Why charging an electric car is quicker than you think
9th Jul 2020 Danny Morgan
If there’s one common complaint about electric cars, it’s that they take a long time to charge. Well, our editor Danny Morgan is here to explain why electric cars don't take very long to charge in reality and how they are actually much more convenient than a petrol one.
I am going to briefly explain why charging an electric car doesn’t take much of your time at all and why it’s much easier and quicker than you might think. You can watch my video below or if you prefer to read then scroll down.
Let us first agree that big batteries do take a long time to charge from empty to full and if you started a timer for charging an EV from empty and filling up a car with petrol, there’s no contest.
But therein lies the secret. Remember the phrase “empty to full” because that is key.
Separately, the world of battery technology and chemistry is advancing all the time, so I would not be surprised if the details of this article are out of date in the not-too-distant future. But right now, we are where we are – car batteries do take quite a long time to charge from empty to full.
Why charging an EV in the real world does not take 10 hours
Let me start off by saying, you will not need to charge up your EV for hours on end using a home charge point.
The reason these long charge times are referred to is because manufacturers must provide customers with accurate information on charge time, just like a mobile phone manufacturer would.
The easiest figure to quote is empty to full charge time or empty to 80%, which is usually anything upwards of five hours depending on the battery size.
Armed with this information, many people jump to the conclusion that to use an electric car you end up waiting around for 12 hours before you can use it.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality of EV charging is most people will only really “top up” the battery two or three times a week overnight. I know because that’s what I do, it’s what my fellow EV enthusiasts do, and it’s what many of our customers do.
You see, I can confidently say you will never charge an electric car from 0-100% - unless you set out to do so.
The reason is the average UK driver covers less than 30 miles a day. So, assuming your daily drive is the same most days then the battery only needs to recover those 30 miles on an overnight charge. Or perhaps 60 miles if you don’t charge it for a couple of days.
In fact, drivers with bigger battery EVs can go days without plugging in at all.
Like car. Like phone
Think of it like your mobile phone. They don’t have humongous batteries because that would make them heavy and unwieldy and, frankly, they don’t need huge batteries as they are regularly charged.
The quoted time for charging a phone battery empty to full is usually around 90 minutes or more. But how often do you run your phone battery down to empty? That’s inconvenient and just bad planning. If you ran the battery down to zero, the phone is unusable unless you’re sat by the plug socket.
What do most of us do?
Most of us plug in our phones overnight when we aren’t using them and wake up to find them fully charged. We might plug them in for a top-up charge during the day after heavy use, but even then we do so without really thinking about it and we certainly don’t wait for the phone to be fully charged to 100% before we use it.
We don’t even think about how long our phones take to charge. We go to bed, we plug them in, and wake up to a full phone battery at 100%.
Living with an electric car is basically the same. You don’t need the EV battery to be full to cover the distance you need on a daily basis, so this means you only need to charge the car to 60%, for example, which is much quicker than charging to 100%.
Even then, the charging is completed while you are doing other things (most likely while you're asleep) and not using the car.
What is my charging routine like?
My own charging routine reflects this. I have a Tesla Model 3 (and you can watch my Tesla owner review here). Its real-world range is probably about 200 miles for me – I’m not an efficient driver at all, so it could be higher for others.
When I drive to work, it’s a 27-mile round trip. Let’s assume I make the odd trip to the shop in between and round it up to 30 miles. Based on the daily mileage, I will only charge my car once a week, sometimes twice, and that includes weekend driving.
And even when it is charging, it doesn’t take me any “time” because it’s happening when I’m doing other things and the car isn’t being used.
In fact, it’s mostly charged for a few hours when I’m asleep. But I’m none the wiser because I’m busy… sleeping.
So, my electric car always has plenty of charge or range for what I need. I have NEVER had to sit and wait for it to charge before using it. Never.
If anything, I save time compared to going to a petrol station and filling up. I no longer have to take a trip or detour just to fill up with petrol - my electric car is always ready with enough charge/range to get me to where I need to go.
I hope this helps reassure you that are never really likely to "wait" for an electric car to be ready. In fact, your electric car is normally ready waiting for you.