We’ve been using internal combustion engine cars (petrol and diesel to you and me) for such a long time that it has become second nature to maintain and fuel them. So, it’s understandable electric vehicles can seem a bit of a mystery. Danny Morgan from Smart Home Charge is here to explain the basics of living with an electric car.
Until recently, EVs were seen as “tech on wheels” and were only really bought by enthusiasts, tech fans, and other early adopters. It would be fair to say EVs were just peculiar-looking things we would occasionally see on the road.
But that has changed now. Thanks to cars such as the Tesla Model S and Model 3, Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and more, EVs have become a viable alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles. In fact, they are desirable and more than capable of holding their own compared to other cars.
However, living with an electric vehicle is different to a fossil fuel car. Perhaps you are thinking of buying an EV, but you’re unsure what’s involved or you’re looking for cheap lease deals to dip your toe into the EV water?
Either way, this article will help you understand the basics of running electric cars.
The EV lifestyle is different
Living with and charging an EV is quite different to how you use your current vehicle, but once you are used to it, you will wonder what all the fuss was about.
The fundamental difference is how and when you “fuel” your EV. In a petrol or diesel car, most drivers will wait until the tank is getting low and then fill it up. However, most EV owners will charge their vehicle overnight a few times a week.
In practice, this means most EV drivers wake up to plenty of range to cover their daily drive. Think of charging an electric car in the way you charge your smartphone – you don’t need to charge it all the time, or even up to 100% charge, but you rarely run the battery down to zero before plugging it in. An electric vehicle is similar; in fact, you will likely save time “fuelling” your car because it will happen automatically overnight when you’re asleep (more on that later).
No more driving to the petrol station to get fuel; no more queuing to top up your tank. Simply arrive home, plug your car in and your home charger will do the rest.
There are several charger “types” and speeds for electric vehicles. Yours will depend on the vehicle you buy, but they can be broken down into Slow, Fast and Rapid charging categories. Most EVs are capable of all three charging speeds. The speed of charging is typically measured by the power output of the charger, which is in kilowatts (kW).
Slow – up to 3kW
This is usually a three-pin plug charger which should come with your EV. It does the job, particularly overnight, but it can take upwards of 12 hours to charge depending on the vehicle’s battery size.
Fast – 7.4kW (up to 3x faster than a three-pin plug)
Fast chargers are becoming the most common method to charge an EV at home. If you buy an EV or perhaps you want to hire a Tesla or another electric car for a year, then I would recommend having a dedicated EV charging point installed at your home. These are sometimes called “wallboxes” or wall chargers.
The most common power output is 7.4kW which can charge an EV in 3-10 hours. This does depend on the size of the battery (just like fuel tank size dictates how much petrol you can fill up with) – smaller batteries, such as those found in plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), can be fully charged in as a little as three hours.
Bigger batteries, such as those found in the Jaguar I-PACE (84.7kW), can take up to 13 hours. It sounds a lot, but don’t forget it’s unlikely your EV will ever be completely empty nor should you need to charge it to 100% every day.
Fast – 22kW (up to 10x faster than a three-pin plug)
There are 22kW Fast chargers available for homes, but these require a three-phase power supply. You will most likely find these chargers on larger residential properties, places of work, or public car parks.
Fast charger “Types”
Depending on the vehicle, different types of charger and charging cables are in use. The connections available are:
- Type 1 – favoured by Asian car manufacturers
- Type 2 – fast becoming the most common.
Either way, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a charger for your home or on the road.
Rapid – 50kW to 150kW
Rapid chargers can charge most EVs from 0-80% in less than 30 minutes. They are usually found at motorway services, car parks and, increasingly, fuel station forecourts. Most Rapid chargers are 50kW, but more powerful units are being installed such as 150kW. Longer journeys are already possible in an EV, but more powerful Rapid chargers are making it even easier than before.
Rapid charger “Types”
There are also a handful of Rapid charger connection types. These include:
- CCS (the most common in Europe)
- Tesla Type 2 – Tesla only
Charging at home
Charging your electric vehicle at home with a dedicated wall charger or wallbox is the most convenient way of running your EV.
The most common home charger runs at 7.4kW and will charge a typical EV from 0-80% in under 10 hours.
There are a range of devices available with a range of features, which you can compare, order and get installed by Smart Home Charge. You can either select your car and choose a compatible charger or browse our range of market-leading chargers.
To encourage the transition to electric cars, you can take advantage of the Government OLEV Grant which will contribute £500 towards your charger purchase and installation.
How do you qualify for the OLEV Grant?
To qualify for the OLEV Grant, you must:
- have off-street parking.
- install an OLEV-approved chargepoint.
- Not book the date of installation more than four months ahead of the date of delivery or date the customer becomes the registered driver of the electric vehicle.
- use an OLEV-approved chargepoint installer such as Smart Home Charge.
Every home is different and requires a different installation. If you’d like more information on what the installation process looks like and what you can expect, visit our Guides page.
Choosing a home charger
Choosing a charger for your home is ultimately a personal choice, but there are few things to consider:
Home chargers by nature of their location must be robust and weather resistant, but there are a wide range of price points depending on your needs. Basic chargers can start from as low £240 installed with the OLEV Grant. Note, not all properties or EVs are eligible for the OLEV Grant – the team at Smart Home Charge will check this for you before installation but it’s worth doing your research first too.
Although the charger is a functional device, they can be quite large, and most are mounted to the wall closest to where the vehicle is parked. This means they can prominent and many customers choose a unit that fits in nicely with their property.
Tethered or untethered
Some home chargers come with a charging cable (Type 1 or 2) attached. This is more convenient as you can simply plug the cable into the car like you would a fuel pump. However, if you were to change your vehicle or you owned two vehicles each with a different charging connection then this can be more problematic.
The benefit of an untethered, or socket-only, unit is it should work with whatever cable your car requires as you simply use the cable that comes with the vehicle. It’s future-proofed in some ways, but it does mean a little more work when you want to charge your car.
Almost all chargers are “smart” chargers now. This means they can communicate with your vehicle and, in theory, with the national grid. Aside from this, functionality and features vary greatly – some chargers even include voice and face recognition. You will need to purchase a smart charger in order to qualify for the Government OLEV Grant.
Research the available chargers and decide which features you need or want. One of the most practical features seen on newer chargers is the ability to directly integrate with your electricity tariff, such as the Ohme intelligent EV charger, and automatically choose the cheapest times to charge your vehicle.
Charging on longer journeys
Many newer electric vehicles are capable of more than 200, or even 300, miles. This should be plenty for most longer trips, but you may wish to use a public charger on the way, so you have plenty of range for the duration of your holiday for example.
Most public chargers will be Fast or Rapid, which means you will get a decent amount of charge in the time it takes you to buy and drink a cup of coffee.
There are several different public charger operates and unfortunately this means the payment process is not standardised. This is beginning to change, with the introduction of more chargers that take contactless payments, but currently EV drivers will need to download the relevant smartphone app or obtain an RFID card.
Commonly seen charger operators include:
How to find public chargers?
It’s true that journeys over 200 miles will likely require a bit of planning in an EV, especially if you plan to drive after you arrive at your destination. Motorway services are usually a good bet thanks to Ecotricity’s electric highway. Fuel stations are also installing EV charge points.
Most electric vehicles will include some sort of feature that will navigate to electric car charger points on your route, but you can also plan your journey using Zap Map. There’s a handy app, which tells you where the chargers are located, how fast they are, if they are working, if they are in use, as well as displaying user “reviews”.
In reality, driving and charging an electric vehicle is easy – it just takes a little getting used to initially. However, if you aren’t ready to take the dive and purchase one just yet, you might consider a lease or a longer-term rental. This is a great way to test the EV lifestyle without committing to a long-term purchase.
In fact, EVision are offering discounted rates if you hire an electric vehicle for 12-months or more. Check out the offers here.