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Charging an Electric Car at Home

Charging an electric car at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

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 it will bring forward the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales to 2035, possibly even 2030; the ban will also include hybrid vehicles.

This guide will explain all about charging an electric car at home, including how to make the most of the grants currently available.

Essential Features if You Want to Charge an Electric Car at Home

Types of Electric Car

  • 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.
  • A hybrid car which has a battery motor and another motor; the latter is currently either a petrol or (less commonly) diesel motor. 

Plug-in Charging Capability

When it comes to charging an electric car at home, it is important to note that some hybrids have a plug-in charging facility; but in the case of ‘mild’ hybrids there is no facility to plug them in.

Driving Range

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.

Available Grants

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.

How to charge an electric car at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Charging an electric car at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can I Use a Normal Socket to Charge an Electric Car at Home?

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.

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.

Charging an electric car at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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

Electric car being charged

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

(MORE: 9 great projects with solar panels)

Bungalow with solar panels

(Image credit: David Barbour)

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 solar 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.

Next 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.

David is an expert in sustainable building and energy efficiency and is also director of Heat and Energy Ltd.