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  • Stop relying on petrol and diesel
  • Cut your car’s emissions by 66%
  • Reduce your running costs by 340%

A Complete Guide to Electric Vehicle Charging

It’s three times cheaper to run an electric car than a petrol model

There are 3,600 more electric charging locations than petrol stations

Many modern electric cars have 200+ miles of range

You want to help fight climate change, and electric cars represent a tangible way of making a difference.

They’re also sleek, futuristic, and three times less expensive to charge and run than their petrol counterparts. Plus, the industry is always evolving, with things like wireless EV charging now emerging in the UK. 

But before you jump in, you want to know how to keep them charged. That’s fair enough. In this guide, we’ll run you through the different options for recharging your car, and let you know how to use them.

Fill in this form to see how much a home charger would cost you.

How does EV charging work?

An electric car needs refuelling, same as any vehicle. For this advanced mode of transport, all you’ll need to do is plug it in to an electricity source, and leave it for a while. That’s it.

It’s just like charging your phone, in that each type of model will require a different kind of cable to make the connection.

There will be a port on your car and another on your chosen charging station, and your cable will need to plug in to both of them.

We’ve laid out below which connector matches with each charging station, and once you’ve got that straight, the only difference is the speed and the price you pay for it.

AC vs DC electric vehicle charging

When you charge an electric car, alternating current (AC) from the grid has to be turned into direct current (DC), which your vehicle can use.

If you get an DC charger, it will perform the conversion. If you opt for an AC charger, your car will turn that AC into DC – but much more slowly.

This is the main difference between the slower, AC chargers – confusingly known as slow and fast, but more on that later – and the faster, DC chargers, which are called rapid and ultra-rapid.

It's why AC chargers cap out at 22kW, while DC chargers can reach 100kW or above.

Inevitably, this makes DC chargers more expensive, but they may still suit your purposes better than their AC counterparts.

On board charging system for electric vehicles

Your electric car can use its on board charging (OBC) system to convert AC from your charging station into DC.

Electric vehicles are powered by DC, so this is a necessary feature of your car – unless your charger carries out this AC-DC conversion.

It's typically quicker for your charger to perform the conversion – and OBCs can only reach a maximum of 22kW – but if it's called upon, your car's OBC will be more than capable of stepping in.

Electric vehicle charging capacity

There are four speeds of electric vehicle connector: slow, fast, rapid, and ultra-rapid.

Would it be less confusing if they were called slow, medium, fast, and fastest? Yes. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

These connectors determine how quickly you can charge your electric vehicle.

Home chargers are typically slow or fast, while most public charging points are fast – though some are rapid or ultra-rapid.

Bear in mind that even though charging your car quickly sounds great, a slow charging station could be your best, most cost-effective option.

Slow units

Slow charging stations are generally between 3kW and 7kW, and can be found at homes or workplaces.

Just like fast units, they use Type 1 or Type 2 connectors to deliver alternating current (AC) from the grid to your car, which will use its converter to change it into direct current (DC). 

It’s possible to plug your electric vehicle into an ordinary three-pin socket – the same kind you use to charge your phone – but it’ll be slow going, at just 2.3kW.

You’re better off getting a dedicated home station that can reliably – and cheaply – recharge your car overnight, and which is designed to transmit that level of electricity for hours at a time.

Fast chargers

These come in models from 7kW to 22kW, and are found everywhere.

They’re the Goldilocks’ porridge of chargers – slow enough for homes and businesses, but fast enough for public stations.

Most are 7kW, which is more than fast enough for overnight charging.

A small number are 22kW, but these are usually reserved for large businesses and their employees.

Rapid chargers

Welcome to the fast lane. This is where you can find your high-speed DC chargers, at 50kW to 100kW.

You’ll usually only find rapid and ultra-rapid units in public places, where they cost a lot more than you’ll pay for domestic electricity.

Don’t worry about buying a cable to connect to the charger, though – all DC charging stations come with tethered cables which can fit snugly into your car’s connector.

Ultra-rapid chargers

Ultra-rapid charging stations are faster than a speeding bullet, at 100kW or more.

That means that in mere minutes, you’ll be good to go.

The Peugeot e-208, for instance, will take just 20 minutes to charge up from 20% to 80%, according to charging company Pod Point.

The downside of these chargers is their price, which like their rapid counterparts can often be horribly excessive when compared to home charging stations.

Electric vehicle charging plug types

There are several types of electric vehicle charger.

Which one you choose depends on your vehicle and how intense your need for speed is.

Three-pin plug

three-pin plug

This is the standard plug that you use to power everything from your mobile phone to your laptop and TV.

As mentioned above, though you can technically use them to charge your electric car, they're not particularly suitable.

At 2.3kW, they're far too slow – plus they're not built for powering a vehicle, which means they can be unstable. We don't recommend using them.

Type 1 and Type 2

Type 1 and 2 plugs are used to charge at ‘slow' or ‘fast' speeds.

Type 1 plugs can reach a maximum of around 7kW, while Type 2 chargers can go all the way up to 22kW, if your car is enabled for this level of charging.

For now, Type 2 plugs are more popular than all others, and come with most new electric cars – but of course, technology moves quickly.


electric vehicle chargers CHAdeMO and CCS

If your vehicle is built for rapid or ultra-rapid charging, it’ll have either a CHAdeMO or CCS connector – unless you use a Tesla Supercharger, which requires a Type 2 connector.

These plugs can charge your car at speeds of 50kW, 100kW, and above.

Charging at home

How to charge an electric vehicle at home

You’ll need a home charging station.

Once it’s been set up, all you’ll need to do is plug one end of your cable into the unit, and the other end into your car.

And then it’s just a matter of plugging it in when you need a charge.

Maybe you want to leave it charging every night, or maybe once per week is enough for you. It all depends how often you drive, and which vehicle you own.

If you want to see which models are the best around right now, check out our article on the top nine electric vehicle home chargers.

Charging on public networks

The UK’s charging network

There are 12,098 locations in the public charging network, according to the latest data from Zap-Map.

That’s significantly more than the 8,406 petrol stations currently available nationwide, according to the UK Petroleum Industry Association’s 2019 report.

A small, shrinking number of these electric charging stations are free, but most require you to pay considerably more than you would at home, often after you’ve already paid a subscription fee.

But if you need to use one, all you’ll need to do is check your car’s connector type, and then find a charging station nearby.

You can do this by checking Zap-Map, which has a database of UK charging stations.

Just pop in your connector type and choose the speed of charge you’d like, and you can see all your local charging spots.

Make sure to have a look at whether there are any free stations, as it might be worth driving a little further to save some money.

Also, be aware that it's not a guarantee that the charging station you visit will work. We recently investigated why so many EV chargers seem to be broken in the UK.

Either way, it's clear the UK's charging network needs to expand, as the results of The Eco Experts' National Home Energy Survey shows. 69% of UK residents say they'd buy an EV if money were no object.

A further 17% plan to buy one in the next 12 months, making the need to increase charging stations (both public and residential) a pressing issue.

woman charging her electric vehicle

Charging at work

Hopefully your company is forward-thinking enough to provide its staff with electric vehicle charging stations.

If so, all you have to do is park next to one of the units, plug your cable into the right outlet, and go through your workday safe in the knowledge that you’re recharging your car for free.

And if your employer hasn’t installed any units yet, you might want to tell them about the Workplace Charging Scheme.

As long as their business is eligible, this scheme will cover 75% of their charging point costs, up to £350, for as many as 40 units across multiple sites.

That’s a potential saving of £14,000, which shouldn’t be sneezed at – and you’d get to charge your car for free.

Electric vehicle charging tariffs

At home

Charging your electric vehicle at home is the cheaper, more cost-effective choice.

The average domestic electricity tariff is 17.4p per kWh (kilowatt-hour), according to NimbleFins. If you’re paying more, take advantage of the Energy Switch Guarantee to cut your energy bills.

The average electric vehicle has a maximum charge level of 61.4 kWh, according to the EV Database. On a 17.4p per kWh tariff, this means paying £10.68 for a full charge.

The average electric vehicle can go 200 miles on a full battery, which means you’ll be paying 5.34p per mile.

In comparison, the average 55 litre petrol car now costs £79.70 to fully refuel, according to government data from November 2021.

This means the average petrol car, which runs for 436 miles on one tank, costs 18.28p per mile to refuel – which is 3.4 times more expensive than electric vehicles.

In public

Charging in public will almost always be more expensive than home charging, but it’s usually quicker.

For instance, Pod Point’s Lidl rapid charging stations cost 26p per kWh, which means that a full charge will cost 49% more than it does at home – but you'll take a Peugeot e-208 from 20% to 80% in just 40 minutes.

To access chargers supplied by Polar – the most popular public charging company in the UK, according to Zap-Map – you’ll need to pay £7.85 per month, and then anywhere from 12p to an eye-watering 40p per kWh.

A contactless rapid charge with Polar will set you back 30p per kWh, so you’ll end up paying £16.67 to get up to 100%.

Of course, prices are coming down all the time, so if you can find charging stations that cost less than domestic electricity, take advantage of them.

But generally, public charging should be reserved for emergencies. It’s a drain on your wallet and your time, and means you’ll be constantly checking your battery level.

Either way though, you’re winning with an electric vehicle.

And our calculations indicate that the latest vehicles  – like the Nissan Leaf e+ – can be charged for considerably less than the standard 5.33p per mile rate, costing just 3.7p per mile. That's 31% cheaper.

If you want to learn exactly how much money purchasing one could save you over the years, check out our an electric vehicle statistics page.

What is the electric vehicle charging logo?

There isn't an official symbol for electric vehicle charging locations.

The sign below is relatively common, but it's not the only one – so keep your eyes peeled.

Many feature a car on a green background or next to a plug.

electric vehicle charging sign

Top 7 tips for EV charging

1. Home charging is cheaper and more reliable

2. Don’t use a three-pin socket, though – they’re especially slow, and aren’t built to sustain a charge for that long

3. Slow chargers will take hours, rapid chargers will take minutes

4. Check your connector to make sure what kind you have, so you’ll always know which charging station you need

5. DC charging stations supply cables; AC stations don’t, so bring your own

6. Drive soon after you've fully charged your car – it's better for your battery

7. Tell your employer about the Workplace Charging Scheme to boost their eco-friendly credentials and net yourself a way of charging for free

Next steps

Well done! If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a round of applause. You’ve graduated from electric car charging school, and are ready to get your own vehicle.

You know about all the different speeds and outlets you need to be aware of, and you know that home charging is cheaper and more reliable than public charging.

So what are you waiting for? Go get the car that’s three times cheaper to run than the average petrol car, and that can be recharged with your own personal discounted refueling station.

If you'd like to see how much a home or business charging point would cost, fill in this form.

josh jackman
Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh has written about eco-friendly home improvements and climate change for the past three years. His work has featured on the front page of the Financial Times; he’s been interviewed by BBC Radio; and he was the resident expert in BT’s smart home tech initiative.

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