Electric Cars

Electric car charging explained

The charge of the electric vehicle (EV) brigade is bringing with it a whole new world of technical terminology that’s going to take some time to get used to.


BEV, HEV, Regen and REx: they’re all new terms to thousands of motorists, especially those considering switching over to an electric car in the near future, read our previous glossary for help with those terms.

Going one layer deeper, to the specific topic of charging your vehicle, another catalogue of lingo can be found. So to help you understand more about car charging jargon, here is a list of some of the terms and phrases you might come across:

Combined Charging System: There are several different types of charging connectors to power up cars and CCS is one of them. It’s a popular choice which features a regular ‘Type 2’ connector for slow charging, such as at home (more on that later) plus an extra DC connector which allows for more rapid charging: useful when you are away from home and need a quicker top up.

Charging up overnight is fine if you don’t intend to go out again until the morning. Even so, some household slow chargers still won’t be quick enough for everyone and that’s where a fast charger comes in. With a charging speed of between 7kW to 22kW, it’s capable of topping your battery back up to full in 5 to 10 hours. For people who do a lot of town or urban driving, that should be sufficient. You’ll also find these types at shopping centres, supermarkets and restaurant/retail outlets where you might be planning to stay for a couple of hours.

If you own an EV the last thing you want is to be ICEd. It’s got nothing to do with winter weather or scraping windscreens. Being ICEd means someone has parked a petrol or diesel car with an Internal Combustion Engined (ICE) car in a space designated for electric vehicles – and that means there’s a charger there. It can be very frustrating and inconvenient whatever the reason. Possibly the other driver didn’t notice the signs saying it was an EV space or occasionally the driver just didn’t care. Either way, you have to find the careless owner, or hope there’s another designated space somewhere.

This is a unit of energy, more specifically a unit of electricity. So an electric car that has a 20kWh battery will take 20 units of electricity before it is completely full. The vehicle’s power gauge will tell you how quickly the charge is running down, depending on the length of time and style of driving. The maths is fairly simple: if your car has a 5kW motor to power it you would get four hours of motoring (20 divided by 5).

If you’re running low on power while on the motorway, a rapid charger is useful because it will top up your car’s battery much quicker than the trickle of an overnight slow charger. They draw much greater power, 40-50kW or even more, compared with 7kW of a domestic charger. Technology is improving and already cars are becoming equipped to take very fast charges of over 200kW which can put three quarters of power back into a battery in half an hour. Even 15 minutes – a cup of coffee at a motorway service area – can give you 40 miles’ range.

RFID card
A little like owning a bank or credit card, an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) card allows you to operate an electric charge point using a particular supplier’s App. They’re not universal so you need to have an account set up with a supplier to use their RFID card. If you have more than one supplier stored as Apps in your mobile phone, you probably need a separate card for each one. With the account working the supplier can track your usage and take payment for your electricity.

In today’s high-speed ‘must have now’ society there’s still something quite comforting about a slow charger. Ideal for household use, you simply plug your car into one of your home’s three pin plug sockets with a cable supplied by the car maker, and leave it trickling overnight. There are public, street-sited charge points like this too. Simple and convenient, they will charge at around 3kW, which means around 10 to15 hours plugged in for a full top-up.

Smart charging
Smart charging systems work intelligently to help suppliers monitor their charging stations: how they are being used, by what number of vehicles, and how busy they are. That gives them the opportunity to track usage and restrict it if necessary, optimising the current grid that supplies the energy, reducing the risk of overloading and removing the need for investment in areas where it’s not going to be needed. This ensures efficient charging using the available power.

Type 1/2/CHAdeMO cables
Most cables that are supplied with your new EV are Type 1 or Type 2. Some cars will have a CHAdeMO cable. Type 1 cables are mostly seen on Japanese, Asian and American cars and are a five-pin design with a latch that keeps it in place when connected to the vehicle. Type 2 cables feature a seven-pin design and a locking pin to secure the plug in place. CHAdeMO is a trade name, meaning Charge de Move (charge for moving), and works with other companies to offer charging solutions of their own. Using DC (direct current) for charging it offers another way to power up an EV.

Vehicle to Grid: Don’t need all the electricity you have stored? Give some of it back to the grid then. That’s what V2G is all about. There are many ways in which households can supply the grid with unwanted energy, such as that gained from roof-mounted solar panels, and this system is similar. When a battery powered or hybrid car is parked up and not using energy, if it’s plugged in, it can trickle back unwanted electricity to the grid. That’s very useful at times of high usage and profitable too: owners signed up for V2G earn money from the electricity they give back.

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