electric car charging

Charging an electric vehicle – exactly how does it work?

The transition to e-mobility is not easy when you are not familiar with how charging an EV works and all the charging solutions available today. A lack of knowledge about electric vehicles and charging can give rise to soul-searching questions and doubts. To give you a clearer picture, we would like to present the EV charging ecosystem.

Charging an electric car involves the following component parts:

  • the grid
  • charging stations and power outlets
  • charging cables
  • the on-board charger
  • the battery

The grid

This covers the electrical supply installation into which you connect your charging equipment: public mains supply, electrical installation in your home, flat, apartment block or workplace.
For people living in a single-family house, charging from your electrical installation means you have control over your budget and can charge whenever you want. Most homes in the UK have a single-phase power supply. It is also increasingly frequent to find three-phase power supplies when the meter rating exceed 18 kVA. To charge your EV at home, you don’t necessarily have to change your single-phase power supply to three-phase. In fact, installing a three-phase charging solution at your home can be a complex, costly affair for a paltry increase in charging speed. In short, it’s up to your charging solution to adapt to your power supply and not the other way round.

Although the situation may be more complex than in individual houses, the power supply in flats and apartment blocks can also be used for charging. In the UK, chargepoint grant schemes have been set up to give broader access to charging to tenants and owners living in flats and apartment blocks. As the energy transition progresses, further measures may be upcoming to facilitate access to the grid for flats and apartment blocks. In all events, you will need your landlord’s or the freeholder’s permission before carrying out grid connection work.

The cost of the installation is payable by the occupier.

Company, trader and hotel power supplies can also be used for charging and businesses can provide access for their employees and visitors. This practice is becoming more widespread in the UK with specific infrastructures which may include business fleet charging management.

The public infrastructure is made available via public charge point operators (CPO) who install the charge points and ensure their maintenance. CPOs are free to apply their own tariffs. Pricing is not currently regulated in the UK. These charge points are mainly accessed via a charging pass.

Recharge publique

Charging stations and power outlets

Home charging station

Home charging stations are sometimes called a «wallbox». Home charge points come in a variety of power ratings so that they are compatible with different types of electrical installations and vehicles (single-phase and three-phase). They may use smart technology or not, and be equipped with an attached cable or not. They may also may offer the option of connecting the charging station to your smartphone. Their main assets lie in making charging faster than plugging into a conventional power socket and allowing you to charge your EV whenever you want.

Mobile charging station

A mobile charging station is an EV charger where you can swap over the connection type by using plug and socket adaptors. Purchasing a mobile charging station means you can quickly change the connector on the infrastructure side so that you can top up on all connector types along your journey. This is an ideal solution for people who travel a lot and represents an alternative solution to multiple charging station cables and a home charging station.

Public charging station

There is an estimated 42,000 public charging points in the UK (October 2022, source Zap-Map) compared to 60,040 in France (30 April 2022, source Avère France) where the goal is to reach 100,000 charging points by end 2022. Charging stations with a Type 2 connector are the most widespread in the UK and throughout Europe. They provide fast and rapid charging for EVs. There are also charging points with a Combo CCS (rapid) and Type 1. In Paris the old network with Type 3C charging stations is still going strong.

Domestic power socket

An EV can be plugged into a domestic power socket on an occasional basis, delivering a power rating of 2.3 kW.

Heavy-duty socket and Green Up socket

You can also install a heavy-duty socket (CEE17) or faster charging than with a conventional domestic power outlet. Heavy-duty sockets come in a variety of forms and can deliver a power rating of between 3.7 kW and 22 kW when used with a mobile charging station fitted with a CEE17 adaptor.
When used with a compatible charging cable, the Green Up power socket patented by Legrand also provides faster charging than a conventional domestic power outlet. It can deliver a power rating of up to 3.7 kW.

Chargind station

Charging cables

Charging cables connect your EV up to a charging station or power outlet. A cable is comprised of a car-side connector (Type 1, Type 2, CHAdeMO, Combo CCS) linked to the charging infrastructure connection point (charging station, domestic power socket, heavy-duty socket).

💡 To charge at a public charging station, you need to be equipped with a cable that is compatible with your EV’s connector and have the right connector on the charging point side.

The on-board charger

There is a range of on-board chargers to match different EV models. In simple terms, it is the on-board charger that determines the vehicle’s power rating and also converts alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC) before delivering it to the battery. If you are thinking of purchasing an electric vehicle in the near future, you need to opt for the right on-board charger as this will dictate what type of charging you can carry out (slow, fast or rapid).

The battery

The battery determines the capacity of your EV in terms of mileage. The greater the capacity, the longer distances your EV can travel. On average, an EV battery delivers a range of between 60 and 310 miles (100 and 500 km).

Recharger une voiture electrique cable de recharge pour voiture électrique

In a nutshell

In short, all the items mentioned above give you a better grasp of what you need to take into account when deciding on charging options. When you have a cogent idea of the differences between the power supplies available (private, public) and the various charging and power ratings that vary from one EV model to the next, you will be better armed to determine your needs and opt for the right charging solution for you.


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