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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...

Nissan Leaf charging in garage

The coronavirus pandemic has boosted the popularity of electric vehicles (EVs). The improvement in air quality brought about by the dramatic reduction in traffic levels during the UK’s lockdown has made almost half of people (45%) realise the benefits of zero-emissions motoring and consider going electric, according to a recent survey by Venson Automotive Solutions.

Of those asked, 19% said their next car will be electric and 26% said they’ll be switching to an EV in the next five years. When the survey was conducted a year earlier, 31% said they would buy an EV, but not for 10 to 15 years. 

However, EV buyers could end up paying far too much to charge the batteries in their new cars if they don’t do their research up front. A recent 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. So 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; 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.

Electric vehicle charging – what does it really cost?

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, such as the E-tron, from 10-80%. Having a dedicated wallbox charging point installed in your garage or on the outside of your house makes charging easier. 

3.6kW charger

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, as well as 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. 

An important thing to think about up front is choosing an approved home charging point from a company that’s on the Government’s approved list. Doing so will enable the installer to apply for the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) grant on your behalf. It’s worth up to 75% of the purchase price of a wallbox, with a maximum contribution of £350. 

Next, 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. This is likely to be fine if your daily mileage is low or you own a plug-in hybrid that doesn’t take long to charge, due to its relatively small battery. The cost of a 3.6kW wallbox is around £300 to £450 and you’ll get most of that back from the EVHS grant. 

7kW charger

However, 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, or around £500 after the EVHS grant.

Audi E-Tron charging

22kW charger

The third option is a 22kW charger, which provides much faster charging. It will replenish the massive 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.

Because you can only apply for the wallbox grant once for each EV you own (with a limit of two), you’d have to foot the entire bill if you wanted faster charging capability later. It’s important to check whether your home electricity supply can accommodate a 22kW charger, though; these 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. Expect to pay around £1200 to £1500 for a 22kW charger before the grant, or from £850 after the grant has been applied. 

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; you might need to use an adapter if you change cars or have more than one EV to charge. 

Next: Latest innovations in home charging >>

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