Charging at home is the simplest, easiest and most convenient way to charge your car up. When you get home from work, a trip to the pub or walking the dogs you can plug your car in, leave it alone and return the following morning safe in the knowledge it’ll be fully juiced up ready for the day ahead. I mean, it make sense right? It’s time where your car sits on your drive anyway, doing nothing. You could argue in a lot of ways that it’s a more convenient way of refueling than visiting a petrol station, we certainly think so.
So how does it all work? Is it really as simple as plug-in, walk away and return a few hours down the line? Well, yes it really is. Apart from a few new habits and getting used to some funky terminology charging at home is really quite easy. We’ve detailed below the basics of charging at home along with a handy video with some visual demonstration.
Every EV driver will have used a 3-pin plug to charge their car up at one point or another. It’s not the fastest, safest or most efficient way of charging but until you organize the installation of a charge point, it’s the only way of charging your car at home. We speak from experience, we’ve recently made the switch from electric and are stuck using our 3-pin socket to charge our EV until our charge point is installed.
To charge from a 3-pin socket you need to use a special cable, called an EVSE cable (stands for electric vehicle supply equipment), that can connect to your car draw charge from your home energy supply. The cable should be provided by the manufacturer when you buy your car, unfortunately not all manufacturers do so it’s something that’s worth asking about at the point of sale.
On one end the cable will have a 3-pin plug to fit in to your standard 3-pin socket. On the other, it will have either a Type 1 or a Type 2 plug to fit into the inlet on your car. Type 1 and Type 2 are the two types of plugs used to charge cars at home, the plug you have is determined by what car you have. There’s no strict rule of thumb as to what cars use what plug, typically Asian manufacturers use a Type 1 plug and European manufacturers use a Type 2 plug. Having said this, the majority and Asian manufacturers have adapted the cars they sell into the European market to have Type 2 plugs. So in reality almost all vehicles sold in the UK will have a Type 2 inlet for home charging.
Ideally you need an outside plug socket. It’s not impossible to plug it in inside but for safety reasons it’s not the best idea (leaving a door or window open overnight) and the EVSE cable is only about 4-5m long so it won’t reach far. Get a grip on where the car’s charging port is as it varies for each vehicle. Some have it on the backside in the identical position to where your petrol cap normally is, other have it on the front of the car. Once you’ve identified where you’re plugging it in and where the car’s charging port is you can have your car facing in the right direction, positioned in a convenient spot that doesn’t block the drive.
The car has to be unlocked to open the charging port, but don’t worry, once you’ve plugged the car in and locked it, the cable automatically locks in place so you can’t be taken off charge by someone as a (im)practical joke. Remove the cap from plug socket and plug the cable into the car, it should slot in nicely like the final piece of a jigsaw. And voilà, without any catastrophic failure to follow one the instructions above your car should be charging happily. You can leave it it’s own devices, enjoy a brew and a nice night in. When you return the car will have been charging for the duration you left it and your battery should be topped up. Once you’re charged and ready to go, you can unplug the cable from the port, unplug the 3-pin plug from it’s socket and stow the cable either in your car, garage or somewhere else you see fit. We recommend keeping your cable in the boot of your car just in case you ever need some emergency charge, you never know when it might come in handy.
The major downside of charging with a 3-pin cable is that it takes a long time to charge. A really long time. You can draw about 2 – 2.3kWh. To fully charge a large battery of 64kWh that’s going to take a while. You can figure out how long your car will take to charge in hours by simply dividing the size of the battery by the speed of the charger. The kWh measurement of the charger is how many kWh’s it can put into your battery per hour. It’s like saying if you had a 64 litre jug of water, how long would it take you to fill it if your tap can pour 2.3 litres into it every hour. So charging a large 64kWh battery fully would take about 30-32 hours. Obviously if the car’s battery already has charge or if you’re charging a plug-in hybrid with a much smaller battery it’s not going to take as long. This is the main reason why we always suggest getting a proper home charge point installed, because three-pin plug charging just takes too long. If you think ahead and plan your timings and trips rigorously you can get away with three-pin charging but usually it should used as a backup option and a useful tool when you’re travelling somewhere where you’re not sure if you’ll have access to a charge point.
Three-pin charging cables aren’t as safe as a fully installed charging point. The electrical demand can become too much and can potentially cause a fire. Be careful if using an extension cable as well, they’ve been known to melt due to the demand of charging.
Overall, there is a place for a 3-pin plug in home charging. We have been using ours to charge our EV intermittently for the last month and haven’t found any issues. It’s definitely useful for emergencies or for when you’re staying at a friend’s house and you need to steal their electricity to charge up. If you follow the instructions above you should be fine, but as a long term charging solution, you should opt for installing a proper unit at home instead. A lot of the same principals apply to charging from a home charging point unit, if you’d like to read more about it feel free to check out our article here.