Along with driving range, charging time is the other big issue for electric cars. There’s no way to sugar the pill: it takes time.
There’s still a long way to go before electric cars can match the few minutes it takes to fill up with petrol or diesel. Here are a few important truths.
1. The longer the range, the longer the charge
It’s simple maths. Cars with a long range have bigger batteries and these take longer to refill than lower capacity batteries.
2. Large cars take longer to recharge
Large cars tend to have bigger batteries. But their weight also means they consume more power, thus each unit of electricity carries you further in a smaller, lighter car.
3. The language can be confusing
Beware of the terminology around charging. The terms ‘fast’, ‘rapid’ and ‘ultra-fast’ are bandied around, but there is no hard industry definition. It’s all related to the rate a charger puts power into the batteries.
4. 30 minutes is often enough
A big selling point is how much you can charge in the time it takes to get a coffee. Many electric cars come with the claim you can add 80 percent in 30 minutes – although with longer range cars, you’ll need an ultra-fast charger to achieve that. Half an hour at a public charging point could give you another 100 miles in a small EV, however.
5. You can take your time at home
Home charging does not need to be a rush job. Most electric cars can be recharged overnight, making use of off-peak electricity and leaving you with the maximum range the next morning.
It’s also unlikely that you’ll park up at the end of the day with just a handful of miles left in the battery, so your overnight charge is likely to be more of a top-up up than a full fill. That means even cars with massive batteries, like the Audi E-tron 55, can get a useful dose, although if you wanted to charge the Audi from empty at home it could take 14 hours.
6. Charging at work could be free
This is an ideal scenario for many, allowing you to top up again, possibly using electricity your employer is paying for. Most companies have similar recharging stations to those used in homes
7. Charging on the run is trickiest
This is where it matters most, and it’s the area where owning a Tesla gives you a massive advantage. Not only do you get impressive battery range on Tesla cars, the company’s Supercharger network promises ‘the world’s fastest electric vehicle charging’. There’s also a network throughout Europe, which makes long-distance travel a reality.
For everyone else, it’s important to understand what you’ll be offered when you pull in for a power boost. Many points offer a choice of charging. There could well be a Type 2 slow charger, Type 2 fast charger, plus a CCS rapid charger of maybe 50kW and 100kW.
Your car may instead use a Type 1 charging cable, which is becoming unfashionable now (the Betamax to the VHS video cassette), but is still used on the Nissan Leaf.
You can find details of the best charger for your needs on Zap Map. Here’s what the website says about recharge times for a long range Hyundai Kona and the latest Nissan Leaf with the smaller, 40kW battery.
Car Slow Fast Rapid Rapid
3kW 7kW 50Kw 100kW
0-100% 0-100% 0-80% 0-80%
Hyundai Kona 64kWh 26 hours 9 hours 1 hour 30 mins
Nissan Leaf 40kWh 14 hours 6 hours 40 mins N/A
This gives you ballpark figures for two popular cars, and a good sense of what you’ll encounter when you arrive at a friend’s house and have to use their domestic socket (Slow), to your own home charging point and lesser public charging points (Fast), and finally to public Rapid chargers that are mostly found on major roads and motorways.