Powering up – a quick guide to charging your electric car

Woman charging her electric car

When your phone battery dips below 5%, there’s no charger in sight, and your notifications are pinging away, panic can set in. So, it’s no surprise people have similar worries about an electric car powering down and leaving them high and dry.

It can take a little more planning. But, with the UK’s EV infrastructure improving all the time, there’s plenty of ways you can build charging your electric car into your daily life – whether you’re at home, out and about, or on the move.

Charging an electric car at home

You could plug your car into the same UK three-pin socket you use for your kettle or TV; but charging won’t be quite as quick as making a cuppa (and we wouldn’t advise it). Fitting an EV charging point is usually the fastest and easiest way to keep your car road-trip ready. Plug it in before you head to bed, to make the most of lower energy tariffs. Or take energy-saving savvy a step further by installing solar panels and charging your EV on homegrown renewable energy.

Charging points come in two styles:

  1. Tethered have a long cable built into them.
  2. Untethered have a cable that can be attached as needed and stored when not in use.

Installing a charger is best left to the professionals if you want to avoid any nasty shocks. Dealerships and leasing companies can let you know what type you’ll need, as well as your installation options. The wait can be three to six weeks, but the fitting itself usually only takes a few hours. Make sure you book the installation before you get your EV, so you’re ready to take it on the road when it arrives.

Where to charge your electric car away from home

You don’t need off-road parking or a garage to run an electric car. Websites and apps can help you find public charging points near home or work, helping you build charging into your normal routine. More and more supermarkets are adding charging points to their car parks too, so you can charge your car while you refuel the fridge. Currently, there are a whopping 32,000 public chargers available nationwide – nearly 6,000 of which are rapid chargers Footnote [1]. Find your nearest one by visiting Zap-Map.

Charging at a public charge point 

No one likes the thought of ending up stranded on the hard shoulder. 

To charge your EV when you’re on the road or zipping round town, you first need to know which types of connectors are compatible with your car. The dealership should give you this info, but you can also find it in the car’s handbook. Once you know this, it’ll be easy to find the charging points you can use.

Unlike home charging, you may need a payment card. However most rapid chargers now accept contactless and all have to provide PAYG access digitally. In some cases, you may need to apply for a card or download their app before you can use their charging points. Some apps show you where the chargers are and let you pay in the app. Zap-Map is great for information on all types of charging points – including where you can find a surprising number that are still completely free to use.

The RAC are with you for a roadside boost

If you take out EV insurance with us, you’ll also be offered the opportunity to take out breakdown cover with the RAC. Choose this option and you’ll always have someone to ride to your rescue, should you need your charge boosting or a lift to the nearest charger.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

There are three types of charging point – non-rapid, rapid, and ultra-rapid. Getting to grips with the different charge times they offer is key to keeping you on the road.

Non-rapid – 6 to 12 hours

Best used when you’re at home, at work or staying overnight at a hotel, as the car needs a few hours to fully charge. This is by far the cheapest and most convenient way. 

Rapid – 20 to 60 minutes 

Perfect for when you’re running errands, going for a quick bite to eat, or doing your weekly food shop. Your EV will be nicely topped up in up to 60 minutes.

Ultra-rapid – 20 to 25 minutes

Designed for when you need to get back on the road quickly. Pulling in at a motorway services, or popping out for a quick coffee break, should give you time to make the most of an ultra-rapid charging unit.

We found that, on longer journeys, 72% of drivers go no more than three hours before stopping. Most of us stop for around 26 minutes to stretch our legs and grab a drink or a bite to eat Footnote [2]. While we’re enjoying a caffeine boost, an ultra-rapid charger could be getting our EV back up to a healthy 80% charge.

The key to not getting caught out is knowing ahead of time where you can charge your car and how long it’ll take. You can plan where to stop along the way by using a charger location app, such as Zap-Map. Find out the simple things you can do to reduce battery use – these hacks will make the charge you do have go further.

Keeping an EV charged can take a bit of planning. But, by building charge times into your routine, owning one can help you lower your emissions and household bills – good for the planet and your pocket.

If you’re thinking about getting an EV, you’ll also need to consider insurance costs. Get a quick quote from us and see what’s covered.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

As a rule, charging at home is cheaper than than charging at a public charge point, and charging slowly is cheaper than charging fast. 

So, with rapid charging, you’re effectively trading pounds for hours. That’s sometimes sensible or necessary. But in the long run, you’ll need to get yourself a home charge point if you want to spend less on electricity than you would on petrol or diesel.

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