What are the different types of chargers for electric cars?

by Steph Carty 2 years ago

In a nutshell, there are three different types of chargers. Rapid, fast and slow. This allows you to charge at home, charge when you’re out and about, and even charge if you’re in a hurry. Find out more about each one below...

Each charger has a different connector because they need to cope with different levels of power going through the cables from the charging station to your car. Some are AC (Alternating Current) and some are DC (Direct Current).

Don’t panic. Car batteries can accept either an AC or DC charge.

Let’s start with the slowest way to charge your car...

The reason we’re starting with the slowest is that for most people it will be the most convenient. Why? Simple. It’s what you’ll have at home. Plug your cable into a standard 3-pin socket and plug the other end into your car. It’s as easy as that. If you plug it in before you go to bed, it will be fully charged by the time you get up in the morning. You may be able to use a socket at work. If that’s the case, plug in when you arrive and you’ll have plenty of charge in the battery for when you leave.

Traditional 3-pin plug socket
Traditional 3-pin sockets can charge Evs but take the longest

If you’d rather not have a cable running from your house or garage, you can have a wall charger installed. They’re called a Wallbox. You need to have them professionally installed because they produce a higher charge. There are incentive schemes provided by the government and local authorities to help you with the cost of having one installed. You’ll need to check what sort of deals are available.

Several of the car manufacturers have partnerships with charger manufacturers. Volkswagen has a partnership with the Pod Point company. Pod Point will take care of everything….they’ll visit your home and help you choose which type of charger best suits your needs. They’ll then take care of the installation and they’ll also take care of any applications for grants on your behalf. The box and the installation come with a 3-year warranty.

Pod Point Wallbox can be installed at your home
Pod Point Wallbox can be installed at your home for faster charging

No matter which brand of Wallbox is available, they are all waterproof so, no matter what the weather is like, you’ll be able to safely charge your car. The cables and sockets are waterproof too. Using a Wallbox is just like using the domestic 3-pin plug method. Plug your cable into the Wallbox, plug the other end into the car, lock the car and charging will begin. Some of the Wallboxes have a cable permanently attached. This is called tethered.

As with all chargers, the Wallbox will charge your battery up to around 80 per cent, and then slow down as it trickles up to 100 per cent. This is to protect the battery and extend its life. You can have three power levels of Wallbox which vary from slow to fast charging.

You’ll soon get into a routine of planning ahead to make sure that your car is always on charge to provide you with sufficient battery life to complete your commute.

What about if you’re on the road and need a charge?

Thankfully, the network of electric charging points is increasing rapidly. The UK has been slow to organise the infrastructure, but the pace is quickening because more and more local authorities, towns and cities are introducing clean air zones where petrol and diesel cars will not be allowed or will have to pay a hefty surcharge. As the number of electric cars increases, so will the number of charging points because the public will demand it. Put it this way, there are now more electric charging stations than petrol stations in the UK.

When you’re out and about, you’ll spot charging stations. They’re at motorway service areas, supermarkets, park & ride areas, railway stations, multi-storey car parks, shopping arcades. Don’t be confused by the names of the companies who are providing the charging station. There are more than 20 in the UK. You’ll spot names such as Pod Point, Zero, Ecotricity, Instavolt, Zap, Polar etc. Different names but they all do the same thing….charge your car’s battery.

Pod Point & Volkswagen have teamed up with Tesco to offer EV charging while you shop
Pod Point & Volkswagen have teamed up with Tesco to offer EV charging while you shop

Many of them provide free electricity. Some will require you to subscribe or use an app on your phone. Some have a pay-as-you-go system where you put in your credit card details.

The vast majority of public charging stations use fast chargers. They provide the same sort of power that a Wallbox will at your home or work place. They will have cables fixed to the charger. There can be up to 3 cables available. All you do is choose the one that fits your car’s socket. However, there are public charging stations which now offer rapid chargers which charge most EVs to 80% in around 30 to 60 minutes; perfect timing for you to grab some food at a service station if you're heading across the country for the weekend.

Charging points available for street parking in many cities
Charging points available for street parking in many cities

The vast majority of UK electric cars use a Type 2 connector. This has between 5 and 7 pins or sockets and use a connector which looks like a petrol pump trigger handle. Your electric car will have the right one for your vehicle for use at home or work where you need to plug it into the wall or socket.

As with most things in life, familiarity will make things easier. Almost every garage that sells electric vehicles will have either a Wallbox or a charging station. The best idea is to ask the sales person to give you a demonstration.