Paul Holdsworth, Engineer
31 Jan : Updated 21 Sep ● 9 min read
Many drivers will be switching to electric cars in the coming years if they haven’t already done so, especially given the government's goal of scrapping petrol and diesel car production by 2035.
By 2035, buyers of new cars will only be able to purchase electric vehicles or those powered by hydrogen. With that in mind, it's important to become familiar with electric cars and how to charge them effectively.
With many motorist actively researching the suitability of an EV to relpace their petrol or diesel vehicle, there are naturally lots of questions being asked during the process.
Perhaps the most popular of these? How long does it take to charge an electric car? And how will technology influence the speed of electric car charging?
In this guide, we'll uncover all that information and more, but if you’re looking for a quick and simple answer?
On average, it takes around 8 hours to charge an electric car from empty-to-full, but it’s important to remember that many owners choose to top up charge rather than running their battery to almost empty.
Several things are important to remember when it comes to the speed at which an EV’s battery charges, and knowing what these are can help you to determine which vehicle is right for your own needs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, your EV’s battery capacity can influence how long it takes. The larger the battery’s capacity, the longer it will take to recharge. Not all EVs have the same sized battery, and this also determines the range that your car can go on a single charge.
Here’s the battery size (capacity) of the UK's most popular EVs:
Battery Size (Usable Battery)
Tesla Model 3
As you can see, the battery size differs even between different models of the same vehicle, so it’s important to do your research to make sure you’re buying a car with a battery size that fits your requirements.
Don’t forget, you’ll get less miles on a charge with a smaller battery.
When considering how long it takes to charge an electric car, we often think about the length of time to make a full charge; charging the battery from flat to full.
But as we’ve already mentioned, most drivers will (and should) top up charge rather than running their battery to almost empty and completing a full charge.
It goes without saying that a battery that is already charged to, let’s say, 50%, will charge to full faster than one with less charge in it.
Be sure to account for this when calculating how long it’s going to take to keep your EV fully charged.
EV batteries are reported by some to lose around 10% of their range after 200,000 miles, which shouldn’t cause too many issues for most drivers over the lifetime that they own their car. Other reports suggest that this loss is between 2% and 3% each year.
But it’s not just the range that’s affected by an aging battery.
The health of the battery, in general, is also important to consider, as the older the battery, the longer it will take to charge; just like any battery that ages, it also affects the performance over time.
Regardless of whether you use rapid chargers or not, the current condition of your battery will affect how well it charges.
The maximum charging rate of the charging point plays a key part in how long your vehicle takes to charge.
And it’s important to understand that, even if your car can charge at a higher rate, you may find that the charger you're using can only charge at a maximum power rating which is lower than your vehicle is capable of.
An example of this can be seen by looking at the difference in charge rate between a 3-phase grid connection (that can deliver 11kW or 22kW) and a single-phase connection that’s commonly found in our homes (that can deliver 3.7kW or 7.4kW).
Putting this into context, here’s the difference between these two types of EV charger and a Tesla Model 3:
3-Phase Grid Connection
Single Phase Connection
Charge Time (0- >235 mi)
Be sure to understand when looking at the specs of an EV that you’re considering the charge power used for the timings. Most homes and public charging stations don’t use a 3-phase connection, offering a charge power that’s more likely to be 7.4kW.
Environmental factors can also influence the vehicle's efficiency of charging and doing so in lower temperatures will lengthen charging times, especially when using rapid chargers.
There are several different ways to charge an electric car, and the speed at which your vehicle charges will depend on what type of EV charger you’re using, and often whether you’re charging your electric car at home or at a public charger.
Here are the different ways of charging your EV you’ll find:
Slow charging take longest when it comes to charging your electric car, and these charging units are also known as untethered chargers.
Slow charging points, or slow charging using a normal 3-pin plug plugged into a socket in your home, usually run with between 2.3kW and 3kW, and most manufacturers will tend to inform their customers to use this only when there's no other option available as it significantly increases the time it takes to charge your car, with it typically taking between 10 and 14 hours at 3kW.
Many EV owners will have a fast charger installed at their home, given the fact that this speeds up the time it takes to charge, and these are also what you’ll commonly find in public spots such as supermarkets, shopping centres and retail parks.
Depending on your location and the charger you’re using, fast-charging stations will usually offer between 7kW and 22kW of charge. Most public charging points will offer 22kW, whilst most home ‘fast chargers’ will offer 7Kw.
And whilst it takes, on average, 4 to 6 hours to fully charge an EV with a 7kW fast charger, this is still significantly quicker than slow charging. A 22kW fast charger could do this in just a few hours.
Rapid chargers can charge an EV to around 80% of the battery’s capacity in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, with it taking just another 20 to get to 100%. Compare this to the time it takes to charge with a slow or fast charger and you can see the difference.
The downside, though, is that rapid chargers use a crazy amount of power (offering 43kW of charge) and you don’t be able to get one installed at home. You’ll usually find rapid chargers at motorway service stations and select other public places.
Remember we mentioned top up charging earlier? Here’s exactly what this means…
Top-up charging is a method of charging that many electric vehicle owners will take advantage of because not everyone has the opportunity to leave their car for a full charge every time.
Quite simply, top up charging is when you charge your EV’s battery before it’s run down to almost no charge. Whether you’re plugging your EV in whilst you do your weekly shop, are doing so at the services on the motorway or quickly adding charge when you’re at home for a short period of time before going out again, that’s top up changing.
Rather than leaving the battery to run flat, it's recommended to do a top-up charge, as this can usually help with the health of the cells in your battery. Where possible, you should use a combination of charging your electric vehicle at home overnight and top-up charging.
How far an electric car can go on one full charge or per hour of charge depends on the efficiency of the car's battery and the car's power. It can also depend on what features you use in the electric car that could use power quicker than normal.
Unsurprisingly, smaller EVs are be more efficient than larger ones For example, a Renault Zoe can get around 30 miles of range per hour with a 7kW charging point.
Bigger cars are heavier and require more electric consumption to get from A to B. For example, an Audi e-Tron Quattro gets 20 miles of range per hour at 7kW.
It's a good idea to look at your car’s manual, in particular, to see what range you can get out of it per hour of charging, how far your electric car can go per charge, or check out a source such as EV Database where you’ll find the specs for your car.
If you're looking to purchase an electric car, this is an important question to ask your dealer to ensure it meets your needs.
The current electric car charging time is relatively slow compared to filling a car with diesel or petrol, where you can be fueled up and ready to drive off in just a few minutes. With an EV, you've got to wait at least twenty minutes (and that’s when using a rapid charger) to get a significant top up.
The next generation of EV chargers are known as Ultra-Rapid chargers, offering a typical 100kW of charge. And these are only becoming more powerful, with the introduction of the ultra-rapid 350kW charger in 2021, which has the capability of fully charging an electric car in as little as 15 minutes.
It is clear that advancements are being made in the technology behind EV chargers, however, this is far from the same speed that traditional methods of fueling up will take. Of course, for many, the cost of charging an EV and the fact that this is significantly cheaper than filling up with petrol or diesel, balances out the time it takes to charge the car and most EV owners find that they get themselves into a routine of charging overnight and topping up as and when they can.
Whilst developments are being made, you shouldn’t expect to see Ultra-Rapid chargers available to install at your home anytime soon.
You'll always be ready to go with a fast car charger installed at your home.Get your fixed price now
The length of time it takes to charge your EV depends on a number of different factors, however the biggest contributor to this is the type of charger you’re using.
By understanding what your options are, you’ll be perfectly placed to know when and where to charge your car to ensure you’re never running low on charge.