The advertising paints a lovely picture. There’s the electric car outside a swooping modernist house, plugged into its bespoke charging point on the covered driveway.
It all seems so simple: arrive home, pull the cable from the wall and plug in. Tomorrow morning your electric car will be fully charged – on low-rate overnight electricity – and you have another day of green, quiet and affordable motoring ahead.
The reality today
Perhaps that is the reality today. Electric cars are generally expensive to buy, which means it’s mostly the well-off who can afford them. Hence the smart house with its off-street parking and easily accessible charge point.
However, the other reality is this: in 2020, most electric cars are used for shorter journeys, due to their limited range. That means city and urban environments are their natural habitats, places where mileage doesn’t build up quickly. Off-street parking is more of an issue in cities, too.
What if you don’t have a parking space?
Here are the options if you don’t have a dedicated parking space at home.
1. Run a cable from your house to your car
Not a good idea. The trip hazard if pedestrians are around is unacceptable. Anyway, you’re probably talking about an extension lead from your home domestic circuit here, which is simply too slow for charging, except in emergencies.
2. Public charging points
A fine idea in principle, so long as you can find one nearby. Yet there’s an issue with access if the charge point is in demand – and you’ll need to move your car once it has charged up, then find another parking space near home. Just as significant, charging from public points can be expensive.
3. Charging at service stations
Petrol stations are increasingly rolling out charging points for electric cars. It makes sense as more drivers migrate to this greener form of energy. Thus, in the near future, you’ll be able to recharge your car at the same place you used to buy petrol or diesel. It will take more like 30 minutes instead of five minutes, however.
4. Charging while you are shopping
Tesco has teamed up with Pod Point to install chargers across the majority of its large Tesco Extra supermarkets. You can even charge for free at its 7kWh chargers (the sort most home users have), although this will take hours for a full top-up. There are fast chargers, too, which are priced ‘in line with market rates’.
5. Charging at work
Many businesses feel they can help staff and boost their eco credentials by installing charge points in office car parks. Just don’t expect to rely on these. It’s all too easy for demand to overwhelm supply.
6. Buy a Tesla
Things will get better in future, but for now Tesla owners have two big reasons to smile. Firstly, their cars go further than most on a single charge. Secondly, the bespoke Tesla charging infrastructure is simply brilliant. It’s very fast and you’ll almost certainly find a vacant slot when you arrive. There are nearly 2,000 Tesla Supercharger stations in the UK.
7. Other high-speed chargers
Perhaps stung by the way Tesla hit the ground running with its Superchargers, the Ionity network has been set up as a joint venture between Ford, BMW Group, Daimler-Benz and the Volkswagen Group. It’s offering reliable, high-powered and fast charging across Europe. Some have suggested that electricity prices may be higher than you’d expect, but that is far from clear yet.
So… can you own an electric car if you don’t have a parking space?
Yes, you can. But it’s likely most people will find the inconvenience associated with recharging outweighs the benefits.