Electric cars and charging in the UK: prices, networks, charger types and top tips

Electric cars and their reputation have always faced two key problems, that of a limited range and a lack of charging points. EV ranges are extending with each new model launched and new battery technology breakthroughs. However, what about charging facilities? The big question is does the UK have the EV charging infrastructure to support the widespread use of electric cars? Have you thought about how an electric vehicle could fit in with your lifestyle with the current charging infrastructure? These are questions we hope to answer with our guide to electric car charging and the UK network. 

Typical charging for electric cars

Firstly, most electric car owners still plug in at home, at work, or both.

This is due to most cars being parked for hours on end outside houses or offices. This long stay period is the ideal time to top up the battery. Which makes this type of charging ideal for your daily commutes in an electric car. Not to mention that it will cost only a few pounds in electricity, compared to £20 or more in diesel or petrol. 

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

One of the biggest questions when it comes to electric cars tends to be – how long will it take to charge? As you can imagine with all the different models, charger types and charging networks, the answer is – it depends. The average EV charging time can be anything from eight hours on a normal domestic power supply to less than an hour with a high-voltage rapid charger. The key thing to remember is that you’ll be able to charge the car at times when you’re not using it. Meaning that the length of time it takes to charge shouldn’t really be an issue. We explain more below…

Types of electric car chargers

We have previously touched on this subject in another blog post, but here is a quick run down. Different EVs require different chargers, and unfortunately there’s not a single car-charging adapter that allows you to plug in anywhere. Unless you are relying on the slowest form of charger supplied with most EVs, a standard three-pin domestic socket AKA the granny cable.

The speed of charge that your car can handle generally determines which type of charger and connectors you need. Here’s an overview of the three main types…

  1. Slow chargers – The basic charger supplied with most electric cars is a Type 1 charger. This allows you to charge overnight using a standard 13-amp three-pin plug. With a typical maximum current draw of 3kW meaning that a full charge usually requires up to eight hours.
  2. Fast chargers – This charger doubles the rate of charge you can ‘pump’ into your EV’s battery. This then halfs the typical ‘fully charged’ time to three or four hours. The connectors used to plug into Fast Chargers are Type 2. For a list of electric cars that are compatible with a type 2 charger please see here
  3. Rapid chargers – Electric cars such as the Tesla Model S have more advanced electronics that can take a faster charge than most rivals. Tesla EV’s can take up to 120kW, which is why you can charge a Model S battery up to 80% of its full capacity in only half an hour. But why such a short time? Tesla Superchargers use a proprietary plug that means rival electric car brands such as Jaguar and Audi can’t use them. However, other Rapid Chargers use CCS plugs which are compatible with a bigger range of electric cars.  

The UK’s charging networks

There are a numerous amount of different companies and organisations installing and running electric car charger networks in the UK. 

Typically, EV charger networks are run by energy firms or local authorities and organisations who are more environmentally-motivated. That’s great in theory, but in practice it makes life pretty complicated as each individual network requires an EV driver to register and carry a network-specific swipe card in order to use their charging points.

The more networks you want to use, the more cards you’ll have to carry. Different charging networks run different membership models too. Some operate ‘pay as you go’ systems, some require subscription fees, and others offer free power and minimal sign-up fees. This may sound daft to drivers used to paying for petrol anywhere with the same credit or debit card. Nevertheless it is something to bear in mind when choosing. 

Of course, if you are a creature of habit and always charge at the same facilities this needn’t be a problem. Although if you want to travel to new areas it is advisable to check out both the availability of charge points and the network operators of them. 

If you want to charge on the go, you’ll almost certainly need a smartphone. The use of apps are widespread within operators, which means you no longer need to wait for anything to be posted to you, although this is an option. Some apps will ask for your card information, and will charge you based on time and power used. Other apps such as Polar and PodPoint ask you to pre-load money into your account, similar to London’s Oyster card.

It is key to note that when hiring any Tesla from EVision you will not require any charging card to use Tesla Superchargers. Who can forget the most important part of hiring a Tesla… Supercharging is FREE!

How much do public EV chargers cost to use?

Now that we have discussed operators let’s move onto the cost. Access and electricity costs will vary. Some locations such as hotels and shopping centres provide free charging. The standard charging points cost around £1.50 per hour. Rapid chargers tend to be more expensive. Reflecting the fact that they provide more power to charge electric cars in a shorter time. 

We tend to suggest that for longer term hires from EVision it makes more sense to pay a monthly subscription to a service such as the Polar network. It will tend to work out cheaper than a pay as you go scheme.

Now find your EV charger…

For any travel outside of your normal journey, it is handy to have access to one of the websites like Zap Map or Carwow.

Map of charging points for electric car drivers in UK Zap-Map

These list public chargers near you and all over the UK. They also provide specific information about the connector types and the cost to plug in.

As useful as it is, this information is user-generated in a proportion of cases, and not always up to date. So, we’d recommend taking the precaution of contacting the charging stations ahead of your arrival.

Top tips for EV charging 

Plan ahead

If you plan longer journeys carefully, they won’t be so stressful. Use websites like Zap Map or others to plan your charging stops should you need it. If you can when stopping at a service station for a break try to make the most of charging your EV.

Check your phone reception

If you are using a public charge point controlled by an app, make sure your mobile phone reception is good enough to receive data. Otherwise, you could be waiting a while to start charging. 

Being ICE’d?

Sometimes even though there are clear markings and the threat of fines, some internal-combustion engine (ICE) drivers still park in EV charging spots. In the EV community this is known as being ‘ICEd’. If you really need to charge but are blocked, ask the service station or location to make an announcement asking the driver to move.

With all of these in mind, here at EVision we wish you a safe journey and happy charging.

Electric Company Cars

Did you know that from the 6th April 2020 you can drive a fully electric company car at zero cost? It sounds too good to be true! This is due to recent changes to Benefit in Kind Tax on company cars. Meaning that you and your employer will receive huge savings when driving a fully electric company car. 

Find out more information by watching our YouTube video.

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