How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The time taken to charge an electric car can vary from as little as 20 minutes to as much as 24 hours. Here's why...

Three electric cars rapid charging

With almost one-in-five new cars being fully electric, more drivers will be learning about charging electric cars for the first time. And alongside how much charging an electric car cost and how to use a charging point, they’ll likely be considering the time it takes to charge.

The two biggest factors in how long it’ll take to charge your electric car are the size of the battery, and the speed at which your car can charge. For example, an electric car with a small battery and a fast charging speed will charge a lot faster than one with a large battery and a slow charging speed. We’ll go into both of those factors in more depth in this story, as well as looking at the different types of electric car chargers and answering your electric car charger questions.

Pod Point EV home charger

Types of electric car chargers

The speed at which you can charge your electric car can be governed by the type of charger you’re using. Charging at home using a three-pin plug is the slowest method, typically taking around 24hrs to replenish the battery on your car. Doing so is therefore impractical for many electric car owners, although it can be doable if you own a plug-in hybrid car.

Below we look at the different types of charging points, how fast they are, and how quickly they might charge an electric car. In each case we’ll use two electric cars as examples, the Nissan Leaf is one of the most common electric cars on UK roads, while the MG 4 is our reigning Small Electric Car of the Year and the Volkswagen ID Buzz is our reigning overall Car of the Year.

Home or wallbox chargers (3-7kW, depending on your power supply)

These are the most common chargers people install at home. They typically provide a full charge in 6-12 hours, depending on your car's battery size. Bear in mind, though, that most people won’t charge their car from empty to full every night, so shorter charging times than are noted here can be expected, depending on how far you drive each day.

Examples (0-100% charge) Nissan Leaf 39kWh 7.5hrs  | MG4 Standard Range 7.5hrs | Volkswagen ID Buzz 11.5hrs

Fast Chargers (7-22kW)

Often found in public places like shopping centres or at some supermarkets, these can charge most electric cars to 80% in around 3-4 hours, or to 100% in around 7 hours. Bear in mind that if you’re topping up your battery rather than charging it fully, you can expect shorter times than are noted here.

Examples (0-100% charge) Nissan Leaf 39kWh 7.5hrs | MG4 Standard Range 7.5hrs | Volkswagen ID Buzz 7.5hrs

Rapid Chargers (50-350kW)

These are the fastest chargers available, and are often located along motorways or major travel routes. They can charge most electric cars to 80% in 20-60 minutes, depending on the speed of the charger and the rate of charge your car can accept.

Examples (20-80% charge) Nissan Leaf 39kWh 31min (maximum rate 46kW) | MG4 Standard Range 26min (maximum rate 117kW) | Volkswagen ID Buzz 29min (maximum rate 170kW)

Nissan Ariya charging in snow

Factors affecting charging time

While the times we’ve given above are representative examples, you might find that your charging speed in real-world conditions may vary, and that’s because there are myriad factors affecting how quickly your electric car can charge. These include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

Battery size – larger batteries take longer to charge. For instance, an electric car with a 40kWh battery will charge faster than one with a 75kWh battery, given the same charge.

State of charge – if your battery is almost empty, it might charge faster initially and then slow down as it gets closer to full. That’s why most manufacturers quote 20-80% top up times in their brochures, especially in relation to using faster chargers.

Temperature – cold weather can increase charging times as batteries are less efficient in low temperatures. In our own real-world winter range tests, we recorded up to 32.8% shortfall in the official ranges of some electric cars compared with their official figures. And having tested some of the same cars in summer conditions, we found that winter weather can shorten the real-world range of an electric car by as much as 21.6%.

Charger condition – older or poorly maintained chargers might not deliver power as efficiently as newer or well-maintained ones. Fortunately, the Government recently announced that it would be introducing standards for electric car charger reliability and availability from late 2023, with a target of every unit being 99% reliable. Charging providers who fail to meet those standards face big fines.

Tips for efficient charging

Charge during off-peak hours – It won’t speed up your charging time, but charging when there’s less strain on the electrical grid can save you money. Most electric cars will be allow you to schedule the charging to start when the electricity price is at its lowest.

Maintain your battery – just like any other car component, regular check-ups ensure your battery's health and efficiency. Try not to run your car completely to empty, or charge it to full all the time. Keeping your top-ups to between 20-80% of capacity should maximise the lifespan of your battery.

Use the optimal charger – It might sound obvious, but if you’ve a choice between plugging your car into a three-pin socket or a wallbox, it makes sense to choose the faster of the two. This is also the case if you need a top-up, because driving a few minutes further to reach a faster charging point could save you time overall.

Gridserve charging station

Which electric car charger is best?

At What Car? we conduct our own real-world research into both public and home chargers, using factors including reliability, availability and ease-of-use to draw our definitive rankings. In our latest tests, home chargers from Pod Point were found to be the top-scorer, proving to be easy to use, reliable and affordable. 

As for public charging providers, we think Gridserve operates the best chargers around. The company focuses on rapid or ultra-rapid charging points, offers quick payment solutions, and has good availability across much of the country.

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