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Public Charging - Where, what, when and how

Unlike home charging, where charge points are almost always limited to 7kWh and take several hours to charge vehicles, the public charging network has the power supply to support charging of up to 150kWh. This means charging times can be reduced to as low 20 minutes. We’ve detailed the different kind of public chargers below:

Slow and Fast chargers

Not all public charge points are rapid chargers. You still commonly find slow 3.7kWh and fast 7kWh chargers in public spaces which provide the same charging rates as you get at home.

Rapid chargers

Rapid chargers provide power rates of either 25kWh, 43kWh or 50kWh. 50kWh chargers are the most commonly found rapid charger and have been for a number of years.

Ultra-rapid chargers

Ultra-rapid chargers provide power at a rate of 100kWh or more. These chargers are typically 100kWh, 120kWh or 150kWh. Although they are uncommon right now, they will be the next generation of public charge points. They’ll help keep charging times down as charging demands, vehicle batteries and vehicle ranges increase.

How long do they take to charge?

The higher the power rating the faster the charge. The time taken to charge also depends on the size of the battery, so we can provide a rough guide for how long each power rating takes but it will always vary from vehicle to vehicle. These estimates only apply to vehicles that are capable of accepting each level of charge.

Slow 3.7kWH chargers

Produce up to 15 miles of charge per hour and can take in excess of 12 hours to fully charge a vehicle.

Fast 7kWH chargers

Produce up to 30 miles of charge per hour and can fully charge a vehicle in 6-7 hours.

Rapid chargers up to 50kWh

Can charge a vehicle to 80% of full charge in 20-60 minutes.

Ultra-rapid chargers up to 150kWh

Can fully charge a vehicle, even with a large battery, in 20-40 minutes.

How much do they cost?

Public charging networks are more expensive than charging your car at home. You can double and sometimes triple the price you’d pay for charging at home.

Prices vary from provider to provider. Each have different approaches to pricing with some charging a monthly subscription fee whilst others choose to charge per minute or per kWh. Providers can also include registration costs and connection fees along with their cost per charge. You can see which provider charges what in detail in our available tariffs section…

As a rough guide you can expect to pay between £1.50 – £4 per hour for a fast charger and up to £10-12 per hour for a rapid charger.

Rapid chargers’ installation and operation costs are higher than other chargers, hence they cost more to use. You pay a premium for the convenience of faster charging.

We estimate a full charge from a fast public charge point costs £7-8 and £10-11 from a rapid charger. To put this into context, a full charge from a home charge point without an electric vehicle friendly tariff should cost you around £5. With a specially designed tariff this cost can be as low. £2-3

How do you access them?

There are at least 20 different operators running nationwide car charging networks in the UK.

The variety of offering is good, but can become complicated as each has a different method for accessing their network.

We’ve listed below the different ways networks allow you to access their chargers:

Free to use: These networks allow you to plug in and charge for free with no sign up fees and instant access. Access to these chargers may be limited and doesn’t include rapid chargers.

Smartphone app: To access these networks you must download a smartphone app and sign up through it. You can see locations of charge points and manage your payment directly from an app. If you want to access multiple networks you’ll have have multiple apps and multiple accounts.

RFID card: These networks use personalised key cards for access. They allow you to track and manage your payments and you aren’t dependent on phone signal. If you lose your card you’ll have no access to the charging network until a new one arrives and if you want access to multiple networks you’ll have to carry multiple cards

Card payment: You can access these networks without a membership. You pay for usage at the end of your charge with your debit or credit card. Because there is no membership required these networks are more expensive to use than other.

How does it work?

Understanding AC and DC charging

Most rapid charging works slightly differently to regular charging to accommodate for the greater amount of power being transferred.

Fast and slow charging is done through alternating current (AC). With AC charging the vehicle receives the power from the charger and converts it to direct current (DC) for usage. It does this using what is referred to as its “on board charger” which is really just a converter.

A minority of rapid chargers still use AC and are able to provide power rates of up to 43kWh.

Most rapid chargers use direct current charging instead. With DC charging, the conversion from AC to DC is done in the charger instead of the vehicle. This means the charger can feed power straight to the vehicle’s battery without the need for conversion. This is what allows for greater power rates and faster charging.

DC charging is more common than you think. The plug charging your mobile phone automatically converts AC power to DC for faster charging.

Types of plug for rapid charging

Since most rapid charging uses DC, the type of plug used to connect to the vehicle is slightly different to the ones used in AC charging.

You can’t use your standard Type 1 or Type 2 inlets used in AC charging. Instead CHAdeMO (short for Charge de Move) or CCS (Combined Charging System) inlets as used as standard. CHAdeMO inlets are typically used by Asian manufacturers and CCS by European manufacturers. However, as with Type 1 and Type 2 inlets, this is not always true.

CCS inlets are attached to the bottom of the regular Type 1 or 2 inlet on the vehicle. The CHAdeMO plug requires its own seperate inlet which means the vehicle has to have a larger charge port area.

Not all vehicles come with these extra inlets as they aren’t all compatible with rapid charging.

The minority of rapid chargers that use AC don’t require any extra inlet to facilitate higher power rates and uses the Type 2 inlet as standard.

Top Tip

Vehicles will only charge at the rate they are capable of charging, regardless power of the charger. If you plug your car that’s capable of 7kWh charging into a rapid charger, it will only draw power at a rate of 7kWhs and take hours to fully charge.

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