How long does an electric car take to charge?

After “How far does it go?”, the next most common question I’ve heard since buying an electric car is “How long does it take to charge?”.

I think a lot of people find the answer surprising, I certainly did when I started investigating purchasing a hybrid and quickly found myself drawn towards the mysterious world of EV ownership.

The answer though is “it depends…”, quickly followed by “and that’s not really the right question anyway…”

It depends…

So, the reason it depends is that there are different charging speeds available to an EV (additionally, different cars have different battery capacities, but lets skip that for now…)

  • Trickle charging - Using a granny cable to plug into a standard home plug socket (here in the UK, that’s 240V at 10A - approximately a 3kW/h charge rate)
  • Fast charging - This uses a proprietary plug socket to charge at a faster rate: At home I have a 240V, 32A connection available, which equates to roughly a 7kW/h charge rate (however some cars can use public fast chargers that go triple this rate)
  • Rapid charging - The chargers you’ll usually find at motorway services, these have speeds starting at 50kW/h (although as batteries approach full things slow down so as not to damage the battery). Half an hour on one of these suckers and I’m pretty much full.

So, that’s the three types of charging, and you might have noticed that (aside from a hint at the end…) I didn’t actually answer the question at all, instead focusing on speed rather than time.

That’s not really the right question anyway

Let’s return to my other point - asking how long a car takes to charge isn’t really valid - rather the rate you gain range is. In other words the more useful value is how much range you can add to the car in a given period.

The reason for this is simple - when you drive an EV, your home is your refueling station 99% of the time, so you can wake up every morning with a ‘full tank’. I expect for the majority of users the range you get from a full tank is more than adequate for their average day, so the only time the recharge time is a consideration is when you’re going to go beyond that range.

Hence the correct question - if you know you’re going to exceed your range, how long do you need to plug the car in for to make the rest of your journey.

So how about I finally answer the question…

My car is a previous generation 2017 Nissan Leaf, with the 30kWh battery pack - this gives me an effective range of around 100 miles on a full battery which means I’m comfortable going about 80 between charges. I also paid a little extra to upgrade the onboard charger to 6.6kWh (ignore the confusing numbers - all this means is that the rate of charge I can get from a Type 2, or ‘Fast’, charger is twice the standard rate for the Leaf). With the general efficiency of my car I know that on the 3 types of charger mentioned above I can add:

  • Trickle charge - +10 miles of range per hour plugged in
  • Fast charge - +25 miles of range per hour plugged in
  • Rapid charge - +100 miles of range per hour plugged in

So, to put this in perspective, 99% of my journeys see me going less than 50 miles from home. On journeys on the boundary of that, if I can plug my car into a public Fast charger for just an hour, I’m comfortable. Likewise if I’m just having a day with a lot of local driving, just plugging in for an hour at home, or whilst shopping, is usually more than enough to give me the extra juice I need.

On long journeys I’ll take a bit of time to plan ahead, planning routes that stop at Rapid chargers (with back-ups in the plan incase the primary one isn’t available) such that I’m stopping at a charger around the time I’d want to be eating anyway - you’d be surprised how quickly half an hour can vanish! (I’ve been in the situation where I’ve plugged the car in, and by the time I’ve walked to a coffee shop and been served my car is close to full).

Doing this I’ve taken my car from Glasgow to Manchester (about 220 miles) without much fuss.

I suppose I wanted to write this post as this knowledge really opened my eyes when I was researching purchasing my car and is what ultimately convinced me that a full EV was for me, rather than a hybrid.

The beautiful thing is that over the past year or two EV’s have become even more capable, with larger batteries and faster rapid charging available (the basic new Nissan Leaf has 30% more range than mine for example, and one with twice the range is now available).

If you’ve stumbled across this post then I hope you’ve found it useful!