Yesterday the electrician was round to fit a domestic charge point to the front of the house. We can now charge the car without having to run a cable through an open window, which is just in time for the first sub-zero temperatures of the season. For the benefit of anyone else considering one, here are some of the things we’ve learned.
If possible, you want to charge at home
After a month with the EV, it’s clear that the public charging network leaves a lot to be desired. That’s worth another post at some point, but basically it’s a rapidly expanding shambles of competing providers that isn’t as reliable as it should be. My wife can charge the car at work, but otherwise we only use the network for long journeys and do our charging at home. It’s cheap and it’s dependable, and for most EV drivers, home charging will be all they need.
You can charge at home without a charger
I’m not sure whether this is common knowledge or not, but you can plug an electric car into a normal wall socket. A dedicated charger will be faster, but it’s not essential. If you have a garage with a socket, that’ll do just fine. New homes often have an external wall socket for running lawn mowers. That’ll work. If you plan to charge the car overnight, the 8-9 hours it might take won’t be a problem and you can switch to a variable tariff and use cheaper electricity.
Chargers can be expensive, but don’t have to be
The average price for an EV charge point is around a thousand pounds for the charger and the installation. The charger unit itself will cost between £350 at the cheaper end to over £1,000 for some of the smarter and more attractive wall boxes. Most are sold with the cable or without, so choose the ‘untethered’ option if you want to use your own. Depending on how you want to use the charger, there are options for solar integration or monitoring devices and apps. Simpler options will be cheaper.
The government grant is painless to claim
For us here in England, there’s a government grant of £350 for domestic charge points. It used to be more, and Scotland is more generous, but what we have seems to work well enough. The paperwork is handled by the installer, so there’s very little for the end user to do, beyond proving that you own an EV and have somewhere to put a charger. Before anyone gets too excited about free money though, I noticed that chargers are VAT rated at 20%, which added £195 to our bill. So the government really did give with one hand and take it away with the other.
What we went for
Because we have the solar on the roof, we installed a Zappi charger, which is unique on the market as far as I know. It’s optimised for solar, and includes an eco mode that will only charge the car on surplus electricity that would otherwise be exported to the grid. This won’t be much use in the winter, but I hope to be able to charge the car for free for at least half the year. It was fitted for us by a local firm called Elecology, who did a fine job. It took about three hours.
We’re a pretty straightforward case, with a driveway and the fusebox at the front of the house. The house was rewired and we have smart meters fitted, but older homes might need extra work to meet current regulations for high voltage devices. (We need a fuse upgrade ourselves, which I’m sorting out through UK Power Networks and that should be free of charge.) Other situations may be more complicated, so it’s worth asking around a bit or talking to an electrician about what you need. You might also find deals through your energy supplier, your car manufacturer, or groups such as the RAC.
Of course, we do have the benefit of off-street parking, which not everyone has. There are other options for those without a driveway, and that might be worth a blog post of its own at some point. One of them is community charging through the Co-Charger app, which I intend to set up here. If you’re local, you’d be welcome to charge at my place.