One of the most frequently asked questions after "how far can it go?" is "how do you charge it?", with the variation "how long does it take to charge?". And there isn't a simple answer. In this section we cover the types of chargers, the networks, how to find out what cables you need and a few other hints and tips when charging.

An electric car is just like any other car, the distance you can go on a given amount of fuel varies by how you drive, and even the weather. The economy of an EV car is also stated as a figure laid down by a formal testing policy which is more than a little over optimistic, just like the figures you see for petrol and diesel cars, although new standards are on their way which are said to be more realistic. Tesla have 3 range figures available based on the available battery capacity and a rate of consumption. These are Rated (unrealistic but regulation dictated), the Typical (better but can still be a bit high), and a third option only shown on the big screen under energy consumption based on the recent average consumption. Do not be disappointed when your 300 mile rated car can only do 240 miles just as your 53mpg car could only do 41mpg although it is important to recognise that the range will be lower than the formal published figures.


Before diving into the detail of charging options it's worth explaining the basics on what all the different terms mean:

Ways of charging

When you charge you are adding energy to the batteries and the rate at which that happens depends on the way you charge. We've included a MPH figure for each type as drivers tend to find it easier to thing this way however this is only indicative and can very between cars and there is no guarantee that adding 25 miles of range will actually mean you can drive 25 miles, in the same way a petrol car that does a theoretical 45 mpg will actually do 45 miles on a gallon. Most users will want to charge in one of the following ways:

Car charging networks

Many EV owners charge their car over night at home and rarely need to charge on a public network. Others travel extensively and rely heavily on them. But all owners need to be aware of what networks exist, how much they cost, and what you need to be able to use them.

A word of warning when using any charger. Most chargers are effectively in a car park, and terms and conditions apply. Please don't assume parking is free, sometimes it is so long as you register at the reception, but people have been caught out. Similarly, many motorway services have a 2 hour free parking limit, and while you should be able to charge in that time, its possible that you could overrun especially if you have to wait for a free charger.

How much does it cost? A year ago, most charging was free with a few exceptions. There is however an increasing trend to charge for public use although some hotels and councils still offer free charging. The charges are also getting close to the price of fuel for a diesel or petrol car. As an example, Ecotricity have introduced a £3 fee for their Rapids plus 17p per kwh. A 30 min charge may cost £3 plus 20x 17p = GBP6.40 and this will be approx 60 miles - thats approx 10p per mile. This is comparable to an efficient diesel car. At home, it depends on your tariff, but typically Economy 7 stars at 6p and a green eco tariff may be 15-20p per kwh. At an average of 10p a kwh this works out at approx 3p per mile. Super Chargers are mostly free (* see note above), as are some destination chargers.

How to know what I need?

Common to all electric cars are public charging locations. These come in a variety of forms and the proliferation varies from areas to area. We cover the various schemes like Ecotricity, Polar and Charge Your car (CYC) on a different page but it initially makes more sense to describe how you find out which ones are on your travels. For instance there is no point signing up to Ecotricity only to travel around Scotland where they are mainly CYC.

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