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[NEWS] How to charge your electric car at home

How to charge your electric car at home

Home charging

Wallbox or smart charger? And how do you install it? We answer the questions about home EV charging

The state of the public EV charging network is a hot topic as we move towards the 2030 sales ban on new pure internal combustion vehicles. Yet while being able to top-up batteries mid-journey is important, the reality is that more than 80% of electric vehicle charging takes place at home.

For most people, plugging in at their house is the easiest and most convenient option - assuming they have access to a driveway or garage, of course. Not only is electricity on a domestic energy tariff much cheaper than at public chargers, the battery can be replenished when the car’s not needed, usually when it’s parked up overnight. 

An added benefit of charging while you sleep is the fact that you start each day effectively with a ‘full tank’, meaning you're less likely to have to seek out a roadside charger for a quick ‘splash-and-dash’ of electricity.

As you’d expect, there are quite a few questions that are raised when it comes to charging at home, from picking the right type of charger to discovering what kind of financial incentives are available. To make the process as straightforward as possible, we’ve pulled together this in-depth guide to charging your EV at home.

Are all electric car chargers the same?

In simple terms there are just a couple of options when home charging - you either use the trickle charger that comes with the car, or install a wallbox at your home.

However, while the former appears the most straightforward as it uses a standard domestic three-pin plug and you can take it anywhere with you, it does take a long time to refill the battery as it charges at a maximum rate of 3kW. Even a moderately sized 64kWh battery as found in a Kia e-Niro can take the best part of 24 hours to replenish, while the even bigger lithium ion packs found in models such as the Tesla Model S or Mercedes EQS could take days.

As a result, manufacturers now recommend that you use these units in an emergency when no other alternative is available. For most, a wallbox unit will be a far better bet, not least because it charges at around 7kW, which is more than twice as fast. It’s also convenient, as it’s mounted to a wall on your house or garage and so doesn’t require cables to be run into the house through open doors or windows.

What is a wallbox charger?

Essentially it’s a stand-alone charger that’s wired directly into your domestic electricity supply. As the name suggests, it’s mounted to the external wall of your property and allows you to quickly and easily plug your car in to charge.

Better still, you can buy fast charging units that will slash the time it takes to replenish the battery, while there are also ‘smart’ units that you can programme remotely to only charge at certain times (such as when your electricity tariff is cheapest) and that can condition the battery to increase its lifespan. If you have solar panels fitted at your home, then some smart chargers can make use of this renewable energy, helping lower your bills and carbon footprint. Most wallbox units are fast chargers, delivering electricity at 7kW, although there are simpler and cheaper 3kW slow chargers available.

Of course, there is a caveat, which is the fact you’ll need access to a driveway, garage or some other form of off-street parking close to your house if you want a wallbox, as you can’t stretch the charging lead over a public footpath or road, plus it will need to be installed by a professional electrician.

How much does it cost to install an electric car home charger?

This depends on your desired charging speed and the ‘smart’ features you want from your charger. Basic 3kW slow chargers start at around £100 or so, while you’ll need around £300 for a faster 7kW unit. ‘Smart’ units that feature wireless control via a smartphone app are anything between £450 and £1000.

On the whole the cost of fitting is included in the price, but there may be an extra charge if significant changes need to be made to your household wiring. Better still, some manufacturers are currently offering a free wallbox and fitting when you purchase one of its EVs, so it’s worth looking at what offers are out there.

What is the wallbox grant?

To encourage drivers to switch to EV, the government is offering financial incentives through its OZEV (Office of Zero Emissions Vehicles) department. If you buy a new EV, then you’ll currently qualify for a grant that pays for 75% of the price and installation cost of a wallbox, up to a maximum of £350. Currently you can apply for a grant for each EV you own, although this is limited to just two vehicles. 

However, as of April 2022 the government changed the eligibility criteria, meaning most homeowners with off-street parking were no longer able to apply for the grant. Instead the incentive is now limited to homeowners living in a flat or apartment (provided they also have off-street parking), tenants of rented properties (with the landlord’s permission) and small business owners.

How do you get an electric car charging point installed at home?

The most straightforward way is to arrange the installation through the company selling the wallbox. The price of fitting is often included in the purchase price with the wallbox provider having its own approved installers. If you buy the unit on its own then you can choose your own technician, but they will need to have accreditation from the manufacturer of your chosen device.

It’s worth being aware that the fitter will probably need to check your preferred location for fitting and your home’s electrical circuitry before going ahead. And if you want the wallbox fitted a long way from your fuse box or your wiring needs upgrading, then be prepared to pay a bit more for installation.

What is a smart charger and do I need one?

A smart charger is a wallbox that uses wi-fi to connect with various apps on your smartphone. In doing so, it allows you to remotely tailor your car’s charging schedule, giving you the ability to select when charging happens and how much electricity to put into the battery. 

As a result, you can make sure you’re only charging when electricity is cheapest, or limit the amount of energy in the battery to 80% to avoid overheating the cells and improving longevity. Smart chargers cost more to buy than standard units, but bear in mind that the government's OZEV subsidy only applies to this kind of equipment, meaning that if you meet the criteria then they actually work out cheaper to buy.

As to whether you need a smart charger, well that’s up to your budget and needs. However, there’s no denying that having one will allow you to make the most of your energy tariff and ensure that your car is always charged and ready when you need it. Effectively, it costs more to buy, but it shouldn’t take long to reap the rewards.

What wattage wall charger should I buy?

The current that your charger can supply will be based both on your home wiring and your car’s on-board charging adaptor. The lowest available is the 3kW slow charger, which even on something like a Nissan Leaf with a modest 40kWh battery will require 12 hours for a full charge, while larger models such as an Audi E-tron will need more than 24 hours.

Most wallboxes deliver 7kW fast charging, which reduces the time by about half compared with 3kW units. Almost all electric cars will be able to charge at this rate, which is ideal for home use when most charging is done overnight.

There are also 11kW and 22kW options, but these require a three-phase power supply, which is rare in domestic applications but often found in industrial or business premises. You can have your home upgraded, but it’s unlikely that the extra cost would justify the quicker charging times.

Can I plug my electric car into a regular socket?

The majority of electric cars come with a portable slow charger that can be used with a three-pin plug in a domestic power socket. This charges at around 3kW, making it the slowest form of charging, with some larger EVs requiring more than 24 hours for a full charge. 

Most manufacturers now recommend that you get a wallbox installed for domestic charging, only using the three-pin charger as an emergency back-up. It's also worth checking if a cable is included as standard, as certain manufacturers don't include one now due to the increasing size of EV batteries and the subsequent impracticality of charging using this method.

How fast can you charge an electric car at home?

In most situations a 7kW fast charging wallbox offers the quickest method of charging at home. With this unit you can expect to fully charge something like a Mini Electric in as little as three and a half hours, while a Nissan Leaf 40kWh will take closer to six hours.

For even faster charging you’ll need to upgrade your wiring to a three-phase system (domestic wiring is usually single-phase), which will allow 22kW charging. At this rate a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery can be fully charged in as little as two hours. However, if you usually charge overnight then the benefits of upgrading your whole domestic wiring system will be negligible.

How can I check if I have a three-phase connection?

The best way to check whether your property has a three-phase electrical supply is to get a qualified electrical engineer to assess your home’s wiring. However, sometimes a quick visual inspection can reveal whether further investigation is necessary. Normally the best way is to locate your fuse box and meter, as this is where the electricity supply enters the house. With a single phase supply there will usually be a single large system fuse alongside the meter and fuse box containing circuit breakers for the various areas and appliances of the house. In three-phase supply there will be three of these larger system fuses, typically each rated at 100 amps.

What’s the difference between an untethered or tethered charger?

This simply refers to the type of charging cable attached to the wallbox. A tethered unit features a permanently attached cable with either a Type 1 or Type 2 connector, and is the perfect choice if you have just one EV as it makes for simple charging - simply park up and plug in.

With untethered units you use the charging cable provided with the car, which plugs into the charger at one end and the EV at the other. This is a more flexible solution as it allows you to quickly swap between Chademo and CCS cables if, say, you run two different EV models with different connectors, such as a Nissan Leaf and a Peugeot e-208.


What is vehicle to grid (V2G)?

Currently only available to businesses and select retail customers, V2G (vehicle to grid) charging effectively integrates an EV with the National Grid. When a number of vehicles are connected for long periods at dedicated V2G chargers (such as when parked up during the day while their owners are at work, or overnight), energy providers can use the combined capacity of the batteries for energy storage or access their electricity for extra power during peak periods. For EV owners and users there are financial benefits, with the energy provider paying for the electricity it uses.

The next step is for V2H (vehicle to home) or V2X (vehicle to everything) charging, with your car becoming part of the energy supply to your home or the wider grid. The former system could prove particularly useful with renewable energy, allowing you to store electricity generated by solar or wind power that would otherwise go to waste, such as during the day when there’s less need for heating and lighting. 

With V2X the benefits are even more far-reaching, albeit some way off yet. Essentially, the set-up would allow you to ‘trade’ energy wherever you park up and plug in. So you could leave your car at the airport parking and receive a discount on parking if the site uses some of the energy in your car’s battery to balance the grid supply at peak times. 

The only downside is that currently only vehicles fitted with the Chademo charging connector are capable of this two-way flow of energy. That effectively means only models from Nissan, such as the Leaf and EV200 van. However, various firms are close to being able to deliver similar technology for the more popular CCS charging system, with British company Indra leading the charge.


How to charge an electric car

How much does it cost to charge an electric car? 

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

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