In association with Nissan LEAF
Electric car charging: the best home charging solutions
There are lots of different options when it comes to electric car home charging systems, and choosing the right one could save you a lot of money...
The cost-of-living crisis has changed the way many of us think about spending – and saving – money. Not only are more people thinking of switching to electric vehicles (EVs) to reduce motoring costs and emissions, those who have already made the switch and have a home charger are considering hiring it out to other EV owners to make some extra money.
According to recent research by What Car?, 56% of car buyers are considering either a hybrid, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or pure electric car as their next vehicle, and 33% of those ordering a new car are going for an electric model.
Many of them are likely to be thinking of ways to gain some extra income once they have their car. A survey by leasing company Novuna Vehicle Solutions has revealed that five out of six motorists who already have a home charger would rent it out for extra income, while a quarter are now exploring the possibility of generating their own electricity at home.
There are around 400,000 people in the UK with privately-owned EV chargers, and it is estimated that they could each earn up to £3000 a year by sharing their charger with neighbours and other EV drivers.
In contrast, those who don't have access to a home charger and have to rely on the public EV charging network could end up paying far too much to replenish the batteries in their cars if they don’t do their research up front. A What Car? investigation revealed that using the UK’s fastest public EV chargers can cost around seven times more than charging up at home.
We paid £40.66 for a 10-80% 150kW charge for a BMW iX3 at a Source London 7.4kW charger on its London Flexi tariff. In comparison, charging up at home on a night-time tariff of 14 pence per kilowatt hour (kWh) would cost £7.25. Clearly, then, getting the best home charging setup is key to keeping EV running costs down.
Although many slower public chargers are free to use, they lack the convenience of home charging. For example, you might have to wait for someone else to finish charging and you’ll need to leave your car away from home while it’s plugged in and collect it later.
No wonder, then, that government figures show that 80% of EV owners charge their cars at home. Last year, it became mandatory for all newly built homes to have an EV charging point installed, but most of us don’t live in brand new houses, so we have to sort out our own charging solutions.
What are the home charging options?
Although you can simply charge your car using a standard domestic three-pin socket, this is a very slow process. Using a household socket, it will take around 26 hours to charge EVs with the biggest battery capacity – the Audi E-tron for example – from 10-80%. Having a dedicated wall box charging point installed in your garage or on the outside of your house makes charging easier.
The range of chargers on offer is wide, from simple 3.6kW units to sophisticated chargers that can charge your car up automatically at the cheapest time. You can also get units that work with solar panels to power your home and sell energy back to the National Grid at peak times, minimising the cost of charging.
The Government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) changed in March 2022, so you can no longer get a contribution of up to £350 for your charger. However, researching the options up front should still help you save money.
First you need to decide on the wattage of the wall charger. The slowest, 3.6kW units will charge a car only slightly faster than a domestic socket. That should be fine if your daily mileage is low or you own a PHEV that doesn’t take long to charge because of its relatively small battery. The cost of a 3.6kW wall box is around £350 to £600.
Most people opt for a 7kW charger, which will replenish batteries at twice the rate of a home socket. A charger with this power output costs around £850.
The third option is a 22kW charger, which provides much faster charging. It will replenish the big battery pack of an E-tron in around nine hours, compared with 14 hours using a 7kW charger. Even if your current EV isn’t able to charge at this rate, choosing a 22kW charger now will prepare you for when you change cars in the future. Expect to pay around £1200 to £1500 for a 22kW charger.
It’s important to check whether your home electricity supply can accommodate a 22kW charger, though. They require a ‘three-phase’ electricity supply rather than the single-phase supply that most households have.
Basically, your home’s electricity will either be supplied by a single live wire or three live wires. A simple way to check which you have is to see how many 100-amp fuses there are in your home’s fusebox. If there’s just one, you’ve got a single-phase circuit. If there are three, you have three-phase power. You can have your single-phase supply upgraded to a three-phase connection (costs for this will vary).
Plug-in or tethered cable?
You’ll also need to decide whether you want a charger with a cable permanently attached to it (known as ‘tethered’) – or one into which you plug a regular Type 2 cable, as you get with most EVs. Having a tethered unit means you simply plug the other end of the cable into your car rather than having to get one out of the boot every time you charge up. However, the cable might not be compatible with all EVs, and you might need to use an adapter if you change cars or have more than one EV to charge.
Should you choose a smart or basic home charger?
Installing a smart home charger has a number of advantages, including the fact that it enables you to use a smartphone app to choose when the car is charged up or to ensure the batteries are topped up by a certain time. The advantage of this over a basic charger is that you can choose to use electricity at a cheaper rate, usually in the middle of the night, rather than simply plugging the car in and recharging it when you get home from work.
In fact, this is only the beginning of a new era for home charging, and a whole new breed of even smarter charging points is on the way. Around the world, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) chargers are being trialled.
Their aim is twofold: to help EV owners charge up for less and to manage demand for energy by selling electricity back to the grid when it’s needed. They also have the advantage of being cheaper and simpler to install than alternative home energy storage methods, such as the large battery banks offered by the likes of Nissan and Tesla.
The National Grid predicts that there will be as many as 36 million EVs on British roads by 2040. It says V2G chargers will provide a useful level of support from 2030. Even if V2G supplies only 2% of our electricity by then, that equates to 220,000 cars using it, collectively supplying up to two gigawatts of power at peak times – enough to power around two million homes for an hour.
“V2G charging systems are among a range of new home charging technologies being developed for consumers in the UK," said a spokesperson for Go Ultra Low, the joint government and industry organisation that provides motorists with information about EVs. "As the number of EVs grows and the size and capabilities of batteries increase, there is a huge opportunity for them to be a significant electricity storage resource for a smart grid.”
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