Charging an electric car at home is easier than you may think and many people have moved over to electric vehicles in recent years. With renewable energy, solar panels and eco homes on the rise, it's no surprise people are switching to low emission electric cars too.
With small city cars to luxury electric SUVs here to stay and the government intends that we all switch within the next few years!
The 2018 Road to Zero report set out the strategy to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, along with some measures to help us get there.
The government has since said that they will bring forward the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales to 2035, possibly even 2030; the ban will also include hybrid vehicles.
When it comes to charging an electric car some hybrids have a plug-in charging facility; in the case of ‘mild’ hybrids there is no facility to plug them in.
The biggest drawback of pure electric vehicles is their limited driving range, as most electric vehicles can only cover around 150-200 miles before needing to recharge. However, as vehicles’ batteries improve, so will their range.
This guide will explain all about charging an electric car at home, including how to make the most of the grants currently available.
Choosing an Electric Car
Businesses can also benefit through the plug-in van grant, which funds 20% of the cost of the new vehicle up to a maximum of £8,000, but the vehicle must have emissions of less than 75g CO2/km and can travel at least 10 miles with zero emissions.
Before you look into charging an electric car, you need to choose one.
In many ways, electric cars are actually no different from any other car from an aesthetic perspective and in the way that they are operated. Some have even become aspirational and iconic, including luxury SUVs and sleek sports vehicles.
There is currently a grant of £3,500 available for new, eligible low-emission cars. The plug-in car grant is only funded until April 2020 and it is not clear what will happen after that.
It would be prudent to check the latest information before assuming that you will benefit from this grant.
Types of Electric Cars
When buying an electric car, you have two main options:
- A pure electric car which only has an electric motor. The biggest drawback on pure electric vehicles is currently the charge range — most electric cars can only cover around an average of 150 – 200 miles per charge. As batteries improve, so will the charge range.
- A hybrid car which has a battery motor and another motor; the latter is currently either a petrol or (less commonly) diesel motor. When we are out on the road the charging time can be a deal breaker on longer journeys, which has lead to the increased uptake of hybrid vehicles.
With hybrid cars it’s important to note that sometimes the petrol motor may be no more than a generator and serve as a battery charger rather than a direct drive motor. At the other end of the hybrid scale, the electric motor can be secondary to the petrol motor and has no plug-in charging facility.
Either way establish at what stage the petrol engine will kick in, when purchasing, so that you can maximise the efficiency according to your use patterns.
We may also see the introduction of electric / hydrogen hybrid vehicles. Hydrogen vehicles are fully driven by a battery but a hydrogen fuel cell recharges the battery.
These vehicles are a little less efficient than pure electric cars, as it takes power to convert the hydrogen into energy.
The main benefits are that refuelling is significantly faster so this could be attractive to long-distance travellers and commercial and freight vehicles.
New Generation Batteries
Nissan have responded to the market for home battery systems and released the xStorage solution, which is a ‘second life battery solution’. The system recycles batteries that have already been used in Nissan cars and puts them to use in home battery systems.
Tesla, meanwhile, recover and recycle the material components of their batteries to create new units both for their electric vehicles and their Powerwall home battery systems.
Other electric vehicle manufacturers will undoubtedly follow in offering these types of solutions as their ranges develop. There is also an argument that a vehicle could double as the battery for a home.
During peak times the electric vehicle battery could be used to provide power to the home, which would then be recharged later that night when the grid demand is lower.
This is not currently an option in the UK, but could well be part of the future.
Installing a Chargepoint
When we do make that switch, most of us will be charging an electric car at home — and that has implications for a self build or extension/remodelling project.
You may think that it is ok to simply plug the vehicle into a standard 13 Amp wall socket. This is possible, but you need to realise that even with current battery capacities, you would still need to charge the vehicle for over 12 to 15 hours.
You need to make sure that the wiring in your home has been checked before plugging a home charger into a wall socket. Old wiring may not be able to cope with the demand from charging a vehicle for many hours, and could cause a fire.
(MORE: Extensions: Your complete guide)
What’s the Best Solution for Charging an Electric Car?
The best solution for charging an electric car is a dedicated charging point that usually has a minimum capacity of 32 Amps and a resultant charging time of five to seven hours. The latest chargepoints are also ‘smart’.
Even though chargers have not yet been standardised, or you may not yet have an electric car, it is well worth planning at least the cable into the build rather than retrofitting this at a later date.
As such, it is prudent to plan this into your building project and include it in the electrician’s brief.
The Ford Connected Wallbox is one example of how car manufacturers are innovating in order to meet increasing demand for charging electric cars at home.
The Ford Connected Wallbox provides over 27 miles of range every hour, providing a full charge for a Ford electric vehicle overnight.
This smart chargepoint can be paired with the FordPass smartphone app, allowing the driver to monitor the electricity used each time the vehicle is charged at home, as well as manage access to the Wallbox through its lock function.
Grants for Electric Cars and Chargepoints
A subsidy of up to £3,000 is available to buy vehicles listed as low-emission by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).
In theory, this should be included in dealers’ advertised prices, but some might have set their base prices to divert a portion of the grant to their own margins, so shop around.
OLEV also offers up to £350 towards chargers for the vehicles on its list, an incentive known as the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS). The charger must be OLEV approved and be put in by an authorised installer.
EVHS applicants must have:
Private off-street parking
A location suitable for chargepoint installation
Those with rented or company vehicles, or who are on salary sacrifice schemes, are eligible as long as they can show they will be the primary driver of a qualifying vehicle for not less then six months.
The grant is capped at 75%, so if the total cost is £350, the client will still pay
Using Solar Power When Charging an Electric Car
If you have, or are planning to install, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels it makes sense to use as much of the generation as you can. This means an electric vehicle can then potentially be charged for a large percentage of the year for almost free.
Now that would be fine if you happen to keep your car at home during the day. For most of us though, we need to use the car during the daylight hours. It is then only at night that we would like to recharge the vehicle when there is unfortunately no sunshine power to benefit from.
We also need to know how much energy we actually need for the car. A 4kWp PV array will generate around 30kWh per day on a bright summer day. Some of this will be used in the home and the rest will not recharge more than around 50 miles of energy. (During less bright days the available energy will be even less.)
One solution is a home battery. You can charge the battery during the day and potentially use that battery to recharge your car at night, benefitting from any free daytime generation.
Home batteries have got better in the past few years but the average capacity of a home battery is around 14kWh, whereas a car battery could be anywhere from 30kWh to 100kWh.
Therefore, using home batteries for charging an electric car would require a lot more batteries and PV panels than you would normally install.
(MORE: What is an eco home?)
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