What’s the best home charging option for my plug-in hybrid?
A reader asks about the advantages of investing in a home charging point for his BMW 2 Series Active Tourer instead of using a domestic socket to charge it up...
We are having an extension to our house built with solar panels on the roof. I own a BMW 2 Series 225 XE Active Tourer plug-in hybrid and am wondering what will be the most efficient way to charge it up at home. What are the advantages of a charger on a post outside compared with a standard electric plug socket?
What Car? says…
The three main advantages of having a charging point installed to charge your car are increased charging speed, ease of use and flexibility over when charging takes place.
Home chargers are generally rated at 3.7kW or 7kW. Although the more powerful units can charge up batteries twice as quickly, unless your 225 XE is the very latest model with the larger battery pack, your car will only be able to take a charge at up to 3.7kW, so it’s not worth buying a more expensive 7kW charger.
However, using a 3.7kW charger will replenish your BMW’s batteries twice as quickly as a 2.3kW domestic plug; online guides say it takes around four hours to charge your car’s batteries from 20% to 80% using a three-pin plug, and two to three hours using a charging point.
A dedicated unit can make the charging process easier and safer, especially if you’re charging up outside. Charging ports are safer to use in wet weather than a domestic plug and lead, and you could buy a charger with a cable permanently attached to it so you simply have to plug that into the car rather than having to get the lead out of the boot and plug it into both ports.
And most modern charging units can be programmed so that they pick the cheapest time to charge the batteries – you can set the system to replenish the batteries to 80% by 7am the following morning and the unit will pick the best time to charge. Some units can also send electricity from your car’s batteries back to the grid at peak times, adding credit to your account and making charging cheaper.
You may want to consider a ‘solar and grid’ smart charger so that you can use your solar panels to replenish the car’s batteries. Such units can usually be set to either use grid electricity alone, a mixture of grid and solar, or solar only.
This may be a way to help offset the cost of having a home charger installed. Since the Government grant for home charger installations was cut from £500 to £350 from 1 April, the cost of getting a charger has gone up to around £350.
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The best used hybrid cars
There are plenty of used hybrid cars to choose from. Here we pick our top 10 – read on to find out if there's one for you.
10. BMW i8
With its wild looks and radical powertrain, consisting of a three-cylinder turbo petrol engine and an electric motor, the BMW i8 caused quite a stir when it was launched, and it’s no less dramatic a sight today. It’s a plug-in hybrid, and you can do 22 miles on electric-only power if you want. What’s more, you get two tiny rear seats, meaning it can almost rival a Porsche 911 for practicality. Put simply, there’s nothing quite like it on the used hybrid market. We love it. You can spend a lot on one, or buy a 2015 example for under £40k.
We found: 2015 i8, 54,000 miles, £39,950
9. Toyota Prius
It’s rather bland to drive and a little plasticky inside, but there are good reasons why the Toyota Prius is so plentiful: it’s reliable, efficient and spacious enough to serve as everyday family transport. Not to mention, it’s the hybrid that popularised the term. Its ubiquity makes it an easy option to buy used, too, because you’re more likely to find a tidy example locally. You can choose between traditional hybrid and plug-in variants, and whichever model you go for, equipment is plentiful.
We found: 2018 Prius Plug-in, 33,000 miles, £18,500
8. Kia Niro
You can choose your Niro from new in three different guises: pure electric, plug-in hybrid or regular hybrid. We've gone for the plug-in version here because it can run for up to 38 miles on electric-only power, cutting your overall fuel consumption on shorter journeys. The PHEV is near-silent when running only on batteries and still quiet in petrol-electric mode, with engine noise only becoming strident when you really press on. Inside, you’ll find there’s loads of space in both the front and rear seats.