Electric car charging guide

How to charge an electric car

Electric vehicles (EVs) have grown increasingly popular in recent years, and this trend looks set to continue.

Due to this increase, the number of EV chargepoints available has also grown rapidly. There are now over 16,000 public charging locations and almost 44,000 connectors across the UK.

But how long does it take to charge an EV and how much does it cost to use a charger? In this comprehensive guide, we provide detailed information about electric car chargepoints and how they work.

Learn lots of useful information about EVs in our beginner's guide to electric and hybrid cars.

In this article

Sign for electric car public chargepoint

What are electric car chargepoints and how do they work?

An electric car chargepoint is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a charger for your electric car battery. Most charging happens at home, but you'll also find them in car parks, at offices and at motorway service stops.

EV drivers connect cars to a chargepoint via a connecting cable to top up the battery charge. The type of charger you use affects how quickly your battery is charged and how much it costs you.

Drive an electric? We can help if you break down.

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How to use an electric car chargepoint

How to charge your EV will depend on where you're charging it and which kind of chargepoint you're using.

EV chargers can be different, so make sure to read the instructions and follow them carefully. If you’re on the road, you can download apps for chargers which should provide instructions on how to use them.

Your car manual may also provide instructions on how to charge the vehicle.

Generally, you'll need to do the following:

  1. Park your car next to the chargepoint so that the cable will reach.

  2. If it’s a tethered unit, make sure the connector is the right type for your car. Most charge points have Type 2 cables as standard, but some older EVs may have Type 1 inlets that won't be compatible. If it’s an untethered unit, connect your charging cable to it.

  3. Plug the cable into the socket on your car.

  4. Once your car has enough charge, end the charging process (you normally need to do this before disconnecting your EV from the chargepoint).

  5. Remove the connector from your car and place it back on the charging station if it’s a tethered unit. If it’s untethered, make sure to take your cable with you.

  6. If you need to pay, make the payment according to the instructions (not many chargepoints are set up to take direct card payments, so you’ll normally need to pay using the app).

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How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The time it takes to charge an EV depends on the battery size and the type of charger you're using, ranging from less than an hour to up to 12 hours.

Rapid chargers (>50kw)

Rapid EV chargepoints can charge compatible batteries to 80% full in around 30 minutes or less. All rapid chargers have the charging cable tethered to the charger.

They can be found at motorway service stations.

Fast chargers (7kw to 22kw)

Fast electric car chargers take between 1 and 5 hours to charge a compatible EV, depending on the size of the battery and speed of the charger.

They're sometimes called “destination chargers” because they're often found in places like car parks, shopping centres and tourist destinations where you'd normally leave your car for an hour or more.

7kw home chargers, such as the BP Pulse unit, are also popular as they provide quick charging at home.

Slow chargers (2.4kw to 6kw)

Slow chargers have been installed in many workplaces and homes but charging can take over 12 hours.

Find out how to maintain and repair an electric car

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Are electric car chargepoints free?

Often workplaces offer free chargepoints that you can use while at the office. Similarly, shopping centres or tourist destination car parks may provide  free charging while you're using the facilities.

But certain chargepoints may charge you. Rapid charge points at motorway services will generally be the most expensive, costing around £6 for 30 minutes of charging.

If you’re charging at home, you can use this formula to work out costs (but remember that this will provide the cost to charge a completely empty battery to 100% which you’re unlikely to be doing on a regular basis).

Size of battery (kWh) x Electricity cost of your supplier (pence per kilowatt hour) = Cost to charge an electric car

Some home charging units have smart options that save money by charging at cheaper times of the day.

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How to get an electric car charger installed at home

If you have an EV, it’s most convenient to get a chargepoint set up at home where you park. You’ll generally need a qualified specialist installer to come out to set it up. Installation normally takes a few hours.

Discover more about charging an electric car at home.  

Can any electrician fit car chargepoints?

It’s best to get a qualified electrician with experience of EV chargers to install it.

Thinking of getting an EV charging point installed at home? Save £50 with our partner, EO.

Government grants for electric car chargepoints

The Government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme offers grants which cover up to 75% of the cost of 1 charge point and its installation, but the grant cap is set at £350 including VAT.

If you'd like to charge your EV at the office, there’s also a Workplace Charging Scheme which can help with up-front costs, so speak to your HR department to see if it’s an option.

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Are all electric car chargepoints the same?

No, electric car chargepoints can vary in terms of the connector type, whether they are tethered or untethered, battery charging time, cost and payment method.

It’s best to follow the instructions for the chargepoint you're using.

Can you charge an electric car from a normal plug?

Yes, you can but it will be very slow and should only be done as a last resort. It’s better to install a 7kw charger at home as it will generally charge an EV 3 times faster than a normal plug.

Some vehicle manufacturers also recommend that against charging an EV from a regular socket.

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Can I charge my electric car in the rain?

Yes, you can charge an electric car in the rain. The chargers and cars are weatherproof and designed to protect you and the vehicle from electric shocks, so you don’t need to worry about charging your EV during a period of wet weather.

Should I charge my electric car every night?

Home chargers often take several hours to fully charge a battery, so charging an EV overnight is a good way to make sure it’s fully charged and ready for the next day.

Go to our EV advice hub to find lots of useful advice on electric cars

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Published: 28 September 2021 | Updated: 20 December 2021 | Author: The AA