How do you charge an electric car?

Electric car charging basics

The easy answer to that question is that you plug it into the mains, but currently it isn’t always that simple. If you are lucky enough have a house or apartment with a driveway or garage and can simple park your car up and just plug it straight into your domestic mains electricity supply via a standard plug.

You don’t need to put in any fancy charging point or even contact your electricity supplier, its just as simple as charging a mobile phone. Most cables run between the length of 15 to 25 feet, so this should be taken into consideration.  

The only problem with charging a car this way is that its slow, really really slow. It may take many hours to fully charge an empty battery, this will largely depending on the capacity of the battery you are charging and how much power you had left before charging. Most current cars fully charge in somewhere between 8 to 14 hours, but you can wait up to 24 hours if you have a larger vehicle.

The faster charging option is to get a fast-charging point installed in your home or garage. But this is still far from fast compared to filling a petrol or diesel car at the pumps and you can expect a fast charger to still take between 4 and 12 hours to fully charge a cars battery. Again the time needed will depend on the battery size. Considering the technical nature and risk of installing a fast charger a DIY installation isn’t recommended, it is always smart to hire a professional electrician to install your charging station.

Local or national building codes also vary from country to country and often requiring permits and inspections by a professional, and making an error with an electrical installation can cause damage to your home and electrical systems. So let an experienced professional handle electric work.

Fast chargers can also be expense to buy and install at home but the price has been coming down over recent years, with many electrical firms and power companies offering innovative solutions, but its still advisable to get a few quotes before committing.

​What about public charging points?

The other charging option is using public charging points. Many local authorities are putting in street charging points as are service stations and offices. In the UK lamp posts with a blue light on them have built in plug sockets where you can get power.

There are already more than 30,000 charging stations in the UK, according to the electricity company EDF, with around 10,000 having been added in 2019 alone. But in truth the rollout of charging point is still currently in its infancy meaning long distance travel can still be an inconvenience.

But you can expect that number to increase rapidly in the coming years. The UK government announced a £1.3bn investment in electric vehicle infrastructure in November 2020, so this should go along way to help.

Are public charging points easy to use?

Public charging points are easy to use and they all work in a similar way. In nearly all cases you’ll need to use a swipe-card or your mobile phone to open the charging point. This will allow you to connect the charging cable from your car.

There are a number of different operators in the same way as there are different fuel companies for petrol and diesel cars. Some operate via a membership scheme and you will need to become a member to use them, with some charge a flat fee each month and some offer a pay-as-you-go service.

Some manufacturers offer brand specific charging points, the most well known is Tesla which offers access to “superchargers”. These allow very rapid charging, in some cases you may get an 80% charge in just 30 minutes. Leaving you time to go to the toilet and buy a cup of coffee before continuing your journey.

How do I find a charging point?

Most modern electric cars have built in satellite navigation that pinpoints charging points. The often now also come with apps pre installed that will direct you to the nearest charging point. Failing that there are lots of websites and downloadable apps that will help you find your way to the nearest available charging point.

Lots of new electric cars now have apps installed that will direct you to the nearest charging point. If not, there are a host of websites and downloadable apps that will do the job. Public charging points are pretty easy to use, but there are a number of different operators and you often have to be a member to use them. Some charge a flat fee each month for access; some offer pay-as-you-go charging.

Typically, you’ll need to use a swipecard or your mobile phone to unlock the charging point. This will allow you to connect the charging cable from your car to the charging point.

A few manufacturers, most notably Tesla, offer access to “superchargers”. These allow very rapid charging indeed, you might get an 80% charge in just 30 minutes – about the time it takes to go to the loo and buy and drink a cup of coffee. These used to be free to Tesla owners, but now most have to pay to use the Supercharger network.

Can I charge my car in the rain?

Yes, you can charge your electric car in the rain with no fear of electric shock or damage to the car. Electric cars have various safeguards built in as do the plugs and sockets. So you can charge your car come rain or shine without worrying and damaging your car or yourself!

Key takeaways

Car charging has come along way in recent years. But in most parts of the world the infrastructure is still in its infancy. Meaning you really need to plan your route if you intend to travel long distances without worry.

However this should change in the not to distance future with countries and governments putting large amounts of resources and money behind the rollout of a national charging grid. The challenges are large but not insurmountable.

Home charging is now commonplace with various options and no real need to spend extra money on a fast charging installation unless you feel you need the convenience.