There is no doubt that the transition to electric cars is accelerating in the UK.
Although many drivers have already adopted electric vehicles and a significant number are considering switching, there remain common questions about their range and charging, including how long it takes, how much it costs and where you can charge a vehicle electric.
How many car charging stations are there in the UK?
There are currently 30,000 public electric vehicle charging points in the UK, but the government has announced that it will increase this number to 300,000 by 2030.
Some £500million will be invested to install public charging stations across the UK as part of the government’s new electric vehicle infrastructure strategy, it was announced on March 25, 2022.
The support will focus on helping drivers without access to off-street parking, as well as fast charging for long journeys.
How much does charging an EV cost?
The answer depends on a number of factors.
The first is the car itself. Different models have different battery capacities and in some cases the same car may come with a choice of battery capacity. The bigger the battery, the more expensive it will be to charge, but the further you’ll get on a single charge.
The second factor is where you plan to charge. Typically, charging at home using a home wallbox is cheaper than using a public charger. The type of charger will also have an effect. If you’re using a public charging network, the faster the charger, the more you should expect to pay.
To calculate the cost of charging a particular car, multiply its capacity by the cost of energy.
It’s simple for home charging, as long as you know your energy price. For example, the best-selling Renault Zoe has a 52 kWh battery. At the UK average of 14.4p per kWh, it’ll cost you £7.48 for a full charge. A 64kWh vehicle such as the Nissan Leaf E+, Hyundai Kona or Kia e-Niro will cost £9.21 and a 100kWh Tesla Model S will cost £14.40.
Some energy providers are now offering bespoke EV packages with incentives such as discounted off-peak rates for overnight charging.
Costs to public chargers are more complicated. Some charge per kWh, others charge by time, and some include an upfront connection fee. 3 kW slow chargers are the cheapest to operate, with the highest costs seen on chargers of 50 kW and above. A 2020 survey by What Car? found prices ranging from 9p per kWh to 40p per kWh, with connection charges ranging from zero to £3.50. On top of that, some services charge a monthly subscription. In Scotland, ChargePlace Scotland offers unlimited free public charging at several of its stations for a flat annual payment of £20.
To complicate matters further, some Tesla owners have free and unlimited access to the brand’s exclusive Superchargers while others have to pay to use them, depending on the model and date of purchase.
How long does it take to charge an EV?
Like cost, the answer to this depends on a number of factors.
The two main influences are the size of the car battery and the power output of the charger.
Chargers range from 3kW to 350kW and the more powerful a charger, the faster it will recharge a car battery.
Ultra-fast chargers that offer more than 100kW are still relatively rare, although their numbers are growing. At a station capable of charging 100 kW, a typical electric vehicle will charge to 80% in as little as 20 minutes.
As you’d expect, larger batteries take longer to charge, but on a more common 50kW fast charger, most current models will charge to 80% in 60-90 minutes.
A 40kW Nissan Leaf will go from 20 to 80% charge in around 60 minutes, while the 62kW version will take 90. Hyundai says its 64kWh Kona Electric will take 75 minutes to go from zero to 80% charge on a fast charger and Renault claims the 52kWh Zoe will add the same charge in 100 minutes.
Below the fast chargers, the “fast” chargers operate between 7kW and 22kW. On public grids they are useful for fast charging rather than full charging, with an 80% charge taking around two hours for a 40kWh battery on a 22kW unit.
Home wallboxes also typically offer 7kW charging, where overnight charging will fully recharge most car batteries. A full charge will take between seven and 12 hours on a 7kW charger, depending on battery size. For example, a 40 kWh Leaf takes about seven and a half hours while the 62 kWh model takes 11 and a half hours. The Zoe will take about eight hours, while the Kona will take nine and a half.
At the very bottom of the pile of chargers are slow 3kW chargers which, unsurprisingly, take about twice as long as a 7kW unit.
Where can I recharge my EV?
For most electric vehicle buyers, a home wall station is the preferred charging solution. This allows them to plug in the car to charge at a time that suits them. There is a grant program to help pay for a home charging station and some manufacturers will also help cover the costs.
However, when you’re on the go, there are over 30 networks offering public charging. According to Zap-Map, there are currently over 15,000 charger locations with a total of 41,200 connectors, ranging from 3kW to 350kW.
Common locations for finding public chargers are motorway service stations, retail parks and supermarkets, public car parks and park and ride facilities as well as leisure centres, hotels, tourist attractions and car dealerships. More and more retailers such as McDonalds and Costa are also partnering with charging companies to install fast charging units at their outlets.
Service stations dedicated to electric vehicles are also starting to appear. Gridserve’s Electric Forecourt in Essex is the first EV-specific site and Pivot Power has announced plans for a 38-charger location near Oxford. The two companies also plan to create dozens of similar sites across the UK in the coming years.
Different locations will feature chargers from different networks. In some cases, this may mean that you have to sign up for additional networks before you can use the chargers. However, some networks work together to offer a single payment service while others like Instavolt allow you to tap and pay with a credit card.