If you’re buying a plug-in car or you’ve been given one as a company car, you may be wondering what on earth a home charger is versus a fast or rapid charger, which wallbox to go for, and why plugging a BMW iX into a three-pin plug will barely heat up its battery, let alone add serious range. Fear not, this guide will explain the different speeds and types of charging available to you without leaving your home.
Many plug-in cars still come with a charger that’s attached to a conventional three-pin plug, or you can choose one as an optional extra or pick one up on the aftermarket. Unless you own an older EV like an early Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe or Twizy with a small battery, this type of charger is considered best for emergencies only, adding around eight miles per hour of charging.
Charging speeds are measured in kilowatts (kW), and a three-pin charger can manage up to 2.3kW, so it’s best suited to older EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). For the latter 2.3kW can make sense, charging most PHEVs easily overnight. However, if you plan to own a PHEV long-term or upgrade to an EV later on, a wallbox will still make more sense.
Home wallbox (3.6kW)
If you plan on owning a plug-in car for more than a few months, and you have a suitable driveway, garage or fence where a wallbox can be situated, it’s well worth having one installed. While there was previously a grant of up to £350 towards this cost, this is now only available to landlords, tenants, and small business owners, but a 3.6kW wallbox is still the cheapest option. Fully installed from major supplier PodPoint, a 3.6kW charger is currently £749.
Not only is using a dedicated wallbox more convenient than a three-pin plug, it’s also safer, as a qualified installer will need to check that your electrical circuit is up to the task and wire up the charger to make it safe for prolonged usage at higher currents. A 3.6kW charger should charge around twice as fast as a three-pin, at around 15 miles of range per hour.
This charging speed is considered slow by modern EV standards, but should be adequate for plug-in hybrids and smaller EVs with a battery pack of under 50kWh in capacity, so long as you plan to top-up mostly for long stretches during the night.
Home wallbox (7kW)
If you’d prefer to charge your EV more quickly, or it has a battery size of anywhere up to 100kWh in size, a 7kW home wallbox is likely to be the best option for most motorists, adding around 30 miles of range per hour.
For this reason, the most common type of wallbox being fitted in the UK have a capacity of around 7kW. It’s the fastest charger that can be installed at most British homes without significant modifications to the home’s existing wiring and electricity supply, which would all add extra cost.
A fully installed 7kW home charging point from PodPoint costs from £949.
Three-phase wallbox (11kWh to 22kWh)
If you want the fastest home charging times, own an EV with a giant battery like a Mercedes-Benz EQS, or even have several EVs, it could be worth considering a three-phase wallbox. While virtually all UK homes have a single-phase electricity supply, three-phase is more common at industrial and business premises, as well as some farms.
It is possible to change a home supply to three-phase, but for most EV owners the extra cost and hassle will be hard to justify. Rapid charging wallboxes are also more expensive, with a 22kWh charger and installation currently costing £1,699 from PodPoint.
Charging speeds are impressive, however, being up to 10 times faster than a three-pin plug and adding around 90 miles of range per hour. However, it’s also important to note you can’t just connect up any plug-in model to an 11 or 22kW AC home charger and enjoy fast charging, as only some of the latest models are compatible with these higher home charging speeds.