The infrastructure for the UK’s network of public electric car charging stations has changed dramatically in the last two years, but many are still wondering if it’s good enough to ensure an EV is a valid choice for their lifestyle.

The electric car community has long been faced by two core issues: lack of charging facilities, and limited range of charge. With each new model of EV launched the range of cars is extending, as battery technology continues to evolve. But what about charging facilities?

Are there really enough to ensure that you can top up your charge regularly, and go about your daily lives as easily as if you were still driving a fossil-fuelled car. With the petrol and diesel ban imminent, we will all soon be faced with the need to navigate charging stations, so why not get ahead of the curve? Take advantage of the incentives currently on offer (both for business owners and home users), and do your part to ensure a greener future for the planet.

To make sure you’re fully informed and never have to worry about running out of charge, here’s everything you need to know about using public car charging stations…

The Shifting Nature Of Public EV Charging Networks…

Since 2011 the number of public charging points available has skyrocketed. This is good news for the wayward traveller in need of a top up mid drive. The downside is that public charging points now almost always cost you money, and that’s the biggest shift to occur in recent years.

When charging stations first started popping up a decade or so ago, the original infrastructure was supported by government funding and the support of some of the manufacturers.

Every IKEA store and 96% of motorway service stations plugged in rapid chargers from Ecotricity, while car parks and streets enjoyed lower-voltage posts from Chargemaster. All of these were free for public use, with the only charge coming from occasional and nominal fees when you needed to subscribe to a RFID card in order to gain access. This early infrastructure meant that EV drivers were able to top up without charge while they were out doing the shopping or making a pit stop on a long trip.

The rise in popularity of EV, and the fact we will all be driving them soon enough once the Government’s new commitment to eco friendly travel kicks in, plugin cars are becoming increasingly popular, and business owners and chargepoint providers are naturally looking to earn some money in exchange for the service their charging stations provide.

While the need to pay is annoying for drivers, it’s great for business owners, and does have the added benefit of reducing the number of people using charging stations when they don’t actually need to top up – meaning there are more available for those who genuinely need them.

How Often Do You Need To Use Public Electric Car Charging Stations?

While there is certainly a need for an effective public network of EV charging stations, the majority of EV drivers still plugin at home, first and foremost, with workplace chargepoints frequently acting as secondary sources of charge.

With the majority of cars parked up for hours on end at homes or offices, this makes perfect sense, and ensures you’re always driving on a full ‘tank’ of charge. With a modern 7kW charging unit perfectly capable of boosting a Nissan Leaf from a totally flat battery to fully charged in around four hours, it’s easy to keep your car fully charged overnight, or while you’re at work.

While an everyday household power supply takes considerably longer, it’s still possible.

With time frames like this, it’s entirely practical to make a 200 mile commute on a daily basis in one of the latest models of EV. The best part is, all that electricity will cost you only a few pounds, compared to the £20 or more you’d have spent on petrol or diesel to make the same trip.

Where we hit a snag is when the range on your EV curtails your journey. If you’re making a trip with a chargepoint on both ends you’re golden, provided the distance between those two points doesn’t exceed the range of a fully charged battery.

How Long Does It Take To Charge My EV?

One of the main questions surrounding the use of EV charging stations is, how long does it take to charge an EV?

The answer varies depending on the model of car you have, and the type of chargepoint you’re using. For example, average charging times on a regular domestic power supply is around eight hours, while a high-voltage rapid charger can fully charge some batteries in less than an hour.

The most important thing to remember about charging times is that, regardless of how long it takes to charge your EV, there are ways of fitting it in around your lifestyle to ensure you’re always topping up your charge when the car isn’t in use – whether that be at home overnight, in the office car park while you’re working, or in a multistory while you’re doing the weekly shop.

The key here is understanding the different types of charging stations…

3 Types Of EV Chargepoints…

Different types of electric vehicles need different forms of chargers, meaning there isn’t an easy one-size-fits all adapter you can just plug in anywhere there’s power. If you’re happy to rely on the slowest forms of chargepoint available, it is doable, but you’ll be working with basic equipment and a standard three-pin domestic socket.

And it will take a loooong time.

Corporate and commercial charging stations can look very different, largely because they have been manufactured and installed by different suppliers and networks. Yet it’s usually the charging speed that your EV is capable of handling that will determine which type of chargepoint you use, rather than any other factor.

There are three main types of EV chargepoints, here’s a quick overview of the differences…

Slow Chargers…

The majority of plugin hybrid cars and electric cars come with a basic charger that enables you to plugin and charge your car overnight, by using a standard 13-amp three-pin plug. You may find they also come with a weatherproof ‘Commando’ plug for outdoor applications. Typically the maximum current drawn is 3kW, meaning a full charge will require eight hours.

Slow chargers like this aren’t a problem if you’re able to park off-street, plugin and juice up overnight, or while you’re at work. They are, however, pretty much useless if you’re at a motorway services and need to top up. Most EV drivers still carry a 13-amp charger with them, but it’s a last resort if you’re out and about, not a viable charging method to rely on.

Fast Chargers…

For those of you who hate waiting around, fast chargers are here to double the rate of your charge, and are capable of fully charging a battery in three or four hours. Fast chargers generally usually operate at 32 amps and up to 7kW. You can connect slow chargers to them, however they won’t draw as many amps, and will consequently still charge at a slower rate.  

Fast Charger connects are beefier versions of the ‘Commando’ units, and are generally Type 2 ‘Mennekes’ units, sporting seven pin holes plus a flat top that lets you plugin upside down.

Rapid Chargers…

For some cars, like the Kia Soul EV and Tesla Model S, which have advanced electronics capable of handling a faster charge than their current rivals. Tesla are able to handle an impressive 120kW, allowing you to charge the battery for a Model S to 80% in only half an hour.

Tesla Supercharger Stations have proprietary plugs that can’t be used by rival electric car brands, however there are other Rapid Chargers that use JEVS-type and CCS plugs, which connect with Euro-spec and Japanese connectors, respectively.

The UK’s Public Charging Network…

EV charging stations and networks are usually run by businesses and energy firms looking to take advantage of the profits coming out of the growing car charging business. Other suppliers are organisations and local authorities looking to go green.

While it’s a huge advantage (in theory) to have so many people supplying charging stations, in practice it makes life tricky for drivers as they need to register with and carry a swipe card that’s specific to each network so they can use their charging points.

If you’re using multiple networks you’ll need to remember to carry multiple cards.

With different networks running different models for charging, you will also find that while some operate ‘pay as you go’ systems, others require a significant subscription fee, and yet more offer minimal sign-up fees and free power.

If you’re looking for information on installing a charging station in your business, or need a quality home charger, get in touch today for specialist advice and support about electric vehicle charge points, funding and creating a green fleet (and a lot more cash!) for your business…