How To Charge An Electric Car
To charge an electric car you must have a power source, such as a home charger or public charging station, a cable which fits your model and connects it to the charger, and payment if your charging station isn’t free and you’re not at home.
Discover how you can look after your electric car’s battery health and prolong its life in this guide on how to charge an EV.
How often should I charge my electric car?
There’s an ongoing debate in the electric vehicle world about whether regular rapid charging or sporadic, longer charges are better for battery longevity.
Each model will have a manufacturer’s handbook which will guide you on when to plug in for the best performance. While this is subject to the manufacturer of your electric car, the general consensus is that you should avoid regularly charging it up to 100%*.
This is because, just like the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries found in phones, laptops and tablets, a ‘full cycle’ charge (0-100%) can be damaging to the cells in an electric car’s batteries. Instead, aiming for 60-80% charge allows the battery to operate at low voltage which is known to increase available charging cells and improve its lifespan.
Remember: Just as fully charging an EV can damage the battery, allowing it to go ‘dead’ (or reach 0%) should also be avoided, with 10-20% recommended as a lowest point to begin charging.
*If you’re driving a long distance in your electric car, a full charge before setting off is sensible and won’t result in long-term damage to the battery.
Some electric cars (including Tesla models) allow you to set a charge limit on them which stops charging the car once it reaches a certain percentage.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need this feature if you’re only topping up your vehicle’s battery mid-journey, but it can be useful for overnight charging at home. This way you can ensure the battery isn’t continuously being charged fully, which is likely to hinder its capacity a lot sooner than you’d like.
Alternatively, if your EV doesn’t have this feature, then smart chargers are available for most models and can be set to stop charging in a similar manner.
Charging for long journeys
If you’re the kind of driver who occasionally has to travel 100+ miles in a day, then you may be wondering why a full charge wouldn’t make sense.
You would be right too, as 80% to 100% can be a big difference in terms of range capabilities of an electric car. For example, this 20% difference is equivalent to 37 miles in the Hyundai Ioniq, which would be around a third of your journey!
Here are our top three charging tips for when you need to do a long journey.
1. Choose fast/rapid charging points
Just like when you drive a long way in a standard car and need to fill up at a fuel station when you’re running low on petrol or diesel, an electric car will need topping up with charge at some point during a longer journey.
The best way to do this without having to wait hours at a motorway service station is by making use of the plethora of fast and rapid chargers available.
There’s currently just over 31,500 connectors in the UK* and nearly 23,000 of them use either fast or rapid charging technology.
Most modern EVs come with a CCS (Combined Charging System) charging unit for DC (direct current) charging away from home, which can provide 80% charge in 30-45 minutes, depending on the model.
*Figures courtesy of Zap-Map
2. Know your charging networks
There are more than 40 different electric car charging networks in the UK, and each one has its own rules in terms of payment and how to connect when you want to charge your vehicle.
Most providers, such as Ecotricity, require you to register an account through a mobile phone app. This can then be used to start the charging process and pay for each charge.
To avoid being caught out on a long journey and having to wait a long time for one charger, it’s worthwhile signing up to the major networks which are found on motorways.
3. Make use of regenerative braking
Regenerative braking is on most electric cars and allows you to recharge your EV’s batteries while on the move.
Although electric cars use friction brakes (brake pads and discs) like a standard car, this is only a backup when more force is needed under heavier braking. However, if you avoid heavy braking then an EV will instead reverse the electric motor to slow the vehicle down when you press the brakes.
When this happens, the motor almost turns into a generator which produces electricity using kinetic energy from braking which is then sent to the batteries. This saves around 15-20% of the car’s energy over the course of a journey.
Connecting to a charge point
If you’re charging your EV at home, you’ll either have a tethered charger (cable included) or untethered (a cable may need to be purchased). Most electric cars use a Type-2-to-Type-2 cable which can provide slow (3.6kW) or fast charging (7kW and 22kW) depending on which charger power output you have chosen to buy.
On the other hand, public chargers can be tethered for rapid charging but most use universal Type-2 connectors, so it’s worth keeping your own cable in the boot of your car.
Here’s a breakdown of the steps you need to take in order to begin charging your electric car at home, work and public networks.
If you have a Tesla, we’ve also included a section on how to charge these vehicles too.
- Locate your car’s connector port – depending on your model it may be at the front on the bonnet or on the side where the fuel tank would usually be.
- If your charger is untethered, plug your cable into the charge point and ensure that your vehicle is parked close enough to reach the connector.
- If your charger is tethered, simply plug in to your car to start the charge – a green or blue LED light (depending on your model) by the port should flash to let you know it’s charging. You can also check your car’s dashboard to make sure that the range gauge is increasing to confirm that it is charging.
- Untethered cables can often be longer than untethered ones, so make sure that any loose wiring is not somewhere where it could trip somebody up.
- A lot of work charging points use universal Type-2 connectors, so you’ll need to take your own cable most of the time.
- Check whether you need an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) card or smartphone app to begin charging, or whether it’s ‘plug-and-go’.
- Make sure you know where your car’s connector port is so that you can park your car in a position where the cable can connect safely.
- Work chargers often have designated parking bays where multiple cars can park when charging, so be sure to remove the cable once you have the charge you need and park your car elsewhere so that others can use it.
- Public chargers are best used for ‘top-up’ charging (up to an hour) due to them usually having higher power outputs (7kW, 22kW fast charging and 50kW rapid charging, for example) – this offers at least 20-30 miles for an hour’s worth of charge.
- Use the Zap-Map charging locator to help you find nearby locations which offer electric car charging.
- Check to see if the charging point you’re using requires an RFID swipe card or smartphone app to start the process (some networks allow you to just plug straight in, especially those which are free to use).
- Once you’ve finished charging, you will be able to pay the total cost of your charge either using the same app or as a card payment.
- You can use either a Tesla Supercharger (free for around 1,000 miles each year on the Model S and Model X only and charge at a rapid rate of 120kW) or any other public connectors, depending on availability.
- Similarly, you can install a Tesla Wall Connector which has smart features such as setting start/end times remotely on your phone, as well as being able to open the port this way too while monitoring charge status. It’s also available with 22kW rapid charging capability, so long as your household’s electrics allow for it too.
- No apps or RFID cards are needed in order to charge, nor will you need an extra cable – it’s just a case of plugging in to the port at the back of the car.
For more information on electric and hybrid cars, head over to our guides page.