Guide to charging electric cars – at home, at work, and out and about

Woman charging her electric car

From getting a charging point installed at your home or office to navigating a road trip with an electric car, here’s what you need to know about life without the petrol pump.

By Remy Maisel

One of the most common concerns people have about buying electric cars is whether they’ll have enough charge to get where they’re going or end up stuck somewhere along the way – otherwise known as range anxiety.

But modern electric cars can go much further between charges, with the average range of a UK electric car in 2020 being 193 miles 1, and the UK charging grid is catching up too. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your electric car charged up.

How do you charge an electric vehicle?

While in theory, you could charge your car through a regular wall socket, you wouldn’t want to because it could take up to 24 hours. Most people opt to use a charging point 2.

You could get a home charging point installed or use a public charge point, which can be found on some streets, at service stations, and some workplaces and shopping centres. You’ll have to pay for these, but you’ll save a lot of time. 

Not all charge points and cars have the same connectors, but most charge points will have the two most popular rapid charge connectors, and your car might have adaptors. The most common type of charger is Type 2, which is the European standard and is compatible with slow, fast, and rapid charging 3.

Charging an electric car at home

If you have a private place to park, like a driveway or garage, you might want to get a wallbox charger installed. You can either get a box capable of:

  • Slow charging (3kW): A full slow charge will take from eight to fourteen hours.
  • Fast charging (7-22kW): A full fast charge can take less than half that amount of time and be done in three to four hours. 

Getting a home charge point installed can cost from around £449 with the government’s OLEV grant of £350. This might seem expensive but as electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel, you’ll save in the long run 4.

Which one you choose will depend on what car you buy, because some older cars aren’t capable of fast charging and some specific models have their own networks. The Nissan Leaf, Jaguar I-Pace, and BMW i-3 are capable of rapid charging, for example, while Tesla’s Model 3, Model S, and Model X can only use the Tesla Supercharger network 5.

If you don’t have a garage or driveway where you can install a wallbox, there are more than 18,000 public charge points across the UK, many located on residential streets 6.

Charging your electric car at work

In addition to public charge points, many workplaces have charge points installed. If yours doesn’t, you may want to let your employer know that they can take advantage of the government’s Workplace Charging Scheme for businesses, charities, and the public sector 7.

Your employer will receive a voucher that goes toward the cost of installing an electric charge point. The scheme covers £350 per socket for a maximum of 40 sockets 8

Charging your car at a public charge point

Even if you have a charge point at home and work, you’ll probably want to familiarise yourself with the network of public charge points.

There are now thousands of charge points across the UK and many can offer faster charging than you can get at home. Rapid charge points, such as the ones you might find at a motorway service station, have a rate of 43-50kW which can charge some newer cars to 80% in 30 minutes. 

ZapMap offers a tool for you to calculate how much it will cost you to charge your vehicle at public points, but this will be less than the cost of a tank of petrol. Charging an electric car to 80% at a public rapid charger costs around £7-10 9.

A note on etiquette: If you drive a hybrid vehicle, you should give electric only vehicles priority at charge points, and never leave your vehicle at the charge point longer than necessary so you don’t leave anyone stranded 10.

Find out more about how much electric vehicles cost to run.