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How does electric car charging work?

More electric cars were bought in the UK in 2021 than in the previous five years combined.

If you’re thinking of investing in an electric car of your own, you’ve probably got some questions about how charging works. Here, we’ll run through some of the most common questions to help you understand the process.

How do I charge an electric car at home?

The most popular way to charge an electric vehicle (EV) is to do it at home. Although you can charge a car with a standard 3-pin plug, many EV owners choose to invest in a faster, dedicated charging point. Buying and installing a charging point will cost between £800 and £1,200 , but once you’re up and running it’ll be cheaper to use than most public charging options.

Typically, 7kw EV charging points are the most popular as most homes already support them. As a rough guide, plugging your EV in a 7kw charging point for one hour equates to 30 miles of charge, so leaving it in overnight should give you a full battery in time for the morning.

Alternatively, a 22kw charging point will charge your car much faster. However, your home will need to be served by a 3-phase power supply. If it isn’t, it can be a complicated job. Your car would need to accept this wattage.

How do I charge my EV away from home?

With almost 34,000 devices in the UK as of August 2022, charging points can be found supermarkets, car parks, and on the kerbside too. Simply park next to a charger, plug your electric vehicle into the device and make sure you’ve followed the correct payment instructions. You might need to bring your own cable but once you’re connected, you can leave the car to charge and go about your day. 

How do I pay for EV charging?

There are several ways to pay at a public charging station. Many chargers accept contactless or debit cards for one off payments, and apps like Zap-Map let drivers pay to use charge points from different networks in one place. There are dedicated apps for charging networks and some providers use a subscription model or a type of contactless card for payment. Some chargers use a QR code which takes drivers to an online payment page to recharge their battery. 

See how driving an EV can save you money

Are there any apps to help with EV charging?

Yes, there are plenty of apps designed to streamline your EV charging process. Zap-Map helps you search for charging points and pay to use them. It also lets users share updates about charge points with other EV drivers. PlugShare and Google Maps are also useful when looking for nearby charging points. And most EV manufacturers have apps where you can look for charging locations and check your car’s remaining range and charging progress.

The future of EV charging

As the UK’s interest in EVs increases, so will its EV charging infrastructure. Figures from Zap-Map show that between 2020 and 2021, around 7,500 new charging points were added to the network – an increase of 36%.

The UK government announced that it will be providing £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles. The aim is that drivers will never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station.