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Charging electric vehicles

 EV chargepoints explained

Although the upfront cost of an electric vehicle (EV) is often higher, EVs can be cheaper to run, due to the lower cost of electricity compared to petrol or diesel. Recharging at home overnight will normally result in the greatest savings.

Chargepoints can be installed at homes with a garage or driveway, at workplaces, on residential streets, in town centres, public car parks and ‘destinations’, such as shopping centres or motorway service stations.

Types of chargepoint

Chargepoints vary as to how quickly they can charge an electric vehicle.

Rapid chargepoints are the quickest way to recharge a vehicle, typically recharging a vehicle to 80% in around 30 minutes. However, rapid chargepoints are the most expensive to use (similar to expensive petrol or diesel fuel at motorway services), and they cannot be installed at home.

Slow chargepoints are often the cheapest to use and are suitable when vehicles are parked for several hours, such as during working hours or overnight.

Fast chargepoints are a happy medium and ideal when vehicles are parked for a few hours.

The speed your vehicle recharges will be affected by the chargepoint speed available and also how fast the vehicle itself can recharge. When buying or leasing an electric car, especially older EVs and some plug-in hybrids, you should find out its maximum charging speed. Depending on the vehicle and its connector types, you may be able to top-up at fast and rapid chargepoints but not take full advantage of their maximum charging speed. 

 

Slow (3-7kW)

Fast (7-22kW)

Rapid (Up to 50kW)

Charge time

4 to 8 hours

2 to 4 hours

25-40 mins

Vehicle range added in 15 mins

3-6 miles

6-20 miles

35-40 miles

Charging at home

The majority of charging will be done at home, often overnight. If you have a driveway or garage, the cheapest and most convenient way is to install a dedicated chargepoint.

The OLEV Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme covers up to 75% of the costs (capped at £500, inc VAT) of installing a home chargepoint. Find out more about the eligibility criteria and look through lists of approved installers and chargepoint models.

While you can use a regular UK three-pin socket, it is much slower that a dedicated chargepoint and may involve running charging cables from inside your home. Extension cables should not be used.

Some energy companies offer tariffs specifically for EV drivers.  Discover our tips on how to save money on charging your electric vehicle at home.

Charging if you park on-street

If you don’t have off-street parking, charging an EV near your home is more challenging. However, action is being taken to improve the situation.

The On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme gives local authorities access to £2.5m funding pot  (for the 2019/2020 financial year) for on-street chargepoints in areas without off-street parking.

Only local authorities can apply for this funding but you can ask your local council to consider installing a chargepoint near your home. This will help the council to forecast demand for chargepoints and decide the best locations.  If you do not know who to contact, email onstreetchargepoints@est.org.uk.

An alternative is to charge your electric car at work. Businesses and public-sector organisation can apply for funding for chargepoints through the Workplace Charging Scheme. More information for fleets about electric vehicles can be found in our guide to Switching to electric vehicles.

Public charging networks

The network of public chargepoints is rapidly expanding across the UK, mostly in towns and cities. These are vital for EV drivers without off-street parking or workplace charging, and can be useful for other EV drivers who want to ‘top-up’ while away from home or undertaking longer journeys.

You can search for chargepoints on a range of websites including:

Many newer EVs can travel up to 200 miles on a single charge. While it is still worth planning ahead on longer journeys, planning where to recharge is becoming more similar to deciding when to take a rest break from driving. For example, rapid chargepoints are becoming much more common at motorway service stations.

Accessing and paying at public chargepoints

There are various chargepoint networks in the UK including Pod Point, Chargemaster, Ecotricity, Charge your Car and ChargePlace Scotland.

Access to charging is usually through a radio frequency identification (RFID) card or a smartphone app, although an increasing number of chargepoints accept contactless credit or debit card payments. In England, each chargepoint operator has a different RFID card.

New regulations came into force in November 2018 that make every public chargepoint accessible to anyone, regardless of pre-existing network membership. The aim is to increase driver confidence in the chargepoint network across the UK.

The cost of a charge normally includes a standard connection fee plus the amount of electricity consumed, multiplied by the chargepoint’s or network’s electricity tariff (price per kW).

Membership of a charging network may give you access to cheaper rates and could save you money if you use the same network regularly.

See the Energy Saving Trust guide to Charging electric vehicles for advice on using public chargepoints, including chargepoint etiquette.

Costs of home vs public charging

The exact costs of charging depend on what sort of vehicle you have and the size of its battery. For some examples, take a look at the worked examples in the table.  The smaller batteries of plug-in hybrids cost less to recharge but the higher cost of the petrol or diesel required for the vehicle’s engine also needs to be factored in.  The petrol and diesel cost will vary depending on how frequently the car is recharged and driven on the battery power.

Vehicle Type

Charging speed

Charge level (+%)

Miles added

Charging time (hours)

Public Charge Cost

Home Charge cost

Cost per mile (public)

Cost per mile (home)

Public price increase

Nissan Leaf  BEV

7kW

+40%

75

2.3

£6

£2.24

8p

3p

+£3.76

+80%

150

4.6

£10.80

£4.48

7.2p

3p

+£6.32

50kW(rapid)

+50%

94

~0.3

£7.20

N/A

7.7p

N/A

N/A

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

3kW

+40%

9

1.8

£2.86

£0.77

31.7p

8.5p

+£2.09

+80%

18

3.7

£4.51

£1.55

25.1p

8.5p

+£2.96

Toyota Prius PHEV

3kW

+40%

12

1.2

£2.26

£0.49

18.8p

4.2p

+£1.77

+80%

24

2.3

£3.31

£0.99

13.8p

4.2p

+£2.32

Driving efficiently

You can maximise the range of your EV by:

  • Anticipating the road ahead to avoid harsh acceleration and braking
  • Watching your speed
  • Considering how you use the heating and air conditioning, i.e. pre-heating the car while plugged-in to avoid consuming energy from the battery at the beginning of the journey
  • Understanding and using your vehicle’s eco-mode or features.

For more information, see the Energy Saving Trust guide: Efficient driving in electric and low-emission vehicles.

Managing a fleet?

Energy Saving Trust has a complete Fleet Management Toolkit available full of information about how to effectively manage your business fleet.

Find out more

Fuel-efficient driving

If you're not in a position to switch to an electric vehicle, you can still reduce your tailpipe emissions and your fuel costs by using fuel-efficient or ecodriving techniques.

Find out about ecodriving

Electric vehicles explained

Thinking of switching to an electric vehicle? We explain about the benefits and the different types of electric vehicles available on the UK market.

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