How to Charge an Electric Car

If you’re new to electric cars, chances are you have questions about how they're charged. Could you run out of charge? Can you go on a long road trip? Where and how do you recharge, especially away from home? We’ll answer many of your questions in this guide on charging an electric vehicle (EV).

Where can you charge an electric car?

You’ll find that charging your electric vehicle is very similar to charging your mobile phone. Plug both in overnight while you sleep, and they are fully charged in the morning. On days where you use them quite heavily and the battery depletes when you’re out, there are ways to top up away from home with a network of over 11,000 charging points in the UK. The time required to charge an EV is a function of the type of charging point you plug into (e.g., 11 kWh, 22 kWh, 43 kWh, 50 kWh, etc.).

Home Charging

Most often, electric cars are charged at home—80% of the time, in fact. At home, your car can connect to a 2.3 kWh domestic socket or a faster-charging 7.4kWh specially-designed box that's attached to a wall outside your house by a professional installer. These 7.4 kWh chargers can typically charge an EV from 0% to 100% overnight. You might see these charge points referred to as a "home box."

Out-and-About Charging

There is a growing network of charging stations around the UK. Think of them like petrol stations, only they take longer to 'fill up.' Many charging points are located on high streets or in the parking lots of large shops, like Waitrose. These typically provide charging rates around 7.4 kWh to 22 kWh, which might take a few hours to fully charge an EV. Charge points with these rates are more useful for a little top up as opposed to a full charge.

Motorway Charging

The fastest charging stations can be found dotted along the major motorways. In fact, there are now charging stations covering nearly the entire motorway network, so you should be able to get wherever you need to go without running out of battery. Motorway "rapid" points are designed to get you back on the road after a cup of coffee by offering 43 kWh (AC) or even 50 kWh (DC) rates, which can charge an electric vehicle to 80% in under 30 minutes, depending on the car.

How Far Can You Drive in an Electric Car?

Electric cars can cover between 80 and 340 miles on a full charge. The potential range on an electric vehicle mostly depends on the capacity of the battery, which is expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh). Basically, the larger the battery (i.e., the more capacity) the more miles you can drive before the battery runs out of charge. You can find out more in our article about real-life ranges of popular UK electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, Tesla, etc.

chart showing the average range of electric cars in the UK
The average electric car range in the UK is around 193 miles.

Even after years of driving most electric cars still achieve most of their original range (Tesla battery degradation and Nissan Leaf battery degradation).

How Much Does it Cost to Charge an Electric Car?

On average, the cost to charge an electric car at home is £2 - £15, depending mostly on the size of the battery. Cars with a longer range have a bigger battery, so these cost more to charge. It's like filling up a larger gas tank on a traditional combustion engine car.

For example, a 100 kWh Tesla model would cost around £15.16 to charge at home (assuming your unit cost of electricity is around 16.3 pence per kWh). It’s typically cheapest to charge your electric car overnight at home, at a cost of roughly 4p to 5p per mile. Depending on your electricity tariff, you probably pay between 12p and 18p per kWh. If you’re on an Economy 7 tariff, your night time charge rate will fall at the low end, around 9.5p per kWh.

Electric vehicle home charging cost, by battery size
15 kWh£2.27
30 kWh£4.55
50 kWh£7.58
80 kWh£12.13
100 kWh£15.16

Public Charging Point Costs

Charging away from home can cost a lot more. Be aware that some charge points have a minimum charge per session, so if you plug into one of these, try to stay for the full session duration to get the most of your money. For example, Ionity ultra-rapid EV charging costs 69 pence per kWh—more than 4X as much as home charging.

Electric Car Charge Cost of Public Charging Points
Ecotricity (if you're not an Ecotricity customer)30p/kWh
Ecotricity (if you're an Ecotricity customer)15p/kWh
Polar£7.85 per month plus 10.8p/kWh
Shell Recharge39p/kWh
GeniePoint30p/kWh for Type 2 units (7kW & 22 kW) + 50p connection fee
30p/kWh for rapid units + £1 connection fee
London within M25 - 30p/kWh + £1.80 connection fee
Cumbria - standard price per kWh with no connection fee

How Long Does it Take to Charge an Electric Car?

Charging can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours or more to fill an electric car battery. An electric car's charge time depends primarily on two factors: the size of the battery and the rate that electricity is flowing (e.g., charging power).

Think of how much faster you can fill up a swimming pool with a fire hose than a garden hose. Electric cars work in a similar way, really. The faster the flow, the sooner you fill up. Generally speaking, charging at home will be slower than charging out at a public charging station. At home, you’ll charge at a rates such as:

  • 2.3 kWh from a domestic plug
  • up to 7.4 kWh from a one-phase 'home box' system, which you can have installed on an external wall of your house
  • up to 22 kWh from a three-phase 'home box' system

In contrast, public charge points supply electricity anywhere from 7.4 kWh to 50 kWh or more, resulting in charge times up to 20 times faster than at home.

Interestingly, the battery starts charging much slower once it has hit 80% of capacity, especially at rapid charge points. So when comparing at charge times for different cars you might see mention of times for 0-80% capacity on rapid charges points (not 0-100%).

You can use a rough calculation to figure out how long it would take to charge an EV battery. Divide the battery capacity by the charge point speed. For instance, a 22 kWh battery would take roughly 2 hours to charge on an 11 kWh charger (22 divided by 11). On motorway chargers, this calculation works well up until about 80% of capacity; after that the battery charges much slower up to 100%.