Whether you’re planning on charging your electric vehicle at home, at work or at a public station, there’s one basic point to remember. The cable and plug connecting the charging station to your vehicle have to be compatible.
The first thing to be aware of is the type of power you can harness to charge your EV:
There are four types of cable and plug for electric vehicles. Two have alternating currents (AC), for charging of up to 43 kW, and two have direct currents (DC) which allow faster charging (up to 350 kW).
The type of connector you need varies by vehicle, and also depending on the power rating of the chargepoint. Plus, the power rating also affects the speed at which you can charge up.
AC power comes directly from the grid. But to charge an EV, it needs to be converted to DC. A converter, (which is usually built into an electric car) usually does this job. But if you have a DC charger, the converter is built into the DC charger itself.
DC charging is much faster than AC charging. That’s because it can bypass the car’s converter and supply DC current straight to the car. This type of charging is ideal when you need to recharge an EV faster on a long journey – for example, at a service station.
Having said that, DC charging takes a lot more power from the grid – and it’s only available if your car is compatible with DC charging.
On the other hand, AC charging draws less power from the grid, so it takes longer to reach a full charge – but it’s generally cheaper.
Which leads us to the next point: consider your ideal charging speed.
here are three basic speeds of charge to choose from – slow, fast, and rapid. The power rating of the charging cable will give you a good indication of how fast you can charge your vehicle. So for instance, a 3kW charger will give you a ‘slow’ charging speed of around 6-12 hours, a 7kW – 22kW charger will give a ‘fast’ charge of around 3 to 4 hours, and a 50kW – 120kW cable will give you a ‘rapid’ full charge in roughly an hour.
Essentially, each charger type (slow, fast or rapid) has its own set of connectors (more on them below) for low or high power, and for AC or DC charging. You’ll get low charging rates from a three-pin socket at home or public charging station – but remember, your EV’s internal converter turns that AC power into DC.
Rates rise to a 7kW rate for more advanced 'wallbox' charging units. Some smart chargers and public charging units also have a charging rate of 22kW. And rapid AC stations work at 43kW – while rapid DC stations supply power at 50kW or more.
Most EVs and EV chargers in the UK are compatible. Most rapid chargers have two cables for the two most popular rapid charge connectors (CHAdeMO and CCS,) so you simply select and use the one that fits your EV.
For non-rapid charging you may have to supply your own cable.
EVs in the UK will either have the Type 1 inlet socket or (more usually) a Type 2 inlet socket.
You should be able to find the type of charging port on your EV from your dealer, lease company, or handbook.
To find suitable public charge points, use an app like Zap Map, which highlights the charge points on a map. Zap Map can be filtered by connector type, EV type or charging speed – and it also reports any charge point issues.
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