Charging time is a hot topic when it comes to electric cars. The onset of rapid charging means that being stranded for hours waiting for your car’s battery could soon be a distant memory. Yet these chargers are still relatively rare, so what are your options the rest of the time? Here we look at all the methods and what are the best approaches to keep you going.
As the name suggests, this method results in the longest charging times, with some larger EVs needing up to 24 hours to replenish their batteries when charged this way. Even something as humble as a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery will require nearly 12 hours for a full battery. Normally running at about 3kW, these chargers are occasionally still found at public charging points but are more often than not the portable type that feature a three-pin plug for use with a domestic electricity supply. Most electric cars get one of these units as standard, but the ever increasing size of battery packs mean that most manufacturers recommend using them only when no other charging method is available. Of course, if you don’t cover many miles a day, then slow charging allows you an easy way to top-up the car’s cells overnight, while the slow rate of charge means less heat is generated in the battery, which can help prolong its useful life.
This is quickly becoming the most popular method of charging, particularly for domestic use. Fast charging runs at either 7kW or 22kW, with the latter usually being reserved for public charging points. Most dedicated domestic wallboxes, such as a Pod Point, run at the lower 7kW rate, which roughly halves the time it takes for a full charge compared to a slow charger. So for example, you can expect a Nissan Leaf with a 40kW battery to be fully recharged in about six hours, while a Tesla with a 75kW battery will require about 12 hours. 22kW requires a three-phase electricity supply, meaning they are a rare and expensive solution at home. They also require a car that can accept Direct Current (DC) charging as well as the more prevalent Alternating Current (AC) method. If your car can accept this rate of charge, then expect charging times to be slashed by around half compared to the 7kW unit, so a 75kW Tesla will be charged in under six hours.
On paper, this is by far the fastest way of topping up the batteries in your EV, with some chargers able to deliver a significant injection of energy within just 20 minutes. Charging at anything from 50kW to up to 350kW, these units are usually found at motorway service stations and dedicated charging hubs. You’ll need a car that can handle this type of DC charging, and for best results you’ll only charge up to 80 percent of the battery’s capacity, because beyond this point the rate of charge slows significantly to protect the cells from the high temperatures involved in such high electrical currents.
Of course to make use of this capability you’ll need a car with a charging system that can accept rapid charging. Most entry-level models are available with an optional upgrade that allows DC charging of up to 100kW, while more expensive models such as the Tesla Model 3 and Model S can charge at a rate of 250kW. Some variants of the Porsche Taycan and closely related Audi e-tron GT use an 800 volt electrical system that can handle up to 270kW, while the Lucid Motors Air will claim a 300kW figure when it goes on sale next year.