The Electrifying guide to charging your car


We tell you watts what when you need to plug in

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4.12.2020

If you’re making the switch to an electric car, there’s one aspect of ownership that might seem a little baffling at first. Yes, we’re talking about charging. You need to get to grips with cables, kilowatts and connectors. No wonder it seems confusing!

But the good news is that charging is actually very simple and straightforward once you understand how it works. And we promise, you don’t have to be a scientist to get to grips with it all.

So, here’s our Electrifying guide to charging your car:

Understand the acronyms

When it comes to electric cars, there’s loads of new jargon and acronyms to familiarise yourself with and the first one to get your head around is kWh. It stands for kilowatt hour and is a unit for measuring how much electricity (or energy) you’re using. The size of an electric car's battery is measured in kilowatt hours. In very simple terms, think of the battery as the fuel tank of an electric car. The higher the kWh figure, the bigger the battery and the more fuel (electricity) you can get into it. 

For example, the least expensive battery on the Volkswagen ID.3 is 48 kWh, which means it can store a maximum of 48 kilowatt hours of electricity. Put simply, it would run a 1kW appliance like a kettle for 48 hours. It’s time to stop thinking about your miles per gallon (MPG) and start thinking about ‘miles per kWh’ instead.

The VW ID.3 - like 48 kettles

Know your kWh from your kW

The next acronym (see, we told you there are lots) is kW. And yes, you’ve guessed it, it stands for kilowatt. A kW is a measurement of the power created by a motor or engine but it’s also used to describe how quickly a charging point can fill up your car's battery. 

Power outputs of chargers range from 3.6kW right up to 350kW. The higher the number the faster the flow of electricity into your battery, with the most common being 7kW. But bear in mind that not all electric cars can charge at higher rates and you’ll be limited to the speed at which your car takes power. 

Watt's going on? A kW can measure output from an engine or a charger

Figure out the charging times

There are currently more than 30,000 public charging points around the UK and when it comes to delivering power, the king of the jungle is the ultra-fast charger, like the bp pulse150. With the right electric car, this ultra-fast charger can add up to 100 miles of range to your car's battery in around 10-15 minutes, so if you need to stop mid-journey for a quick top up then this is the charger for you. 

Next is the bp pulse 50, it’s the most common rapid charger around at the moment, with hundreds on the bp pulse network, and our ID.3 could take around 45 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 percent with one of these. Finally, you’ll find a bp pulse7, they’re often found in public car parks, supermarkets and workplaces. You’d usually use one of these points if you were planning to be away from your car for a few hours. So if you’re at work or doing a spot of retail therapy, these are perfect. 

It’s worth remembering that - generally - the faster the charge, the more it costs, but even the most expensive bp pulse150 is still cheaper than using petrol. You can also get a bp pulse home charger and can set your car up to charge using off-peak electricity. It’s a bit like having a petrol station outside your house, but without the ever-present smell of diesel and temptation to buy chocolate. 

bp pulse chargers have different power outputs

Know where to charge

Wondering where to charge an electric car? Basically, anywhere there’s electricity! But if you can park off-street at home, most of the time you’ll use your bp pulse home charger, which is great as it means your car is filling up whilst you're sleeping. But if you are planning a longer trip, or don’t have access to off-street parking at home, you’ll need to do a little research. 

There are a number of apps such as bp pulse and Zap-Map that will show you the location, status and cost of chargers in the UK. Most have live information, so you can see if someone is using the charger and how long they’ve been charging for, or if the charging point has any technical problems.

We suggest you download one of the apps and familiarise yourself with the location of charging points close to places you visit regularly, like work, friends or the gym. If you don’t have access to off-street parking at home then charging once a week for half an hour or less at a bp pulse150 could give you enough charge for your weekly driving and the bp pulse app can help you find the nearest one to you.

A home charger is the most convenient

Get connected

It’s easy to get confused with cables and connectors as they come in a few different flavours. There are three main ones: CHAdeMO, CCS and Type 2, along with an extra one known as a ‘granny charger’ with a three-pin plug which can be used in emergencies to add range. It only charges at around 2kW so it’s very slow and shouldn’t be used regularly as it draws maximum power from your sockets, so you’ll have to check that your electrics and fuse box are in tip-top condition. Otherwise, you might start melting things. Which isn’t good.  

Your choice of car, and how quickly you're going to charge, will determine which kind of cable you use when you are out and about. 

CHAdeMO is mainly used on Japanese designed cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV while the CCS connector is used on pretty much everything else. All you need to do when you arrive at a bp pulse charging point is pay via the app, website or using contactless payment or access card, connect the correct cable to the car and let the machines do their magic. If you’re using the bp pulse app or access card then you can even score a discounted coffee to enjoy while you wait at a bp service station.

If you’re charging overnight at home all you need to do is plug your car in to the wallbox and you’ll experience the joy of waking up every morning to a battery full of off-peak electricity ready to start your day.

At a bp pulse7 public charge point you’ll be using your own cable, which has a connector called a Type 2 at one end and the correct fitment for your car at the other. You simply connect it to your car, use the app, website or your access card to activate the charging post and then plug in. Once you’ve finished charging you just stop the electricity flow using the same app, web page or card and the cable will be released. 

However you charge it will soon become second nature, just like charging your phone. Waking up with a full ‘tank’ is bliss and topping up while you get on with working, shopping or at the gym makes complete sense. Better than that, it’s cheaper too and you’ll never have to fill up with fuel again!

Socket two them - under a Leaf's flap

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