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What came first, the EV or the charge point?

Wednesday, 16 September 20209 minute read
Electric Vehicles

Getting 'charge from home' ready is a really important part of owning an electric car — we explain how to make this process as smooth as possible.

Getting set up to charge from home is a really important part of owning an electric car. Charging from your own power supply tends to be a lot cheaper, as your household electricity tariff is about a third of the price of the average public EV charge point. It’s also more convenient — just think of how many times during the year that your car is parked in the same place at home overnight!

On average, around 80% of EV charging takes place at home. A Tesla Model 3 owner (the best selling EV of 2019/20) plugging in 100% at home could save £850 on their annual fuel bill by switching from a petrol vehicle and changing their electricity supply to renewables from Pure Planet! You’ve got an emission free electric car, so it makes sense to use clean renewables to charge it up.

So what do you need to do to charge your EV from home?

Space. You need to make sure you have a place you can charge up — somewhere where you can park your car and safely plug in. Typically, that’ll be a driveway or a garage. We’re starting to see options for drivers without private parking (some of our favourites are Charge Fairy — mobile charging vans that fill up your car overnight, and Ubitricity — charging from street lamps) but these are still some way off being mass market.

Once you have a location, you’re going to need to choose an EV charger. Many EVs will come with a ‘granny cable’ — a cable that will charge up your car from the standard 3-pin sockets you have in your home. These are OK for occasional use, but we wouldn’t recommend them as a permanent home charging solution. The sockets and cables in your home aren’t designed for the high continuous power demand required to charge your electric car. A far better and safer option isa dedicated home EV charge point. These are faster, smarter and are built for the job. And most are eligible for a £350 government grant.

Image: Chuttersnap on Unsplash

What comes first, the EV or the charge point? You could get a charge point installed after you buy your EV, of course, and charge up using the granny cable for a couple of weeks. But we’d recommend getting the charge point sorted first. That way, you’re set up and ready to enjoy your new car from day one.

Choosing the right charge point can be a bit confusing. There’s a range that differ in price and features, so it’s important to pick the right one for you and your EV. You’ll also need to get it installed, which means finding a qualified electrician who can carry out the work and, crucially, claim the £350 grant on your behalf.

Here are some of the most important features of EV charge points and our recommendations for the best option to go for.

Power (or speed)?

This is the power rating of your charge point and determines how quickly it will charge your EV. Like any other electrical device, this is measured in watts (or kilowatts). A 1kW charging speed will add around 4 miles of range to your EV per hour. Most home EV charge points will charge at 7kW, enough to charge up with around 28 miles of range an hour (or enough to fully charge a Tesla Model 3 in about 7 hours). Some charge points are rated at 3.7kW as a few older EVs are limited to charging up at this speed. Granny cables are limited to around 2kW — slow, but usable if you must. We’d always recommend a 7kW charger.

Tethered or untethered?

A tethered charge point has a charging cable permanently attached to it. And, guess what, an untethered one doesn’t. An untethered charge point is basically a box on the wall with a socket in it. You connect your car type’s cable into it at one end and the car into the other.

Why would you do this? Cars have different connector types. So, if you change your car, you can just change your cable if it has a different connector type. It saves having to change the entire charge point with its tethered cable.

Car connector types, you say?

Yes, there are different ones! The connector is the type of socket you plug into on the car itself. Think British household plugs for a moment, compared to continental European plugs, or American ones — all different. Car makers are the same. They use various connector types. But the good news is there are basically two that you need to know about. Your car will have a Type 1 connector, found mainly in older EVs or cars made by Asian manufacturers, such as Nissan, and used on Britain’s most popular electric car, the LEAF. Or your car will have a Type 2 socket, which is rapidly becoming the European standard and is increasingly common across most new EVs. You might have heard of CHAdeMO and CCS charging plugs, too — these are used at public charging stations, not at home. Have a look at our other blog to find out more about public charging points.

We think tethered charge points are more convenient as it saves you having to get your charging cable out of your car (where most drivers store them, in case it’s needed while out and about) and connect up to two sockets. However, if your car uses a Type 1 connector, it’s probably best to get an untethered charge point as it’s more than likely that your next EV will use a Type 2 connector.

Image: EO

Smart

To get the £350 government grant, an EV charge point must be smart. The OLEV grant, as it’s known is designed to cover up to 75% of the cost of a home charge point, up to a maximum of £350 — so it’s well worth having. Exactly how ‘smart’ a charger is varies between manufacturers. But in general you should expect to be able to both monitor and control your EV charging via an app. We reckon a smart charger is an absolute must!

Solar charging

If you have solar panels on your rooftop, make sure you get a charge point that can be connected to your panels. Some chargers have a feature which uses the solar generated power that would otherwise be exported back to the grid, if it’s not being used by your other household items at the time, of course. We think this is a great feature. It makes so much sense to charge your car for free (try doing that with petrol or diesel!). And even if you don’t have solar panels yet, it’s a good idea to get a charger with this capability just in case you do in future.

Power balancing

Charge points with power balancing are able to intelligently adjust the amount of electricity going into your car. Basically, it turns it down, when things are busy. Why is this important? It stops your circuits from tripping. Imagine you’re topping up your car and you’ve got a whole load of other appliances on the go at exactly the same time — your oven, the kettle and electric shower — there’s a risk you might trip your fuse box. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a little annoying! Not every home will need this feature, but where there isn’t sufficient electrical capacity for an EV charger alongside everything else that might be going on in your home, power balancing can help.

Chargers with in-built power balancing also avoid the complex and lengthy process of having to get the local network operator to upgrade your household electrical connection. We think this is a great feature for homes that require it.

There are clearly a few things to think about when choosing an EV charger and, to be honest, finding the right solution for you and then organising an installation can be a bit complicated.

We don’t think getting set up at home should be a blocker to getting an EV, and ditching the dirty diesel or parking up the polluting petrol.

So to take the hassle out of home charging we are delighted to be working with EO Charging to offer our Members what we think is a great solution, the EO Mini Pro.

The EO Mini Pro is one of the country’s leading smart EV chargers. The 7kW charger is compatible with all makes and models of EVs and is available in both a tethered and untethered version. For us, the future is all about smart technology and the EO Mini Pro is as smart as they come. The EO app allows you to start, stop, schedule and monitor all your home EV charging. And its solar charging and power balancing features, mean your charge point will be futureproofed and installed hassle-free!

The EO Mini Pro is available on our website from just £545 for the tethered version and £615 for the untethered version inc VAT fully installed (this is the cost you’ll pay, after the £350 government grant has been included). To get one, simply fill in the online form (this can be done from your mobile). Our friends at EO will be in touch to arrange your installation and will also apply for the OLEV smart charge point grant on your behalf. After a safe and speedy install from an EO approved installer you’ll be powering up your EV in no time.

Will
Head of New Products and Services