Electric car charging – guide to charging at home and away

With a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars coming into force in 2030, it’s time to get excited about Electric Vehicles (EVs). But how easy are they to charge and how much will it cost you to get from A to B?

goco author
Updated 19 July 2021  | 5 min read

How do I charge an electric car?

Choosing an electric car can save you money. 

Electric vehicles (EVs) are cheaper to run because electricity costs less than petrol and diesel and, with fewer working parts to wear out, they also need less maintenance.

How much does it cost to charge an EV?

Exactly how much you save really depends on how you can charge your car.

Whether you recharge at home or at a public chargepoint will make a big difference to your running costs, but it’s still likely to cost less than filling up a petrol or diesel car.

The Energy Savings Trust says that filling up a petrol Nissan Micra for 10,000 miles per year would cost £1,415 – a cost of 14p per mile. It has calculated the cost of charging an EV at home, at a public chargepoint or at a mix of both:

Charging location Cost for £10,000 miles Cost per mile % saving on petrol car
At home £568 6p 57%
Public charge point £1,297.78 13p 7%
70% at home, 30% at public charge point £786.78 8p 43%

So, on a cost per mile basis - an EV could see you more than cut your fuel bill in half if you always charge at home.

The cost of charging and running your EV will also depend on its make, model and battery size – some will need a bigger charge and use more electricity to run.

Where can I charge my electric car?

You have a few options to plug in and charge your electric car:

  • At home (into a dedicated home charging point)
  • One of the ever-expanding list of public charging stations around the UK in town centres, car parks, shopping centres, attractions or motorway service stations
  • Many workplaces also provide charging points to their employees at their place of work. The government’s Workplace Charging Scheme provides support towards installing these. 

There are a few public places where you can charge for free, but in general it’s much more expensive to charge out and about than at home.

Charging your electric car at home

The cheapest and most convenient way to charge your EV is at home.

Just as you charge your mobile phone, you can plug in your car in your garage or driveway, charge it overnight and top up during the day if necessary too.

The catch is, you’ll need a garage or driveway to do this – you’re not allowed to stretch your charging cable from your home across a pavement to your car parked on the street.

The government’s Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme helps towards the cost of installing an EV home charger ( a weatherproof wall-mounted unit).

If you own or lease an EV and have off-street parking (a drive or garage) the scheme gives you a 75% contribution towards the cost of a home chargepoint and its installation, capped at £350 (including VAT).

Residential charging units come with two power-rating options – three kilowatts (kW) or 7kW.

Anyone installing an EV Chargepoint at home needs to register it with their Distribution Network Operator – the company responsible for providing electricity to the home. Your chargepoint installer will usually do this for you.

Residential chargepoint schemes

If you don’t have a private drive or garage, there may be an On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) you can use.

Local councils can get grants for installing charging points on-street for residents who don’t have off-street parking. They’re usually housed in street furniture, like street lights. 

If there are no charge points near your home, check with your local council to see if it can get a grant to install some. 

How much does it cost to charge my car at home?

Plugging in your car at home is the cheapest way to power up. The cost of fully charging your car will depend on its engine size and your home electricity tariff.

Use a calculator tool to get some insight into how much charging at home might cost: Zap Map and Charging At Home both have easy-to-use calculators.

Zap Map’s home charging calculator can give you a good idea of the cost to charge any EV. Select your car make and model from a drop-down list, the power-rating of your home charger (3kW or 7kW) and your home electricity costs (pence per kWh).

We tried it with a Vauxhall Corsa-e and found that charging it up to 80% would cost £6.60, and run the battery for 156 miles (at a cost of 4.2p per mile).

A similar journey in an average petrol or diesel car which costs around 12p per mile to fuel would be around £18.70.

How to charge your EV when you’re out and about

Some new electric vehicles can travel up to 300 miles on a full charge. But if you’re taking a longer trip in your electric car, or you’re going on holiday, then you can recharge at a public chargepoint. 

There are more than 30 networks offering chargepoints around the UK, including Pod Point, ChargePlace Scotland, InstaVolt, Osprey and Shell Recharge. 

Some charge points let you drive up, plug in and pay with your contactless credit or debit card, but others need you to download an app first. You then pay in-app for the amount of electricity you use.

For others you need to visit a website to start charging. Yet others require you to order an RFID card (radio frequency identification card), set up a payment account with the network online and link it to the card. You then tap the card on the chargepoint’s card reader to start a charge. 

That’s a lot of apps, websites and RFID cards to keep track of and can make things complicated. It’s why Which? is calling for a form of universal access to be established across all Chargepoint networks.

Find your nearest charging point or pick out convenient points on your route at Zap Map. You can filter your searches by network charging provider, whether you can pay with your bank card and even look for charging points that are ‘free to use’. 

How long does it take for an electric car to charge?

It can take as little as 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours to fully charge an EV. It depends on the size of the car’s battery as well as the speed of the charging point you’re plugged in to. 

Charging points are either slow, fast or rapid. 

  • Slow chargers – Used at home and at some workplaces. They have an output of 3kW. They’re best for plugging into for long periods or overnight.
  • Fast chargers – Rated between 7kW and 22kW. Some homes can have 7kW chargers installed, making home charging much faster. You’ll also find fast chargers at supermarket car parks and shopping centres, making them a good place to power up so you can have a shop or wander for an hour or two.
  • Rapid chargers – Give 50kW of power and fill up your battery the quickest, but they’re also the most expensive to use. They’re mostly found at motorway service stations. Plug in and pop off for a coffee and toilet stop before going on your way. 

As an example, here’s how long the Peugeot e-208, would take to charge from 0% up to 80% depending on which power-rating it’s plugged into:

  • Slow – 13.3 hours
  • Fast –5.7 hours
  • Rapid – 48 minutes

How much does using electric car chargepoints cost?

Public chargepoints at supermarkets are sometimes free to use.

The cost of chargepoints at other locations varies but the most expensive are the rapid chargepoints generally found at motorway service stations (although some are even still free to use here).

Pod Point has partnered with Volkswagen and Tesco to provide chargers at 300 stores across the country. Their fast (7-22kW) charge points are free to use. But there is a cost for using their more powerful rapid chargers.

Pod Point also has 22kW and 50kW chargepoints at over 150 Lidl stores. They cost 25p/kWh, which amounts to around £6-7 for 30 minutes of charging (about 100 miles of range).

Will an EV make my electricity bill higher?

You’re bound to see a rise in your electricity bills when you switch to driving an electric car and regularly charge it at home.

But you won’t have to pay up for petrol or diesel any more and your overall spend on driving will be less. 

It’s a good idea to take a look at your energy provider because it may be worth switching

According to the Energy Savings Trust electric car owners could save £300 a year by moving to a cheap fixed-rate energy tariff of £0.14/kWh.

Lots of energy companies are keen to attract EV owners. Some have introduced tariffs specifically geared towards helping EV drivers save on electricity and the cost of charging their cars at home overnight with lower unit prices from midnight and for four or five hours on average. 

Others offers incentives for switching, such as discounts on the cost of home chargers, or cash rewards credited to your account.

This handy energy tariff tool from the government’s Go Ultra Low website could help you find a tariff for EVs.