How To Charge An Electric Car: Equipment, Charger Types, Times, and Costs

Rowan Harris 6 minutes Published: 01/06/2021

As technology becomes ever-more advanced, few would deny that we are now living in the ‘Age of Convenience’. So why would we ever want to have to wait for our car to charge, or worse still, plan our journeys around charging? What’s that old adage again? ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’. 

On the contrary, charging an electric car doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. In fact, EV drivers might just be onto something: cheaper (and sometimes free!) refuelling, reserved parking spaces, no emissions-based fines for travelling in the ULEZ - the list goes on. 

In this article we’ll explain everything there is to know about how to charge an electric car: from the different charging stations and plugs available to the average time it takes to charge and how to pay. Whether you're thinking of leasing or buying an electric car or you already own one, this guide should be very helpful!

Charging Station Types

In the past few years, the number of electric car charging companies has skyrocketed. Shell, ESSO and BP stations are making way for the likes of Polar, PodPoint and Ecotricity charge points. Each come with their own perks, such as 100% renewable energy, or cheaper tariffs. You’ll find these public charging points almost everywhere, from supermarket car parks to motorway service stations. 

Of course, one of the perks of driving an electric car (or even a plug-in hybrid) is that you don’t have to leave your house to refuel. Electric car charging at home is made quick and easy with a professionally installed wallbox on the side of your home. You’ll even be able to apply for a government grant under the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) to offset some of the costs, provided you use an OLEV-approved supplier. 

This isn’t always possible if you lack the luxury of off-street parking. For electric car charging at home with no driveway, the 3-pin plug might be your best bet for the time being. Just keep in mind, a 3 pin plug isn’t sufficient for fast charging, so you’ll have to charge overnight if this is your only option.

Charger Socket/Cable Types

Whether you’re planning your journey, or you’re still looking for an electric vehicle that’s right for you, it’s helpful to know what kind of EV charging standards and connectors are available. 

The slowest, but arguably most accessible, is the UK 3 Pin. The Type 2 Connector has long been the standard across the UK and EU, though this is being overtaken by the more versatile CCS. While Type 2 is sometimes referred to as ‘fast charging’ you’ll want a CCS for true ‘rapid charging’.

Your car will be supplied with a charging cable, which can be tucked away in the boot (or rather, the froot - ah, the joys of not having a dirty diesel car engine!). 

Of course, there are a few different socket types and it is quite possible that you’ll stop at a charge point only to discover it doesn’t use the same plug as your car. Thankfully, there are plenty of adaptors on the market. You can get a brief overview of the socket types below (figures sourced from Pod Point), or read our full article on EV charger types for a more in-depth overview.

Charger Type: UK 3 Pin Charger

3 pin charger

Power Rating & Typical Charge Per 30 Mins: Up to 3.6kw / 5 miles

Charger Type: Type 1

type 1 charger

Power Rating & Typical Charge Per 30 Mins: 3.7kw / 12.5 miles, 7kw / 25 miles

Charger Type: Type 2

type 2 charger

Power Rating & Typical Charge Per 30 Mins: 3.7kw / 12.5 miles, 7kw / 25 miles, 22kw / 75 miles

Charger Type: CHAdeMO

chademo charger

Power Rating & Typical Charge Per 30 Mins: 50kw / 75 miles

Charger Type: Combined Charging System (CCS)

ccs charger

Power Rating & Typical Charge Per 30 Mins: 50kw / 75miles, 150kw / 225 miles

Charger Type: Tesla Supercharger (Modified Type 2 or CCS, incompatible with other manufacturers)

Power Rating & Typical Charge Per 30 Mins: 150kw / 180 miles, 250kw / 500 miles

Charger Type: Wireless

wireless symbol

Power Rating & Typical Charge Per 30 Mins: Not yet available in the UK!

How To Find Charging Stations

Many people are surprised to learn that the number of charging stations in the UK exceeds the number of petrol stations by three times - and there are more added to the UK charging network every week! 

Still, they’re perhaps not as easy to spot by the roadside as a bright yellow Shell garage with a glowing LED price display. Many new electric cars come with a built-in GPS that allows you to plan your journeys around charging - they can even tell you whether a charging station is free or in use before you roll up (We recommend you consider a Tesla lease for a navigation experience that is second-to-none). 

Alternatively, you can find all the nearest charging points (filtered by socket type and charging speed) on our handy electric car charging map.

Electric Car Charging For Businesses

With the incredibly low BIK rates, the cost of company car tax on an electric car, electrifying your fleet is a no-brainer! Thankfully, installing electric car charging points for business is also a doddle. 

As the government is actively trying to encourage adoption, you can even apply for vouchers towards the cost of installation through the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS).

How Long To Charge

Okay, so how long does it take to charge an electric car? Well, that really comes down to a number of factors: what type of car you have, the battery technology in use, the type of charger you use, the ambient temperature (yes, really!) 

With current battery technology, manufacturers recommend that you aim to keep your vehicle charged between 20-80%. That’s not to say you can’t get a full charge if you really need to eke out the range for a long journey, but there are a couple of reasons why you might not want to. 

Keeping within this range extends the life of your battery and it’s also the fastest way to charge. You’ll notice some manufacturers advertise a charging time of 0-80% in 30 minutes with their latest rapid chargers. It’s worth bearing in mind that these are faster than ‘fast chargers’ such as the CHAdeMO standard, and significantly faster than home charging with a UK 3 Pin plug. 

But no matter which standard you use, that final 20% often takes a lot longer! That said, electric car batteries often have a far greater range than they used to, so keeping your car within that sweet-spot of 20-80% shouldn’t be too hard. 

Best of all, you won’t need to keep coming back to check on your car to see if it’s all juiced up. Many come with nifty companion smartphone apps that tell you how much charge you have left and how much longer it will take to top up. 

How Often To Charge

For those of you wondering, “how often do you have to charge an electric car?”, there really is no universal answer. 

If you’ve splashed out on the latest Tesla Model 3 Long Range, then chances are you won’t have to charge that often. If you’ve been eyeing up a Nissan Leaf lease deal then it might be a different story - depending on whether you plan on sticking to the city or hammering the motorway. 

How To Pay For Charging

Paying for electric car charging has never been easier. In the ‘olden days’ (read: a few years ago), electric car drivers would have to send off for an RFID electric car charging card just to use a public charging unit. Now it’s as simple as downloading an app and paying with contactless. 

If you’re charging at home, you’ll want to make sure that your electricity tariff is geared towards charging an electric car (Octopus energy is ahead of the pack here). 

Alternatively, plugging into a dedicated home charger can cut costs by only charging at the times when your tariff is cheapest - smart! For more tips and tricks, be sure to read our full piece: ‘How do you pay for electric car charging?’.