Tethered charging units are ones that have a charging cable permanently attached to the charger. You will then just need to take this wire and plug it into the charging point on your vehicle.
With more manufacturers offering PHEV and full EV options, businesses pushing their drivers towards an electric option, and the environmental and personal impact of driving an EV we know that it is becoming an increasingly popular choice. But we also know that choosing an EV or a hybrid that needs plugging in to charge comes with its own challenges.
One of the most frequent concerns we see drivers with is charging: how the chargers work, where they charge, when to charge, how often they need to charge, and much more. Which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you understand everything there is to know electric vehicle charging.
Types of Electric Vehicle Chargers
In the UK there are currently three categories of chargers that are broken down into the speed of charging they can offer. These are:
- Rapid (including ultra-rapid)
And within each of these categories, there will be tethered and untethered units.
Untethered charging units will not have a charging cable fixed to the charger. Instead you will need to attach your own cable to the charging point on the unit and then the one on your vehicle.
Your EV will usually be supplied with a charging cable which we recommend keeping in the vehicle in case you need to use an untethered unit while out on the road.
Before we look in depth at charging locations and how chargers vary between them we think it’s important that you understand the basics of the currents, cables and connectors used on an EV, to help you understand your vehicle.
You might remember from school science lessons that there are two types of electricity currents: alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). On a DC current the electricity will only flow in one direction, whereas on an AC current the energy flow can change direction.
This means that systems which need to accept and provide electricity will run on AC current. The UK’s electricity grid is the biggest example of this and is where power for all devices including your EV comes from. However, rechargeable batteries can only accept a DC current. This means that in order to accept the electricity from a charger your EV will need the current converting from AC to DC.
Though we think it’s important you are aware of this you, you will not need to do anything to convert the current. Some charging units will convert the current as they take it from the electricity grid and with chargers that provide AC current your car will convert the power to DC before storing it in your battery.
You will usually find that UK three-pin plug, Commando, Type 1 and Type 2 will have AC connectors while CHAdeMO, CCS and Tesla’s supercharge are DC connectors.
EV Charger Cables and Connectors
There are a number of different charging connectors that your EV might use depending on the manufacturer of the vehicle, the speed of charging it can accept, the charging unit and speed and sockets it provides, and the vehicle’s charging port.
Your vehicle will usually come with the cables necessary to charge it, and these will be compatible with a number of chargers on the public charging network.
Rapid chargers are the fastest category of chargers available for EVs, and it includes ultra-rapid chargers. They can provide up to 40 kW via AC charging, 50 kw via DC charging or over 100 kW of power via DC ultra-rapid charging.
Nearly all units will be tethered and will come with a CCS or CHAdeMO connection unless it’s a Tesla Supercharger which uses a Type 2 connector.
Not all vehicles will be compatible with rapid charging, so we recommend checking whether a particular model can accept this speed of charge if quick charging is important to you.
An ultra-rapid charger is the next step in EV charging and can fully charge an EV in as little as 40 minutes. You can still use an ultra-rapid vehicle if your car is only capable of accepting up to 50 kW of energy as the charger will restrict the power.
The most common level of EV charging speed is fast. This is the middle level of charging available and will usually offer seven kW or 22 kW of current, though it can go up to 25 kW of power.
Most units will use an AC current and public units will usually be untethered, which means you’ll need to use your own charging cable on them, via a Type 2 Connector.
We are seeing more 25 kW DC units being installed on the UK network and these can have a CCS and CHAdeMO connection.
Choosing a fast charger for a home or workplace charger can be particularly beneficial if there is more than one EV in the household or business that will need charging in the same day.
Tesla Destination Chargers are classed under the fast charger category and offer either 11 or 22 kW of power to drivers, again these are only intended for use on Tesla models though there may be Type 2 chargers at the same location which are compatible with any brand.
Just like with the rapid chargers not all vehicles are capable of receiving power at this speed. If your EV is not able to accept a fast charging rate then it can still be plugged into the unit but it will be charged at the vehicle’s maximum power level.
The lowest speed of charging is via a slow charger which offers you three to six kW of energy.
You will usually find that this speed at older public chargers, lamp-post units where existing infrastructure limits the power, or home charging units as slower ones are cheaper.
They can be tethered or untethered and a slow charger can have a number of different connection types.
The UK three-pin plug which goes into a regular household power socket is classed as a sow charger due to the speed it can draw power from the grid. We do not recommend using this to regularly charge your vehicle though due to the time it takes to charge, and the higher current demand that an EV has compared to other household devices. Instead you will want to look at having a home charging unit installed.
Where Can I Charge an EV?
There are three main places that drivers are able to charge:
Most drivers will use a combination of chargers across the three options as and when they need it but predominantly rely on a home charging unit.
We’ve broken down each of the options into a bit more detail below for you.
The most popular and preferred method of charging an EV is with a home charging unit, which is little surprise as it’s the most convenient place, allows for overnight charging when the car is not needed to be driven, and can be done without the stress of having to occupy yourself while the vehicle is charging.
Although the majority of electric cars are supplied with a cable that has a three-pin plug socket for slow charging via a regular plug socket it is not recommended you rely on this for regularly charging at home. It is a slow process that will take longer than other charging options, can also have a significant impact on your home’s electricity usage.
Most drivers instead choose to have a home charging unit installed which offers faster charging speeds, reducing the time it is using electricity and offering you more control over the charging of your vehicle.
In order to have a home charging unit installed you will need to have off-road parking and suitable existing electricity infrastructure. If you are renting you will also need the permission of the homeowner in order to install the unit, as they are usually mounted on the side of the property.
A home charging unit will usually be tethered with either a Type 1 or Type 2 cable attached, depending on your vehicle. Alternatively, some companies offer an untethered unit with a Type 2 compatible socket. Most drivers find it easier to have a tethered unit so that they can keep their charging cable in the vehicle in case they need to charge on the go.
Depending on the existing infrastructure at your property you will be able to have a slow or fast charging unit installed, but you should be aware that a fast unit if you are able to have one will be more expensive. Installers will conduct a survey to ensure your property is suitable for a home charging unit and confirm what speed of charging you will be able to achieve.
Drivers can currently receive a government grant from the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV) to help with the cost of installation. This grant is now currently only available to those in rental properties or owners of flats.
On Street Charging
Not all homes have off-street parking, which is why we are seeing a rise in the number of on street residential charging units.
These offer drivers of EVs without the ability, permission or infrastructure to have a home unit installed the opportunity to charge their vehicle while parked at home overnight.
Your local authority will be responsible for installing and maintaining any on street charging units and so you will need to contact them if you have any issue with a unit in your area or would like to explore the option of residential on street units.
There are a number of charging units available for on street chargers but they typically fall into one of two categories; a lamp post charger and a freestanding / pillar unit.
A lamp post charger is where the charging unit is installed directly onto a lamp post on the street and is a commonly chosen option as it reduces the installation costs and does not require as much change to the existing road and electricity infrastructure.
A freestanding or pillar unit looks similar to the public charging units you see in public car parks. They will be located as close to the kerb as possible in order to reduce the cable trailing length and the potential tripping hazard for pedestrians.
Both kind of units will usually be Type 2 untethered so you will need to use your own cable to charge the vehicle and like other public chargers you will need to use an app or RFID card to pay for charging. Some modern units may come with a smart cable which includes a metre on the cable to measure the electricity used for accurate billing and allows easier activation and stopping of the charging.
As more businesses are encouraging their company car drivers to opt for a hybrid or EV to prepare them for the shift that is coming with the ban of all new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles in 2030.
One way in which they can encourage the uptake of EVs and PHEVs is by installing chargers in their car park for employees use so they can charge while they work. This will be particularly beneficial for drivers who are unable to have a home charger installed.
If your business is looking to have a charging unit installed then Wessex Fleet are able to help.
As an official partner of Pod Point we are able to help businesses and individuals alike who are looking to install electric vehicle chargers.
There is also currently a government workplace charging scheme to help businesses with the cost of installation, provided they use an approved installer.
We know that even if you have a charger available for regular use at home or work you might still need to use the public charging network.
The government and EV charger providers are working hard to improve the current public charging infrastructure and increase the number of chargers available, as well as the speed of charging they provide. These changes are still occurring and although much more needs to be completed before it is ready for us all to be driving EVs we can see progress. You’ll now find public chargers in a lot of public car parks and at supermarket and shopping centre parking as well as service stations.
The speed of charging that these chargers provide varies between units and you will find slow, fast, rapid and ultra-rapid chargers available. The age of the unit, as well as its location will in part determine the speed available.
There are a number of different companies that provide and operate public charging units across the UK network and you will usually require an RFID card or an app on your phone in order to set up an account with the company. This is because the account will be linked to your contact and billing details in order to correctly charge you and contact you if there is an issue. Some chargers can also take contactless card payment at the unit.
Tips for Good Charging Station Etiquette
- Only park in a charging space if you are charging your EV
- Use the apps available that will notify you once the car is charged
- Move your car to a regular parking space once charged
- Never unplug another car to charge your own (unless there's a note from the driver to do so)
- Look after the chargers and their cables and don't leave anything lying around
What’s the Cost of Charging an EV?
The cost of charging an EV can vary depending on what type of charger you use, the speed of charging and energy demand needed to fulfil it, and even the time of day.
According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy, the average cost of electricity in the UK for 2019 was 16.3 pence per kWh. Based on this measurement if you were to charge a 60 kWh electric car it will cost less than £10 to fully charge.
A lot of public charging units in supermarkets and car parks are free of charge for the duration of your stay though some will ask you to pay if you stay over a certain length of time. Public chargers at petrol stations will have a charge and you’ll usually need to pay for these via an app or a card that can be charged once the charge is completed for an accurate payment. Rapid public charging units will cost around £6 for 30 minutes.
EV Charging FAQs
We've answered some of the most common charging questions below!
Is It Cheaper To Charge An EV At Home or On The Go?
This depends on your electricity rate but in general, it will work out cheaper to charge at home as you will be able to take advantage of lower or special EV rates and won't have to pay the premium that comes with convenient or fast charging that you can get on the public charger network.
It's important to note that even if charging is more expensive on the road that it will still be cheaper than filling up at the pump.
Can You Charge Your EV Every Night?
Yes, you can charge your EV every night if needed! There is no restriction on the number of times that you can charge an electric vehicle.
If you have a home charger then you will likely find that charging at night is the most convenient time for you, and you can take advantage of lower night or EV rates in these hours.
H4: Should You Charge Your EV To 100%?
In general, you will not need to always charge your vehicle to 100 per cent as this can wear down the battery. Your vehicle will restrict the intake of charge once it reaches around 80 per cent in order to prevent damage from the battery being over charged but if you do not need the full vehicle mileage range then you can stop at between 20 and 80 per cent which will be gentle on the battery.
How Far Can Your Car Go On One Charge?
The distance you can travel on one will depend on the mileage range that your vehicle has, and this in turn can be affected by a number of different factors.
We advise checking the advertised mileage of any models and you can find our top ten picks here and expecting to realistically achieve around 80 - 90 per cent of this without having to restrict your driving habits.