How Electric Car Charging Stations Work
Electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are becoming more popular among UK drivers. Not least because of growing concern over how much CO2 is being emitted by combustion-engined motors on the road, but also due to the increased number of charge points available up and down the country.
According to the latest stats from Zap Map, there are now 18,195 charging stations across 11,303 locations. But if you’re new to it all, what do you need to do when you turn up and need some juice in the batteries? Find out in this guide to how charging stations work.
What charging point do I need for my car?
You may not already know this, but not every charging point (also known as a ‘connector’) is universally compatible with every type of electric car or PHEV.
If you’re leasing an electric car, your contract should come with information regarding what power output and connector type is the right fit for your vehicle. However, if you own one then you can find this out in the manufacturer’s handbook.
To save you having to dig out the documents, here’s what to look out for when using a public charging station.
There are four different types of connector used for charging electric vehicles (EVs). Depending on the make and model of your car, your inlet socket where you plug the cable in to charge will match one of the following connectors.
Here’s what each one means.
CHAdeMO and CCS
These are the most powerful forms of rapid charging points (up to 50kW power rating) and ultra-rapid charging points (between 100-350kW power rating) available, both of which use direct current (DC) charge.
Examples of vehicles which use these connectors include:
- The Nissan Leaf has a maximum charge power of 50kW for its 40kWh battery, which can deliver 80% charge in 40 minutes. It has two sockets which support rapid charging for CHAdeMO and Type-2 connectors.
- CCS compatible models include the entire Tesla line-up. Officially named the fastest charging electric car, the Tesla Model 3 uses the bespoke superchargers reserved for the brand’s cars which have a maximum charge power of 120kW, which can deliver 80% charge in 20 minutes.
One of the most common types of connector you’ll find at UK charging stations. The Type-2 supports slow 3kW charging, fast 7kW or 22kW rapid charging, depending on your needs.
Again, the Nissan Leaf supports both fast and slow charging, the former of which takes just over an hour for 20% charge (32 miles). The likelihood is that you will only use this option for topping up mid-journey.
These connectors are a rare sight in Europe and are most common in Asia, but some PHEVs such as the Mitsubishi Outlander come with a Type-1 fitted.
It supports slow or fast charging from 3-7kW, a full charge of which takes between 3-5 hours (though it’s more likely you will just do top-ups for this type of smaller hybrid battery, which will take significantly less time.)
How much does it cost to charge an electric or hybrid car?
It’s no secret that charging a car is a lot cheaper than if you were to regularly fuel one. This is mostly due to the fact that electricity is more stable in its pricing than petrol or diesel, and that EVs and PHEVs are more efficient than regular vehicles.
There are different fees involved depending on how you choose to charge your electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, starting with the public charging stations.
Charging station prices
Most UK charging networks will offer free ad-hoc access to charging, but fast, rapid and ultra-rapid chargers will cost you money per charge.
The amount you pay will depend on how much charge you specify you want for the vehicle and the network you’re using.
- BP Chargemaster (the largest UK network) – 12p per kWh or there’s a mobile app service called ‘Plus Point’ which costs £7.85 per month and gives you (mostly) free access to more than 7,000 charging points. What’s more is that the first three months come at no cost.
- Ecotricity – 30p per kWh for non-customers but if you get your energy and electricity from them, this is halved to 15p per kWh.
- Pod Point – 25p per kWh for using its rapid chargers.
- InstaVolt works on a contactless pay-as-you-charge basis and costs 35p per kWh.
- Tesla has its own network of superchargers which are only compatible with the sockets on its own brand’s vehicles, they also don’t cost anything to use!
Remember: The average cost to fully charge a typical EV with a 60kWh battery is £8.40, with PHEVs’ smaller batteries meaning this average is around £1.93.
Charging at work
You may be fortunate enough to not have to pay a fee for charging your EV or PHEV at a public station if the company you work for has a point available.
It’s getting more and more common to see shared employee car parks or individual enterprise plots featuring a charging point for those who commute to work in an electric or plug-in hybrid model. This is especially true as more SMEs and larger corporations turn to electric business leasing as an affordable way to run a fleet or single car while reducing company vehicle tax.
Even better news is that the power rate of these chargers tends to be higher than the wallpoints installed at your home, which are fairly pricey to pay for and have a professional install. On top of this, you then have to fork out on using your own electricity. You can now find more rapid 7kW and 22kW charge points on business parks and other staff/visitor car parks, and many of them are either free or low cost to incentivise EV usage.
Need a home charger for your electric car? We’ve got you covered!
Public charging isn’t always ready available to people living with an electric car, which is why we encourage those with EVs and access to off-road parking to consider purchasing and installing a home charger.
It’s considered one of the most efficient, cost-saving ways to charge an electric car, thanks to lower electricity charges and the fact that you can charge overnight when you’re not using your car.
To get you the best price on a new electric car charger, we’ve partnered with RightCharge so that you can compare offers and get the best price for a charger specific to your vehicle.
Read our full electric car guide before you buy
Considering buying an electric car? Before you do, be sure to check out our all-in-one electric car guide for all the information you need about owning an EV.
Want the best deal on a brand-new electric car? Moneyshake helps you find the best offer on the latest EVs from approved providers.
Do you have more questions regarding alternative fuel cars or leasing in general? Then check out our guides page for answers to our FAQs.