Electric car charging – how it works and how much it costs | RAC Drive (2023)

Filling up with fuel is easy, charging an electric car, however, seems a bit more complicated.

The different connectors, compatibility, and variable rates of charge can make it seem like a complex job.

But electric car charging need not be so confusing. So free yourself from the tangled mess of charging cables with this guide we've created in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust.

How to charge your electric car

There are three basic ways to charge an electric car: at home, at work, or at a public charging point.

Home charging

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Want to start each day with a ‘full tank’? Charging each night at home will provide all the daily driving range the average driver will need.

You can charge using a regular domestic 3 pin socket, but a dedicated home EV charger is the better option by far.

Dedicated EV home chargers typically deliver around 7kW of power. In contrast, most vehicle manufacturers limit the current drawn from a standard domestic 3 pin socket to 10A or less, which equates to a maximum of 2.3kW.

A 7kW home charger therefore delivers approximately three times as much power and is approximately three times as fast as using a domestic socket.

We've got a full guide dedicated to charging an electric carat home, so head there for more information.

How much does it cost to install an electric car charger at home?

The typical cost of a home charge point is around £800.

Under itsElectric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, OLEV currently offers a grant of up to 75% of this cost, capped at a maximum grant of £350.

If you own or have primary access to an EV and off-street parking you may be eligible for an OLEV funded grant towards the cost of a home charge point.

Find out more about home ev charging in our full guide.

Price drop on British Gas Charging Points

Going electric?Installing ahome charging point makes owning an electric car so much easier and cheaper.

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Workplace charging

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Charging points at work help make electric cars viable for commuters who live further away from their homes.

If your work doesn’t have an electric vehicle charge point installed, it could take advantage of the Government's Workplace ChargingScheme (WCS).

The WGSis a voucher-based scheme that provides a contribution towards the up-front costs of the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charge points to the value of£300 per socket – up to a maximum of 20 sockets.

Employers can apply for vouchers using theWorkplace Charging Scheme application.

Public charging

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Public EV chargers can be found at service stations, car parks, supermarkets, cinemas, even just at the side of the road.

Public chargers at service stations fulfil the role of our current forecourts and are best suited for longer journeys, with a rapid charging unit providing up to 80% of charge in as little as 20-30 minutes.

The network of public chargers continues to grow at an incredible rate. Zap-Mapreports a total of 31,737 charging points at 11,377 different locations nationwide at the time of writing (May 2020).

EV charging networks

There are a number of public EV charging networks in the UK, each one taking a slightly different approach to charger access.

Polar is the UK's largest public charging network. Access is granted via an app or membership card, and is available as a pay-as-you-go or subscription service.

Ecotricity also asks its customers to register via an app, which is used to control the charging process.

Meanwhile, Tesla owners simply turn up at a Supercharger station and wait for their EV to be recharged.

There are regional charging networks too, but many of them also offer access to customers of larger EV networks.

If you are planning to rely on an EV charging network, make sure you’re signed up to the correct network for any chargers you’re planning on using: there are several resources that allow you to check ahead both for the location of chargers and the network running them.

How can I charge my car if I don’t have private parking?

If you don’t have private parking, an EV may still be a practical option for you particularly if you have charge points available at your place of work or if you have a public charger near to your home.

The RAC is the first breakdown assistance company in the UK to introduce a mobile charging unit for electric vehicle owners who have run out of charge and have become the number 1 provider of breakdown cover for electric vehicles.​Find out more aboutRAC EV Boost.​

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How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

To fully charge an electric car at home it costs around £5.

To charge an EV to 80% at a public rapid charger (the level you normally would here) it costs around £7 to £10.

Naturally, this varies depending on the location, tariff, energy cost, battery capacity, charging speed and charge level, but we can say for certain that charging an EV far undercuts fuel costs for a petrol or diesel car.

The above estimates were calculated using Zap-Map’s fantastic home charging calculator and public charging calculator.

Read our full guide to electric carcharging costs.

To view the most up-to-date pricing, click here.

(Video) CHARGING an Electric car - How Much Does it Cost?

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

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How long it takes to charge an EV depends on the size of the battery and the type of charger - which is defined by the power in kW.

From slow charging tofast charging and rapid charging, find out everything there is to know about electric car charging speeds in our full guide.

Electric car chargers, connectors and adaptors

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This is where things get slightly more complicated because there isn't yet a universal connector for electric vehicles and the different chargers.

Each charger type (slow, fast and rapid) have their own set of connectors for low or high power, and for AC or DC charging.

Here is a list of every different type of connector within each category.

Slow charge connectors:

  • 3-pin 3kW AC
  • Type 1 3-6kW AC
  • Type 2 3-6kW AC
  • Commando 3-6kW AC

Fast charge connectors:

  • Type 2 7-22kW AC
  • Type 1 7kW AC
  • Commando 7-22kW AC

Rapid charge connectors:

  • CHAdeMo 50kW DC
  • CCS 50-350kW DC
  • Type 2 43kW AC
  • Tesla Type 2 120kW DC

Source: Zap-Map

The last thing you want is to get to a charging station when yourbattery's low, only to find it's not compatible with your car's charging input.

So always check the car's handbook and the charging network provider’s website for more specific information.

Are all EVs compatible with all chargers?

Most EVs and EV chargers in the UK are compatible. But for non-rapid charging you will usually have to supply your own cable, which comes with and is stored inside the vehicle.

For non-rapid charging, EVs available in the UK will either have the above Type 1 inlet socket or Type 2 inlet socket.

Luckily your EV will be supplied with a cable that has the plug it requires, and at the infrastructure (charger) end, the cables are all compatible.

Rapid chargers use what are known as tethered cables i.e. they are permanently connected to and cannot be removed from the charging unit.

(Video) The Ultimate Guide to Charging your Electric Car

In the UK most rapid chargers have two cables providing the two most popular rapid charge connectors (CHAdeMO and CCS) so you simply select and use the one that fits your EV.

The Renault Zoe is the only EV sold in the UK that takes AC rapid charging which uses a different connector, but many rapid chargers will also have this available on a third tethered cable.

Tesla uses its own rapid chargers known as Tesla Super Chargers and these cannot be used by other types of EVs. Some Tesla ‘destination chargers’, found in hotel car parks and elsewhere, can be used by other EVs though.

How do I know which chargers my EV can use?

If you have an EV you will know – from your dealer, lease company, handbook etc – what type of charging ports it has.

The easiest way to find suitable public chargepoints is to use an app like Zap-Map which shows the chargepoints on a map.

Zap-map can be filtered by connector type, EV type or charging speed and it tells you if there are any reported problems with a charger.

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Electric car range

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Usually EV range is between 100 and 300 miles.

As battery technology develops, this number is improving all the time. The Tesla Model S Long Range even boasts an impressive 412 mile range.

As the UK’s charging infrastructure catches up with demand, this makes EV range very workable.

For those unlucky enough run out of juice, the RAC has a mobile charging unit for electric vehicle owners who have run out of charge.​Find out more aboutRAC EV Boost.​

Find out more about electric car range in our dedicated guide.

Electric car battery life

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All batteries lose some performance over time and with use, but with EVs the losses tend to be fairly small and incremental.

The more dramatic battery failures that many of us have experienced with devices such as phones or laptops, where battery performance sometimes drops quite quickly and significantly with a device that’s a few years old, are almost unheard of with EVs.

One of the main reasons for this is that EVs have sophisticated battery management systems which protect the batteries from over-charging and from charging too rapidly, both of which can cause damage.

This is why rapid chargers begin to ‘taper’ i.e. to reduce the power they deliver once batteries are more than 80% full.

Today, many EVs are offered with long battery warranties. For example, Nissan offers an 8 year / 100,000-mile warranty, under which batteries are replaced or repaired if they lose more than 25% of their original capacity.

How to find electric car charging points

Zap-Map has a useful app that shows you the location of charging points across the UK.

(Video) How much does it cost to Charge an Electric Car?

Many electric cars also have sat nav that recognises these locations and can direct you to those within range.

Can electric cars charge themselves?

Not completely, although recently some manufacturers have begun calling non-plug-in hybrid vehicles ‘self-charging’ hybrids because they recharge their batteries via regenerative braking, or a generator powered by their internal combustion engine.

This term has the potential to confuse since all hybrids, whether plug-in or not, and all EVs have the ability to ‘self-charge’ their batteries to some degree when they brake.

Read more abouthybrid carsin our full guide.

The idea of a fully self-charging electric car is an attractive one for obvious reasons, but no such cars currently exist on the market unfortunately!

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Can I charge in the rain?

Yes!You can charge in the rain no problem. Though you probably want to make sure that rain doesn't splash directly into the charger or plug.

Whilst EV charging is definitely more complicated that sticking a fuel pump in your car, we hope that’s cleared up any confusion you might have had about these vehicles.

The RAC is leading the way when it comes to supporting drivers in the switch to electric vehicles.

An ever-increasing number of our patrol vans have built-in emergency mobile charging systems capable of giving an out-of-charge electric car enough power to be driven a short distance home or to a working chargepoint, while our All-Wheels-Up recovery system allows our patrols to safely rescue electric cars with no need for a flatbed.

Find out more aboutthe RAC’selectric car breakdown cover, business electric vehicle cover and EV insurance options today.

ALSO: Temporary car insurance - from one hour to 30 days

Learn more

Are you sold on EVs? Or are you planning on holding on to your petrol car as long as possible? Leave us a comment below.


Return to the RAC Drive Electric cars hub

Read our guides onchoosing, charging and running an electric car.

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(Video) Tesla vs Gas: TRUE Charging Cost After 75,000 Miles


How much charge does it take to charge an electric car? ›

Many EVs now can range more than 200 miles per charge. 1 For major trips, you'll likely have to charge your vehicle several times. In general, it will cost between $10 and $30 to charge your EV while on the road, depending on what level of charger you are using.

Is it cheaper to charge an electric car at home? ›

Although the upfront cost of an electric vehicle is often higher, EVs can be cheaper to run, due to the lower cost of electricity compared to petrol or diesel. Recharging at home (overnight) will normally result in the greatest cost savings.

Is it free to charge an electric car? ›

Charging your electric car while out and about is a great way to top up your battery and many locations offer free charging to their customers or visitors. On most modern networks you can use a free-to-download mobile app to find chargepoints and start your charge.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car UK 2022? ›

Energy tariff prices

The energy price cap from April to September 2022 was £0.28 per kWh; at this price, a 100kWh EV would cost £28 to charge from 0-100%. The price cap from October to December 2022 is £0.52 per kWh, and at this rate the same EV would cost £52.

How long do electric car batteries last? ›

“Today, most EV batteries have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years within the car – and a second life beyond.” It's also worth noting that EV battery technology is still evolving, so as tech develops we expect batteries' lifespan to increase – as well as becoming cheaper, smaller and even lighter.

Is charging an electric car cheaper than gas? ›

Charging an EV at home is significantly less expensive than fueling up with gasoline, and it's also drastically cheaper than using a public charging station.

What happens when an electric car runs out of power? ›

If you're driving an electric car and it runs out of power, the short and simple answer is this: the car will stop—and you'll need to call roadside assistance to get towed to the nearest charging station.

How long does it take to fully charge an electric car? ›

A typical electric car (60kWh battery) takes just under 8 hours to charge from empty-to-full with a 7kW charging point. Most drivers top up charge rather than waiting for their battery to recharge from empty-to-full. For many electric cars, you can add up to 100 miles of range in ~35 minutes with a 50kW rapid charger.

How many miles can an electric car go? ›

Overview of EV range
135 km (84 miles)313 km (194 miles)637 km (396 miles)
26 Oct 2021

How long does it take to charge an electric car at a charging station? ›

Charging an electric car can be done at home or at any public charging stations. Fully charging a car can be done in just 30 minutes, or it may take as long as half a day. How big your battery is, or how fast your charging point is may change the time required.

How far can an electric car go on one charge? ›

Full-electric BEVs today have an average range of 250 miles on a single charge. However, newer models from marquee companies like Tesla and Mercedes can go as far as 600 miles in one charge. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have an electric motor, battery, a gasoline tank, and an internal combustion engine.

How long does it take to charge an electric car at a petrol station? ›

But generally speaking, a fast charger can fill most batteries to 80% in less than an hour, and sometimes in less than half an hour.

How much does it cost to drive 100 miles in an electric car? ›

To calculate the cost per mile of an EV, the cost of electricity (in dollars per kWh) and the efficiency of the vehicle (how much electricity is used to travel 100 miles) must be known. If electricity costs ¢10.7 per kWh and the vehicle consumes 27 kWh to travel 100 miles, the cost per mile is about $0.03.

Is it cheaper to charge your car at home or at a station? ›

Most charging stations will charge by the kilowatt-hour (kWh) when it comes to the charging rate. Compared to charging your car at home, it is more expensive to charge it in public charging stations. At home, it would averagely cost twelve cents per kWh.

Is it still cheaper to run an electric car 2022? ›

While 2022 energy prices are also on the up, driving an electric car is definitely still cheaper than running a conventional car. The trade-off is the time sacrifice, waiting for the vehicle to recharge.

Do electric cars need servicing? ›

An electric car needs to be serviced as often as any car. The service will include: Tyre wear and tear & tyre pressure check. Windscreen wiper replacement.

Do electric cars lose charge when parked? ›

In short, there's no need to worry! Electric cars can handle extended periods of inactivity very well, even better than combustion-powered engines, in fact, whose 12V batteries can lose charge, and whose fluids and radiator hoses can become damaged.

Can you plug an electric car into a regular outlet? ›

You can charge your electric car using standard 120 volt(V) home outlets (Level 1), 208-240V outlets like those used by your dryer (Level 2), or dedicated 480V+ public fast chargers (DC Fast Charging). The time it takes to charge using each of these three options depends on your drive and the size of the battery.

What are the disadvantages of electric cars? ›

What are the downsides to electric cars?
  • Their batteries need rare metals. ...
  • Making electric cars creates more emissions. ...
  • They are only as green as their power sources. ...
  • Electric cars can be expensive to buy. ...
  • You can't drive as far in an electric car. ...
  • There aren't enough charging points.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car for 300 miles? ›

Most EVs can generally travel 3 to 4 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy. A full recharge, if your vehicle's range is 300 miles, would require 75-100 kWh and cost $10-$14.

Do electric cars need oil changes? ›

Any need for engine pistons, valves, and other moving parts that need to be lubricated, electric vehicle does not need regular oil changes. Electric cars use completely different drivetrains, so you will never have to worry about routine oil changes that are necessary for traditional cars.

Do electric cars charge while driving? ›

Do electric cars recharge while driving? The short answer is no they do not charge while driving. Technology has advanced immensely over the years, but it's not yet in a place where electric vehicles can charge while driving.

Can you jumpstart an electric car? ›

You can indeed jump-start an EV the same way you can with a gas-powered car. However, the chances of you ever having to do this are rare, thanks to the way the power system in an EV works.

Do electric cars use oil? ›

Electric vehicles are powered by a battery and an EV engine with an electric motor. There are no pistons, valves, or other moving parts that require lubrication, and therefore, EVs don't use the traditional engine oil that would help maintain those parts.

Will electric cars ever charge in 5 minutes? ›

Electric vehicles could be charged within 5 minutes thanks to tech developed by NASA for use in space. A cooling system developed by NASA for electronics in space could be used to help charge electric cars. The system could, in theory, allow electric cars to be charged in just five minutes, NASA said.

Can you take electric cars on road trips? ›

Can you take an EV on a road trip? You can take an EV on a road trip as long as you plan ahead: Look for charging stations along your route ahead of time, especially in places you already plan to stop; combine charging with food stops or supply runs, and always have a plan B.

Do electric cars have heaters and air conditioning? ›

Do All Electric Cars Have AC & Heating? All-electric cars have an AC and heating system; their configuration is what differs. For example, Tesla uses resistive heating elements while the Nissan Leaf uses the heat-pump cabin heater.

How far can an electric car go at 70 mph? ›

The Tesla Model 3 dual motor, long-range is EPA-rated at 322 miles per charge and is one of the most efficient EVs available today. In our 70 mph highway range test, we were able to drive a total of 290 miles (467 km) with an average consumption rating of 4.25 mi/kWh (14.59 kWh/100 km).

How many times can a car battery be recharged? ›

Most car batteries will last between 500 and 1,000 charging cycles, which works out to a lifespan of between three and five years, depending on driving and weather conditions. While there's no way to make your car battery last forever, you can prolong its life as long as possible by caring for it properly.

How often should I charge my electric car? ›

Whichever model you choose, you won't have to worry about charging your car during the day, or even every night. Most EV manufacturers recommend that you stick to between 20-80% battery charge, so based on your driving habits, you'll want to plug in every three days or so.

Can electric cars go 500 miles on one charge? ›

Today, EVs typically get 250-300 miles on a charge, although some models push that boundary to 350-400 miles, and at least one manufacturer is promising over 500 miles for its newest models. Always check your car's manual to see what your manufacturer says about the range.

How much does it cost to go 500 miles in an electric car? ›

An electric vehicle will take you 500 miles for less than $17. (You'll likely need to charge it twice for that range.)

Can an electric car go 400 miles? ›

While the average for electric cars may not be there just yet, there are actually a few models that have topped the 400-mile marker on a full charge, including: 2022 Lucid Air Dream Edition R all-wheel drive: 520 miles. 2022 Tesla Model S Dual-Motor AWD: 405 miles.

Can you do 1000 miles in an electric car? ›

Again, it is newcomers that are leading the way. One of them is Aptera Motors from San Diego, whose solar electric car is offering a mind blowing 1,000 miles range per charge (1.600 kilometres). Yes, that's right, 1,000 miles!

Do you have to pay for charging stations? ›

Although many public charging companies still offer free charge points (90% of Pod Point units offer free charging and owners of Tesla models registered before September 2018 get free unlimited use of its Supercharger network), not all public charge points are free these days.

Can you charge your car for free anywhere? ›

Yes, it's free at some supermarkets. Tesco, for instance, has over 900 chargers across more than 500 locations, and provides free charging on its fast 7/22kW chargers, whilst customers need to pay on the rapid charge points. Other supermarkets with free EV charging points include: Sainsbury's, Lidl and Aldi.

How much will my electric bill go up charging my Tesla? ›

Across all Tesla products, the average charging cost per mile is 4.56 cents per mile. So, if you only charge your Tesla at home, you can expect your electricity bill to increase by about $50 each month.

Will an electric car last 20 years? ›

Electric motor maintenance is limited to coolant changes every 100,000 miles. Engines, in addition to coolant, require regular oil changes, air filters, and likely spark plugs in that time. Both motors and engines are proven to last upwards of 20 years.

Is buying electric car worth it? ›

But a 2020 Consumer Reports analysis found “owning an electric vehicle will save the typical driver $6,000 to $10,000 over the life of the vehicle, compared to owning a comparable gas-powered vehicle.” That's taking into account fuel, maintenance and repair costs, as well as purchase price, financing and resale value.

How much does it cost to run an electric car per month? ›

For an EV, you will use about 394 kWh in that timeframe. Using the U.S. household average from June 2022 of about 15 cents per kWh, it would cost about $59 per month to charge an electric car.

How far can an electric car go on a full charge? ›

Full-electric BEVs today have an average range of 250 miles on a single charge. However, newer models from marquee companies like Tesla and Mercedes can go as far as 600 miles in one charge.

How long does it take to charge an electric car at a fast charging station? ›

Rapid chargers are the fastest way to charge your electric vehicle, providing between 60-200 miles of range in 20-30 mins.

Can electric cars go on long trips? ›

Can you take an EV on a road trip? You can take an EV on a road trip as long as you plan ahead: Look for charging stations along your route ahead of time, especially in places you already plan to stop; combine charging with food stops or supply runs, and always have a plan B.

How long does it take to charge an electric car on a road trip? ›

If your battery is nearing empty, it could take up to 50 hours to power it all the way up. Level two is the most common and delivers a full charge from empty in anywhere from four to 10 hours. As for cost, it varies, but is typically significantly cheaper than paying for gas — especially these days.

How fast can an electric car go? ›

The average top speed of an electric car from this list is 110 mph. That's a bit lower than a standard car could claim – and bumped up considerably by Tesla's performance prowess – but for electric car drivers speed and performance aren't necessarily a priority.

What do I need in my garage to charge an electric car? ›

Every new EV is sold with a Level 1 charging station. It can be plugged into a standard household 110-volt grounded wall outlet and usually requires no upgrade to your utility panel. A Level 1 charging station will deliver about 5 miles per hour of charge.

Do electric cars depreciate faster? ›

Unfortunately, electric cars depreciate a bit faster than gas-powered cars. The most significant vehicle depreciation typically occurs after purchase and within the first three years. According to an iSeeCars study, EV owners can expect 52 percent depreciation in the first three years.


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