Electric vehicle charging explained

One of the main issues for many people new to electric light commercial vehicles, indeed any electric vehicle, is how and when to charge, in this article we set out to explain the charging type options you may consider.

Alternating Current (AC) charging

Let's look at Alternating Current (AC) charging first which can be split into two sections single phase and three phase , now single phase can cover slow and fast charging with slow charging taking place almost exclusively at home at around 2.3 kiloWatt hour (kWh) along with the 7kWh which is the basic power rating of a dedicated home Electric Vehicle (EV) charger and seen as in the fast category.

In its simplest form slow charging involves a cable connected directly from a UK home 3-pin domestic socket to a Type 1 connector EV, this is the most common type of connecter used by EVs sold in the UK today. And as the home works on AC electrical system, there is an inverter, which converts this to Direct Current (DC) for the vehicle. It usually charges at 2.2kWh (10 Ampere or amps (A)) maximum or 3.7kWh (16A) maximum.

It is sometimes referred to as a 'Granny cable' but it should be remembered that with this type of charging there are no protective measures that allow control and communication with the electric car. Consequently, the charging interface is immediately live and offers no electrical protection and therefore provides little safety for the house, electric car and person charging the electric car.

Single phase charging continues up to its maximum of around 7.3kWh and again is mainly home based but there are many public and work-based chargers that are also rated at 7kWh.

The more powerful three phase is almost, but not exclusivity, found in industrial and commercial properties and as the name suggests it is actually three single phases, so is rated at three times the 7.3 kWh single phase, mainly 22kWh. This is not the maximum kilowatt rating of three phase as with a 63amp supply there are public chargers offering up to 43kWh.

It has to be remembered that when AC charging you need to make sure your light commercial vehicles has an AC/DC inverter to handle power ratings above 7kWh, as 7kWh is most the standard level of inverter on a vehicle, whether that is a passenger car or light commercial vehicle. This means even if you plug into a 22kWh charger you will only get 7kWh of power.

Direct Current (DC) charging

This level of charging is often referred to as rapid or ultra-rapid charging and, in general, start at 50kWh and extends up to 250Wh to 350kWh, because the chargers are DC supply the same as the vehicle, there's no need to 'convert' the supply but just like AC/DC inverters your vehicle will have its own 'internal' maximum capacity.

Just like AC charging, your vehicle will have a 'power input limited' so be aware of it and also remember DC charging is rapid but mainly up to 80% battery capacity and then it slows down.

So , hopefully we've explained AC and DC charging and you can look into your charging options feeling more informed. If you want to read more about charging EVs the Energy Trust has an interesting article.

  • Reviewed: 30 Jan 2024

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