Electric car charging at home
If you are able to charge an electric car (or plug-in hybrid) at home, you will benefit from the double whammy of having the most convenient and the cheapest way to charge your car.
Charging an electric car at home works out much cheaper than filling up a traditional petrol or diesel car, based on our calculations. It's definitely more convenient, and almost certainly cheaper (unless you are able to consistently use free charging points), than using public chargers.
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about charging your electric car at home, including what type of charger you need, how to speed up charging and how much it costs to install a charger.
Can you charge an electric car at home?
You’ll need off-road parking, like a driveway or garage, and you need to be able to get power to it. You’ll also want to get a wallbox installed – unless you want to spend 30 hours trickle-charging your electric car via a standard three-pin plug.
As more people and more people invest in electric cars, with the upcoming 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars, and depending on where you live, off-road charging could increase the value of your home.
Can you plug an electric car into a regular outlet?
You can, but you won't want to. A regular 2.4kW three-pin wall socket will mean you’re looking at very, very long charging times - in excess of 35 hours depending on the car. That’s an entire working week’s worth of hours just to charge your batteries.
You’ll want to slash those charging times by getting a wallbox charger installed.
You'll also want to avoid running a wire across the street as in the picture, below. While you can buy wire covers, it still creates a trip hazzard and some local authorities will take issue.
Get a wallbox charger
Electric vehicle wall charging units (also called wallboxes) are available in different forms and powers. They will drastically reduce charging time compared with a regular three-pin plug.
To get the best wall charging unit for you, you’ll now need to make a number of decisions:
- Tethered or untethered
- Type of plug
- Rate of power
- Smart or not
Untethered or tethered charger?
- Untethered: No attached charging lead. More hassle every time you want to plug in, but allows you to swap out the lead - such as from Type 1 to Type 2 (see below).
- Tethered: The charging unit has a power lead attached to it. It’s convenient as it means you can just pull up and plug in, as opposed to retrieving your car’s charging lead from the boot.
Do all electric cars use the same plug?
These are two different kinds of connectors for charging an electric car at home.
Most likely it will be a Type 2 connector. Most cars use this type of plug as it was mandated by the EU that all plug-in cars from 2014 must have a Type 2 socket.
There are some cars that have the older, differently shaped Type 1 socket, such as the Mitsubishi PHEV. But these are rare. Type 1 to Type 2 converters are available.
What power wall charger should I buy?
This is perhaps the most crucial bit. There is no single power option. Your typical choice is up to 7.4kW for a typical UK home.
To save money on the charger, you could choose a lower power rate (such as 3.6kW). Though it will take longer to charge your car.
It is possible to have an even faster charger, up to 22kW, but very few cars can actually receive a 22kW charge from an AC source like a domestic wall charger.
Even if your car is capable of receiving a rapid charge of 100kW or higher, that’s the special DC charging rate, as opposed to the car’s AC charging rate.
Can you speed up charging?
If your car can receive an AC charge of 11 or 22kW, it is possible to speed up your charging times. The only problem is that you need a three-phase connection, which your home is very unlikely to have.
Your electricity is supplied through either single phase or a three-phase supply. The difference between a single phase and a three-phase supply:
- a single phase network, simply put, has one live wire
- a three-phase network has three live wires. You could connect to all three for a faster power supply.
The good news is that the majority of the UK is served by a three-phase network.
The bad news is that most UK dwellings are attached to only one of those three live wires. So in fact, most homes have a single-phase connection, despite it being a three-phase network.
How to check if you have a three-phase connection
You probably won't. But according to UK Power Networks (the organisation that maintains our electricity networks), the way to check your own connection is to look at your fuse box.
- One 100 amp fuse means you have a single-phase connection
- Three such fuses means a three-phase connection.
As the three-phase network is widespread across the UK, it does open up the possibility of upgrading your single-phase connection to a three-phase connection.
If you want a higher rate of power, find out if it’s possible to upgrade by speaking to your energy supplier.
Do I need a smart charger?
Smart chargers are charge points that can be accessed remotely and will usually work via an app on your smartphone. They can allow you to monitor your car’s charging and potentially choose when your car charges.
The latter could be particularly useful if you have a time-of-use tariff, such as Economy 7, when the cost of electricity is cheaper during the night. So you could set your charger to charge your electric car during those cheaper hours.
However, this is offset by smart chargers being more expensive than regular chargers. Since July 2019, the wallbox grant (explained below) will only apply if the wallbox you are buying has smart functionality.
How much does it cost to install an electric car charger
With the OZEV wallbox grant applied (see below), it typically costs between £450 and £1,200 to buy and install a wallbox.
The difference in cost is largely down to the amount of power it can supply. The most affordable are 3.6kW chargers; while 22kW chargers are the most expensive. 22kW chargers will likely be in excess of most people’s needs (and power supply at home), but if you do have a three-phase connection, it might be considered good for future proofing.
Some wallboxes come with the option of a longer cable, which also adds cost.
For most, we’d recommend 7kW chargers - these cost around £500 to £700 to buy and install with the EVHS grant applied.
Save up to £350 with the wallbox grant - more if you live in Scotland
Through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), the UK government currently offers a grant toward buying and installing a wallbox at home. A separate grant is available for those wanting to install a charger at work.
The EVHS grant covers 75% of the cost, capped to a maximum of £350. This grant is separate to the Plug-in Car Grant (PICG), which reduces the cost of buying an electric car.
In order to get the wallbox grant, the wall charging unit has to be installed by a supplier approved by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV), previously known as the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).They will be able to claim for the grant on your behalf. You also have to meet these conditions:
- You are not permitted to claim for a grant if you have previously claimed against the scheme (or its predecessor, the Domestic Recharge Scheme) unless you own two eligible electric vehicles concurrently, in which case a second chargepoint grant can be claimed.
- If you are moving to a new home with an old chargepoint and wish to replace it, you would be eligible for the grant (providing you have not previously claimed against the scheme and all other requirements are met).
- The grant is only for retrofit (existing) properties; it cannot be used for new-builds or properties that are not occupied.
- As of 1 July 2019, the wallbox charger must have smart functionality. All models can be found on .
If you live in Scotland, the Energy Saving Trust will provide up to £300 further funding on top of the EVHS grant, with an additional £100 available for those in the most remote parts of Scotland (find out more from the ).
Unlike the EVHS, if you qualify for the additional funding provided by the Energy Saving Trust you will have to pay the supplier yourself before claiming reimbursement.
Vehicle to grid (V2G)
Vehicle to grid technology is an advanced form of power management, and it's a potentially crucial part of the electric car future.
Energy supplier Ovo Energy is currently running a vehicle-to-grid trial. If you're registered to the trial, you get to choose a charging schedule via an app on your phone. This sets the minimum state of charge you need your car to be and for what time.
For example, you’ve come home at 6pm in the evening, plugged your car in and specified that you want your car to be at least 80% full by 7am the following morning.
Overnight, your car will be charged when demand on the network is low, and when it’s more likely that energy from renewable sources is feeding the grid.
But when demand on the grid is high, the charger can take power from your car, power your home and sell any excess energy back to the grid, helping to manage the UK power network and earning you money.
Your app will tell you how much money you’ve made by doing this. The trial will run for two years. Ovo Energy estimates people could save up to £305 on energy bills.