Charging an electric car or plug-in hybrid

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First published: 17th June 2018
If you own an electric car, or a plug-in hybrid with a battery that can be topped up from the mains, you’ll want to plug it in to recharge. You can do this both at home and out and about, and with more charging points being installed around the country, it’s a process that’s getting easier and easier to incorporate into your everyday life.

Your car will come with a cable which will enable you to plug it into either a regular three-pin plug socket or a dedicated car charging point, of which there are several types on the market, each with different connectors. You may well have more than one cable to give you a choice, but which you get will depend on the vehicle you buy.
Types of charging point
Wherever you charge your car, you’ll use one of three types of charging point: slow, fast or rapid. A slow charger uses a regular three-pin plug socket, drawing 3kW of power, which – as the name suggests – will mean charging your car up fully will take a while, usually between six and eight hours.

A fast charger will power up your car in around half that time, and draws around 7kW of power. Most of the chargers you find on the street or in commercial premises use this type.

Rapid chargers can throw around 50kW of power at your car, meaning a much faster charging time; many cars can charge to 80% full in less than an hour. But there are drawbacks. For one, not all electric vehicles support rapid charging (and some don’t support fast charging either). Using the rapid chargers too often can reduce the life of your battery. And there aren’t as many rapid chargers in the UK as there are other types.
Types of cable and connector
Right, this gets a bit technical. Electric vehicles are charged using either direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC), and support a range of charging power. Here’s a breakdown of the main types of connector, and what they can do.

Three-pin: your standard household plug. It’s an AC, slow charger at 3kW.

Commando: Works with slow and fast chargers, on AC, at up to 22kW.

Type 1: Works with slow chargers on AC at up to 3kW.

Type 2: Works with slow, fast or rapid chargers on AC at u to 43kW.

CCS: Works with rapid chargers, on DC, at up to 50kW.

CHAdeMO: Works with rapid chargers, on DC, at up to 50kW.

Tesla Type 2: Works with rapid chargers, on DC, at up to 120kW.