What’s the difference between AC and DC electricity?

AC and DC are to the electric car what petrol and diesel are to conventional vehicles. You can think of them as the ‘fuels’ that keep your battery topped up.

However, unlike petrol and diesel, you never need to worry about which ‘fuel’ you put in your electric car. It’s all handled by the charging unit and the car. But what’s the difference between AC and DC?

What is AC?

AC stands for ‘alternating current’. Mains electricity from the grid is an AC supply, with around 230 volts entering our homes. As EDF says, ‘it’s better for transporting current over long distances, which is why we use it for mains electricity’.

What is DC?

DC stands for ‘direct current’. Domestic appliances require a DC supply, which is why they have converters built into the plug.

Electric cars also rely on a DC supply, so they use an ‘onboard charger’ to convert power from AC to DC. This is then fed into the car’s battery.

Charging your electric car

AC and DC chargers

You don’t need to worry about the difference between AC and DC, but it’s worth knowing the impact they have on charging speeds.

The vast majority of charging units in the UK use AC power, with the conversion to DC handled by the car. This slows the process, which means it takes longer for batteries to be recharged.

With the exception of the Type 2 43kW unit, rapid chargers supply DC directly to the car, speeding up the process. It’s why rapid chargers can potentially provide an 80 percent charge in an hour.

Unfortunately, rapid chargers aren’t suitable for home installations, so charging overnight is preferable. You’ll find rapid chargers at motorway service stations and close to major roads, making them ideal for a quick top-up while on the move.

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