Electric cars have soared in popularity, with more people looking to lower their carbon footprint, make use of the government incentives and get in ahead of the 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles. Naturally, this has also boosted the number of charging points being installed in UK homes. But how does this work and what technology is needed?
A wide variety of home car charging solutions is available. “It can be very confusing because you’ve got different vehicles and different sized batteries with different capabilities in terms of how quickly they charge, plus you’ll need to work out the capacity/speed available from your building’s mains power,” says Yen Dai from Eco Energy Environment. As a rough guide, a 32-Amp capacity is commonplace and will generally offer a decent charging time. As well as fully electric cars, plug-in hybrids can also be charged at home.
Learn more: How can I Make a Home More Eco Friendly
If you’re self building or rewiring as part of a renovation project, then consider how EV charging will impact on the kind of home electrics setup you get installed. Plugging your shiny new electric car into a standard wall socket is unlikely to result in an efficient charging time and it could overload old wiring, becoming a fire hazard. Instead, a dedicated charging point is best.
Even better is a smart setup that allows you to tap into cheap tariffs in the middle of the night – in fact, shop around to find the best energy providers. Some, such as Octopus Energy, are specifically geared up to help you get EV charging sorted – and may even offer an installation service.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are commonplace on many home building projects to bring in renewable electricity (see page 82 for more on this tech). But fitting PV purely to power an electric vehicle is not necessarily an efficient solution, as there’s often a disconnect between generation and usage.
“If your car is sat on the driveway during sunlight hours then charging directly from solar PV is okay, but not if you’re out during the day,” says Yen. “It’s not really a logical sequence to get excited about solar panels because of EV chargers – the benefits of PV for your wider household should be the first consideration.”
Learn more: How to Maximise Savings with Solar PV
What about the option of solar battery storage, which could be topped up during the day when you’re out and about, leaving you with a resource to charge the car overnight? While this would allow you to take advantage of free PV energy, these solar batteries are pricey to install and unlikely to match the capacity needed to fill up your car.
So, Yen feels this is not the most efficient setup: “You’re just charging one battery to then charge another. The cheapest way to charge your car is from one of the new night tariffs via a smart setup.”
EDF says that EV charging home installation can cost from £529, but the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) says it’s common to pay up to £1,000. Charging points can be indoors or outdoors, and ideally no more than 10m from the car – be aware that there might be extra costs involved if your parking spot is not directly beside your property or you need to upgrade electrics/fit a new consumer unit.
There is a government grant of up to £350 for domestic installs under the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) incentive – but there are criteria to be met. The car model needs to be on its list, the installation can’t be done more than four months before you get the vehicle and you must have private off-street parking, plus a suitable location for the charge point. The grant can only be claimed by EVHS-approved installers, so it’s worth checking to see if it’s cheaper to use a local qualified electrician and forget about the grant.