We use cookies to make the site simpler. Find out more about Cookies.

Guide to Electric Car Charging in the UK

Guide to Electric Car Charging in the UK

A Record number of people have been buying electric cars and plug-in hybrids across the UK in 2019 - electric car sales increased by 110% in January, with the UK seeing more than double the number of pure-electric cars on the road compared to the same period last year.

According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 1,334 electric cars were sold in January, which is 635 more than in January 2018.

These figures clearly indicate that electric cars are becoming more and more popular in the UK.

While sales for pure-electric cars have shot up, sales for plug-in hybrids have decreased, with 15.6% less PHEV’s being sold in January. Sales for petrol-electric cars increased by 38.3%, while diesel-electric hybrid sales decreased drastically from 38 in January last year to only 1 this year.

In summary, 6.8% of the UK population now owns an electric car.

While they are becoming more popular in the UK, a lot of consumers still have concerns about charging. How do you do it? Where do you do it? And how long does it take? This Rivervale guide sets out everything you need to know about electric car charging, including public charging networks, charging at home, charging at work, and charge point types.

View our hybrid & electric car leasing prices

How do you charge your electric car?


Experts predict that in the future we will be able to charge electric cars wirelessly - like wireless charging cases that charge our mobile devices. Charging an electric car is as simple as switching on the lights, all you have to is physically plug them into the socket, usually found at the rear. What determines how long a charge takes, is not just the size of a car’s battery, but how many amps it can absorb. The higher the number of amps, the less time it takes.

There are 3 main types of electric car charging: rapid, fast and slow. Each type has different charging speeds, therefore it can take longer or shorter to charge an electric car, depending on which charger you’re using. Despite all three charging methods having different charging speeds, all three are capable of topping up your electric car with power. Keep in mind that power is measured in Killowatts (KW).

✔️Rapid chargers are the fastest way to charge an electric car. They can provide up to 80% of charge in approximately 20 mins. Rapid chargers come in two forms - AC or DC (Alternating or Direct Current). Rapid DC chargers provide up to 50kW of power, while rapid AC units are rated at 43kW. Tesla Superchargers are also DC and charge and deliver power at a rate of 120kW.

✔️Fast chargers rated between 7kW and 22kW provide enough power to fully charge an electric car in 3-4 hours.

✔️slow chargers (rated at 3kW), as the name suggests, are not ideal if you want to charge your electric car quickly. However, they are useful if you want to charge your vehicle overnight. It takes between 6-12 hours to fully charge.

The Ultra-Low Emissions Zone Explained!

Currently there is no discussion about whether there will be a universal plug type for cars and chargers in the future, however you can check the location of charging points on Zap Map.

Here is a list of different types of connectors for each of the above categories;

✔️Rapid charger connectors



✔️fast charge connectors



✔️Slow charge connectors



Electric car charging networks

There are a number of public electric car charging networks across the UK, each one taking a different approach to charger access. Some operate ‘pay as you go’ systems, some require subscriptions fees, and others offer free power and cheap sign-up fees. The most common national charging networks in the UK include BP Chargemaster (Polar), Elotricity, Pod Point and Charge your car.

The BP chargemaster hub, located in Milton keynes Coachway, features eight-UK made 50kW ultracharge rapid chargers running on Polar, making it the largest public charging network in the UK. Payment and access is made through a smartphone app or RFID (radio-frequency identification) card. While it is compulsory for users to have an account set up, some rapid units with contactless PAYG card readers have been installed.


Users at Eloctricity go through a near identical payment process by registering via a smartphone app. It is different for Tesla owners however, all they need to do is visit a Supercharger station and wait for their electric car to charge.

There are regional networks too such as GeniePoint and ecarNI Network. GeniePoint covers areas such as the Lake District, Cornwall, and Hampshire. Similarly to Polar, users must have an RFID card or app to access any charging points. ecarNI has over 150 devices available to electric car drivers. They offer rapid and fast charging points to all customers for free, provided they have a RFID card.

We advise electric car owners to select a network that displays tariffs in kWH as opposed to cost per minute, simply because it's easier to calculate the overall cost of a recharge.

To find the price and times to charge an electric car on a public charge point, Zap Map's Public Charging Calculator works out the total charging cost for any new or pre-loved plug-in vehicle.

Read more: London T-Charge Explained!

Electric car charging at home

Charging at home is convenient for electric car owners because you don't need to worry about paying countless trips to a charging station and, most importantly, it is cheap. Thankfully, governments also provide £500 grants for the installation of home electric car charging points, and an additional £300 from the Energy Saving Trust (EST).


These come in either 3kW or 7kW and 22kW forms. For the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, for example, the 3kW unit can provide a full charge in 5 hours, while the 7kW unit reduces it to 3-5 hours.

Use Zap Map's Home Charging Calculator to estimate charging times for your electric car.

Electric car charging at work

Many companies across the UK have become fully aware of the benefits of electric car workplace charging units, therefore more and more companies are beginning to introduce them to the work place. Benefits include;

✔️You can save more than £1,000 a year in commercial fleet and employee fuel costs per 10,000 miles.
✔️You can offer electric cars charging to your employees.
✔️You can reduce employee “benefit in kind” tax for company cars.
✔️A green fleet can help reduce CO2 emissions and reach sustainability goals

As a way of encouraging businesses to install charging points, the government also offers the same £500 grant (also known as the Workplace Charging Scheme grant).

You can learn more about the Workplace Charging Scheme by visiting gov.uk.

If you want to find an electric car to suit your budget, click here.

Leave a comment for your chance to win £20 of High Street Vouchers. Each month we pick our favourite comment from the previous month - get involved for your chance to win...

The comments above do not necessarily reflect Rivervale's views unless clearly stated.

Back to car leasing blog Next post Previous post
Arval Lex Autolease Alphabet BVRLA Seagulls Leaseplan Sussex Cricket Leasys Hitachi Santander