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Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are increasingly popular and better developed than they’ve ever been and the number of public charging stations is growing by the day.
As a relatively new technology, however, there’s still some confusion over the different types of charging station available, while the terminology bandied about can be confusing.
Our aim for all of our clients is to make sure you know about charging stations clearly and with as little jargon as possible before we install them. While it’s aimed primarily at those interested in purely electric cars (EVs) the information contained here will be of use to those after a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), too.
What is a charging station?
No concrete definition exists for charging stations, but in practical terms, a collection of two or more individual charging points amounts to a ‘station’. Don’t expect the full petrol-station forecourt experience, though: often a charging station will exist in the corner of a motorway services car park, or in a section of a shopping centre’s or town centre’s multi-storey.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Given the variety or electric cars and charging stations, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the time taken to charge an EV can vary too. The length of time an EV’s batteries take to recharge is determined by how many kilowatts (kW) the charging station can provide and how many the car can accept – the higher the wattage, the faster the charge. Three different rates exist:
Slow charging. Rate: 3kW. If you charge your car from ‘empty’ (either at home or at work), a full slow charge will take around eight hours.
Fast charging. Rate: 7-22kW. A fast charging point will take around three to four hours to fully replenish an electric car’s batteries from zero charge. The majority of public charging stations offer this rate, and you can also have a fast charge box installed at home.
Rapid charging. Rate: 43-50kW. Only a few electric cars are compatible with rapid charging, but if you own a car such as the Tesla Model S or Kia Soul EV, a rapid charger will give you an 80% charge in as little as 30 minutes. We also offer public charging points that offer rapid charging aren’t as common as fast chargers.
Remember that not all cars can accept fast charging. The entry-level Nissan Leaf, for example, can accept a maximum charge rate of 3.7kW. This means it’ll take around eight hours to fully charge. Go for Nissan’s 6.6kW option and that time halves. After speaking to one of our surveyors they will be able to determine the best charging point for your vehicle(s).
Do you offer Tesla Superchargers and Destination charging?
Yes with Tesla’s proprietary rapid chargers are known as ‘Superchargers’ and there are over 150 of these in the UK. They charge at 120kW, and can give roughly 170 miles of range in 30-40 minutes.
While all Tesla customers used to have access to the Supercharger network for free, Model S and Model X customers who ordered their cars after 15 January 2017 are given 400kWh of energy (equivalent to around 1,000 miles) for free, with each subsequent kWh being £0.20. Tesla is honouring the agreements it made with customers before 15 January 2017 though, making the Supercharger network free for those individuals.
Tesla also offers something called ‘Destination’ chargers, which tend to exist at hotels, B&Bs, shopping centres, campsites, golf clubs and similar locations. Destination chargers are slower than Superchargers, operating at a maximum of 22kW and providing around 60 miles of charge in an hour.
It’s important to understand the correct connectors and charge rates for electric vehicles, but it’s also a good idea to know the informal conventions that surround charging at public stations. The broadly accepted rules are:
Keep an eye on your car’s charge status. One the batteries are nearly charged (or charged to 80%, an amount some consider ideal), unplug your car and move it from the charging bay so others can use it.
Plug-in hybrids should give priority to pure electric cars. If you’re charging your PHEV and someone in a Nissan Leaf needs your charging point, do the right thing. You’ve got a petrol engine to fall back on, whereas they may be stranded until they can recharge their batteries.
Don’t unplug someone else’s car. If you’re at a motorway service station and encounter an EV that’s been left in a charging bay for a long time, ask if staff can make a tannoy announcement, encouraging the car’s owner to move. Some consider it okay to unplug a car that’s finished charging, but this isn’t always easy to tell and may not be met with kindness. If you must do it, leave a note on the owner’s windscreen, explaining why. Bear in mind some connectors don’t allow you to unplug them when the car is locked.
Report any damage to charging stations to the network operator. The supplier’s phone number will be on the charging point.
Offer to help. If you spot someone who’s having difficulty with their car or charger, ask if you can be of assistance. Charging stations have become a lot more reliable over recent years, but problems still crop up from time to time.
Stow the charging cable neatly when you’re finished. A loose cable can pose a trip hazard or be run over and damaged.
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