About 80% of electric car charging takes place at home, so if you’re planning to buy an electric car (or a hybrid car) for the first time, then fitting a home charge point and getting yourself set-up to charge easily and efficiently from home is a huge part of making the switch to electric.
Why charge at home?
Charging your electric car from home is both the cheapest and most convenient way to charge your electric vehicle. A charge point delivers the most efficient charging, while off-peak charging (and the right electricity tariff) offers the cheapest charging rates, and by charging at home in the evening or overnight, you don’t need to hang around waiting for the charging to finish.
Charging an electric car at home is much cheaper than the cost of traditional fuel, and home chargers are cheaper than public chargers (unless you find and use the free ones). So it’s an important part of owning and running an electric vehicle.
Getting a charging unit
You can plug your electric car into a regular socket, if you don’t have a home charge point installed yet, but you really want to avoid that, as it’s painfully inefficient and time-consuming. It could take up to 24 hours or more to charge your car, and manufacturers recommend it for ‘emergency use’ only.
As such, if you have an electric car, you need to get a charging unit installed at home (also known as a wallbox charger). This can go in your garage, or at the side of your house, and is essentially a standalone charger that’s wired directly to your domestic electricity supply.
Type 1 and Type 2 plugs
There are two types of connectors for charging your electric car at home: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is older, and not used by many cars. One model that does use Type 1 is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
However, the vast majority of electric and hybrid cars now use a Type 2 connector. In 2014 the EU mandated that all plug-in cars from 2014 must have a Type 2 socket. So the chances are, you’ll need a Type 2.
Get a tethered charger?
You can get a tethered or unethered wallbox. A tethered charging unit just means it has a power lead attached to it, which means you can plug it into you electric (or hybrid) car easily.
An untethered wall charger means a charging lead isn’t attached, so you’ll need to plug one in when you go to charge (e.g. get it from the car boot). The advantage here is that you can use different leads.
In general, if you have one electric car and want convenience, then a tethered charger with a fixed lead is best. However, if you have two electric cars with different cables (such as a Nissan Leaf and a Peugeot e-208) or plan to get another any time soon, or may charge a different type of electric car in the near future, then an untethered charging unit gives you the ability to switch leads.
What power rate (kW) to choose?
The most standard power rate for a UK wall charger is (up to) 7.4kW, and this is generally advisable as most electric cars have a maximum AC charging rate of between 7 to 11kW, or less. These are typically known as fast chargers.
You can go for a lower power rate, such as 3.6kW, which will save you money on the charger, but take longer to charge your car (which might be fine if you have a PHEV or smaller battery etc.). These slow chargers are sometimes installed in homes that can’t operate a 7kW fast charger, and are perfectly good for overnight charging.
Faster chargers with higher power rates are available, up to 22kW, but very few cars can receive this from a home wall charger, so when you come to buy your electric car you’ll have to check what it’s capable of charging at, but in general 7.4kW is a good choice.
Rapid chargers of up to 43kW are available at public charging stations, but not at normal residential homes.
Is it possible to charge faster?
In general, no. However, if your electric car can charge at a higher rate of between 11 to 22 kW, and you happen to live in a house that has a ‘three-phase network’ electricity supply, then you can.
Single phase network means your property essentially receives electricity from one live wire, while a three-phase network has three live wires. The majority of the UK is served by a three-phase network, but despite this, most houses are attached to only one of these three live wires.
The way to check if you are connected to a single-phase network or three-phase network, is if you check your fuse box and you have three 100-amp fuses in your fuse box, then you’re one of the lucky ones connected to three-phase. But the chances are that you will only have one 100-amp fuse, meaning a standard single-phase connection.
This shouldn’t matter to you at all, as your car probably can’t take more than a standard charge, but if it can, and if you’re desperate for the fastest charge possible, then you can speak to your energy supplier about upgrading your property to have a three-phase connection which will allow for a faster charger and charging time.
Get a smart charger!
A smart charger – like a smart plug, or any other smart home device – lets you operate the charger remotely, via an app on your phone. This means you can monitor the electric car’s charging status, and choose when to charge your car.
The UK grant for installing a home charge point now only applies if the charge point has smart functionality. This is up to £350 off the cost, and the smart functionality will help you to charge during the night at the cheapest hours. So while a smart charger is a bit more expensive than a standard plug-in charger, the higher cost of the smart charger is fully offset by these two benefits.
Smart units can also condition the battery to increase its lifespan. And can limit the amount of energy in the battery to 80 percent to avoid overheating the cells and thus improve longevity.
With the grant a smart meter works out cheaper than a cheap standard one, and it will provide you with cheaper charging which makes a significant cost difference, and it provides better maintenance of your electric car battery, which helps with range and resale, so it’s a no-brainer really.
How much does it cost to install a wallbox?
A smart electric car charger costs between £450 and £1000 to install (the price of fitting is usually included in the purchase price). However, with the UK Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) you can get up to 75% off the cost, capped at £350.
To get the grant, the charge point has to be fitted by a supplier approved by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV). They will be able to claim the grant on your behalf.
It’s worth mentioning that the fitter will probably need to check your preferred location for the wallbox, and your home’s electrical circuitry before going ahead. And if your wiring needs upgrading, then you might need to pay a bit more for the installation as such.
If you live in Scotland, the Energy Saving Trust will provide up to £300 further funding on top of the EVHS grant, with an additional £100 available for those in the most remote parts of Scotland.
Some manufacturers have offer a free wallbox and fitting offer when you purchase one of their EVs, so it’s worth asking the brands that you’re interested in if they’re offering anything like this.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
In most situations a 7kW fast-charging wallbox offers the quickest way to charge at home. With this unit you will be able to fully charge something like a MINI Electric in as little as three and a half hours, while a Nissan Leaf 40kWh will take closer to six hours.
However, in most cases you will want to charge to 80% only, and the battery won’t be empty or even low, perhaps more like between 30-50%, so in reality home charging to top back up to around 80% will only take a couple of hours.
How much does it cost to charge?
The cost of charging depends on your tariff, and your electric car. The average UK tariff rate will cost 14p per kW. And a 60-kW electric car (say the entry-level 60kW Tesla Model S with a range of 215 miles) will cost just over £8 for a full charge.
And if charging is done at night on the cheapest tariff, then it’s typical to achieve costs of as little as 1-2p per mile.
Vehicle to grid
Vehicle to grid (V2G) technology is an advanced form of power management that has been available to businesses, and is currently being trailed with customers by Ovo Energy.
If you’re registered to it, you get to choose a charging schedule via an app on your phone. You set the minimum state of charge that you need your car to be, and for what time. For example, you come home at 6pm in the evening, plug your car in and specify that you want your car to be at least 80% full by 7am the following morning.
Overnight your electric car will be charged when demand on the network is low (and when it’s more likely to come from renewable sources). But when demand on the grid is high, the charger can take power from your car, power your home, and sell any excess energy back to the grid. This helps to manage the UK power network and save the people money.
This isn’t publicly available as an option for home just yet, but it could be very soon, so keep an eye out for it, as another way to charge smart, and save a lot of money in the process.
Find the electric car that’s right for you
Using our search tool you can choose what type of electric car you want, and add in your specific preferences to get a list of electric cars that will suit your needs and wants. Every model presented will show you information on charging, from the time it takes for a full home charge, to how long it takes for a quick rapid charge. As well as info on battery and range, and everything else.