt for higher rated chargers typically 22KW, however as previously mentioned, be aware that currently few cars can fully use this rating and you will probably still be limited to charging at 11KW. In addition, most 3 phase supply will go to commercial premises and workshops and installations may start getting considerably more expensive.
Electric Car Charging Networks
As mentioned, it is now mandatory for charging networks to offer a guest facility, so there is no need to rush to sign up. Ecotricity are common in our motorway service stations. Aside from this it is worth researching what the biggest network in your area is and whether they offer a package that suits your lifestyle. Some deals are available for combining home and motoring supply, or for paying an upfront fee with reduced ongoing pricing.
Check out our 'what to buy' recommendation for purchasing the best EV charger here.