What charging times for EVs can you expect in the UK?
One of the most common questions when it comes to electric vehicle ownership is how long does it take to charge them? 30 minutes? Overnight? 24 hours? What determines the charging time and are there ways to speed it up, or factors to avoid which could slow it down?
Charging times have decreased drastically over the last 10 years, as the technology of both electric vehicles and their charging outlets have improved. Some of the fastest and most powerful “superchargers” can provide a full battery in less than 30 minutes! Thankfully nowadays, with 7-kW chargers being commonplace in public and easily available at home, most cars can be charged fully overnight ready to drive the next morning. Even a top up of a hundred miles can be achieved in only 30 minutes. The time it will take to charge your electric vehicle depends on lots of factors, of which I will explain in this article.
Does the size of your battery really matter?
Your battery is a key component of your EV, and similar to the fuel tank on a regular petrol vehicle, it has a certain capacity to store energy. The more energy it can store, the further it can travel before it needs recharging. Rather than litres of fuel, an EV battery stores kilo-Watt-hours (kWh) of energy, and the more it can store, the longer it will take to charge.
A small 16 kWh battery may be fast and cheap to charge, but it won’t get you very far on each drive due to its size. A large and modern 120 kWh battery may take hours to fully charge, but you can rely on it for more than 300 miles. Some efficient EVs even reach an impressive 600 miles in range!
How long does it take to charge an EV battery?
In order to charge your EV’s battery, you will need a charging outlet. Their power is measured in kilowatts (kW) and the way they fill a battery is by supplying it with a constant charge, at its power rating. The time required to fill an EV battery can be calculated by dividing the capacity of the battery by the power rating of the charger. For example, an 80-kWh battery being charged with a 7-kW connection would take just over 11 hours to fully charge. If the car was rated for a 22-kW charger, it would reach its capacity in just under 4 hours.
Electric vehicles are becoming far more common, and the infrastructure is expanding quickly to accommodate new demand for charge point availability, as well as charging speed. There are currently 3 levels of charging, known as “Modes”, with each higher level being a multiple of the charging rate of the previous.
Mode 2 charging (your basic residential 3 pin connection) has always been available, providing charging rates of 3-kW.
Mode 3 is now standard in homes across the UK and public places, with minimum charging rates of 7-kW, going up to 22-kW.
Mode 4 is becoming more common as demand increases, boasting charging rates from 44-kW all the way up to 350-kW.
To compare these speeds, let’s say you have the same EV as before with an 80-kWh battery. The Mode 2 charger would take over 26 hours to fully charge. Mode 3 would take just over 11 hours, and Mode 4 would take only 3 hours to fully charge!
Your electric vehicle will have a “maximum” charging rate
Keep in mind that not all EVs are designed to handle some of the higher power rated chargers. Always check your vehicle’s specifications to know whether or not your charge rate will be utilised.
Your EV manual will show the maximum charging power in kW, and will often indicate “charging speed” in miles per hour.This does not relate to the speed that the car drives, but to the “charged miles” you can drive after each hour of being plugged into your outlet.
For example, a car with 40 mph charging speed will drive around 40 miles for each hour it’s charged, at its highest rating.
Can the weather affect EV charging speeds?
Temperature can be an important factor in charging times. The cooler the ambient temperature you are charging in, the less efficient your charger’s transfer of energy, and the longer it will take to charge your vehicle. This is an important point, as charging your EV outside at night during winter will result in a noticeably lower charging speed, than if you charge it in a garage at room temperature. Charging at 0 degrees versus 25 degrees results in a nearly 50% lower charge rate, almost doubling charging times!
You can check Geotab’s handy ‘Temperature Tool,’ to see how your electric vehicle may be affected here.
Generally, no. Most of the time during your daily outings you won’t use the full range of your battery, and topping it up for a few hours each night will be enough. Longer journeys could be difficult, although petrol stations with infrastructure tend to have good access to Mode 3 and 4 charging points, allowing you to recharge enough to get you going in a reasonable period of time. Usually a 30-minute charge can provide you with an extra 100 miles of range.
Charging at home vs charging on the go
These quick top-ups while out and about would generally be enough to get you from A to B, but it won’t be nearly as cheap as charging from home. The availability of Mode 3 and 4 charging points is certainly helpful though, as the best Mode 4 stations are exclusively located in high-traffic areas, fully recharging your EV in as little as 30 minutes – as long as your vehicle is rated for super-fast charging.
How much faster will home charging become?
The electric car charge time depends on the technology used, and the rate that your battery can handle. If you wanted to charge a 100-kWh battery in 1 minute, you would need an absurdly powerful 6,000-kW charger. This would be a serious piece of equipment, absolutely dwarfing the power of our current fastest DC chargers at around 350-kWh, so it’s safe to say we won’t see 1 minute charging times anytime soon.
As the technology matures however, the cost of Mode 4 charging ports will eventually decrease from their current heights of tens of thousands of pounds, to maybe a couple of thousand, or even a few hundred, it’s just a matter of time. At this point we will be able to fully charge our cars in a matter of 20 minutes at home, but it’s still a long way off. The electric grid would also need to be upgraded to allow residential properties access to 400 Watt+ outlets, which would require an innovation of infrastructure that isn’t coming anytime soon.
How does this all apply in practice?
To illustrate everything we’ve been discussing, here are some examples of common electric vehicles, along with their fastest charging times, according to their manufacturers.
Up to 82kWh
Max Charge Rate
Will charging cars ever be as fast as filling up your tank?
Current Mode 4 chargers are capable of delivering 350-kW, so if you have an 80-kWh EV, you’d be able to fully charge it in around 14 minutes. That’s fast, but not quite as fast as pump speeds, filling a tank of fuel in just 2 minutes. What will likely happen is that EVs will eventually become efficient enough that the range per kWh increases to the point where a 2-minute charge would provide enough power to cover 300 miles. We are a long way from that but with constant battery range, efficiency, and charging speed improvements, it’s certainly not unimaginable, and electric car charge times will most definitely decrease in the future.
For now, how long it takes to charge an electric car in the UK really depends on a wide number of factors outlined in this article. Some of them you can control, like battery capacity and the type of charger you buy, and some you can’t under certain circumstances, like temperature. Knowing all these factors will help prepare you to adequately plan for enough time to charge, whether you’re doing an overnight charge for tomorrow’s commute, or stopping for a coffee while your battery tops up another hundred miles at a local Mode 4 supercharger.