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Can I charge my electric car with a 3-pin plug?

Can I charge my electric car with a 3-pin plug?

Dr Euan McTurk talks us through the pros and cons of 3-pin charging – including meltdowns, hot coils and caution. 

image of a Tesla Model Y in Black

Plugs – A modern history…

Before the modern format came in, 3-pin plugs (or granny plugs, as they’re called in the trade), were the only way to charge your electric car. In fact, in parts of Europe, they’re still using that system today.  

So if you’re in the middle of nowhere and you need to charge your car, go ahead and use a 10 amp 3-pin plug. It’s certainly better than nothing. 

Errrmmmm – is that it for the pros?

Really, I’m afraid it is. There are lots of very good reasons why charging with a 3-pin plug should be the exception rather than the rule. 

Let’s start with safety. 

That plug will have been designed to cope with short bursts of high power-draw. But when you’re charging an electric car, the vehicle draws a lot of power out of that socket for long periods, potentially overnight. So you’ll have significant heat being generated. If the house’s wiring is old, or maybe not done to the highest standard (which we’ve often found in garages where it’s more of an afterthought), then there is an electrical safety risk. 

The car’s cable is doing its job properly – but the plug or socket could overheat and melt.  

That’s really scary. Particularly if everyone in the house is asleep when it’s happening. 

There’s another possible overheating problem, too, if you’re using an extension cable. The cable in your car has a sensor and, if the socket does get hot, it will probably sense that and stop charging. Your car won’t be charged, but that inconvenience is better than a fire. 

But if you’re using an extension lead, then the plug that actually fits into the wall won’t be connected to the temperature sensor. And that’s the one that will get hot. It’s potentially even worse if you haven’t completely unrolled the extension lead, because extra heat will be generated by the coiled cable. You could actually melt the whole cable if you leave it coiled up. 

Compelling reasons to approach 3-pin charging with an abundance of caution! 

Yes. It’s fine to get you out of trouble on a one-off basis. But day to day, it’s definitely not the way to go. A properly installed, properly rated Type 2 charger (or Type 1 if you have an older vehicle) is designed to supply, say, 7 kilowatts an hour for hours and hours, safely and efficiently. It’s basically over-engineered, so it’s not going to melt!  
But of course, that’s not the only benefit you get with a proper charger.

Are smart chargers faster than a 3-pin plug? 

So much faster! Most people can get a 7-kilowatt smart charger installed, and that will immediately reduce their charging time by a third of using a 3-pin. If you get home on empty, and need a full charge by the next day, you’ll get that with a charge point. 

With the price of electricity being what it is today, is there any cost benefit to a smart charger?

Yes. For example, if you’ve got solar panels, a smart charge point will measure what your car needs and what your house is consuming. It will then pump the difference into your car’s battery without needing to take anything from the grid. So when conditions are right, you’ll be running on free electricity from your happy free-range solar electronics.  

The smart charger will handle everything automatically, ramping the power up and down as necessary, switching off if the weather becomes overcast etc. You’ll still have the opportunity to top up from the grid if you need to. If you have an electric car and are planning to install a smart charger, I would definitely say think about adding some solar panels

What if I just have a smart charger? 

You can still save money on electricity. Even if your car doesn’t have a charging timer, you can get a smart charger that has one. Link it to your electricity supplier’s off-peak rate and it will only charge your car during the hours when it’s cheapest to do so.  

Some very smart chargers even take it a step further – they grab maximum power in half-hour windows when it’s at its very cheapest. No 3-pin plug is smart enough, or fast enough, to match that. 

Modern charge points are safe, smart, robust devices, designed to last for years and serve your electric car well. They’re a good investment that will save you money in the long run. 

Dr Euan McTurk is a consultant battery electrochemist who runs Plug Life Consulting. He spends most of his time helping industry, academia, government, business and media with everything to do with electric cars. What Euan doesn’t know about electric cars simply isn’t worth knowing. 

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The Ultimate Home Charging Guide

The Ultimate Home Charging Guide

Electric car chargers are a key part of the switch for many who go electric and charge at home. Here our ultimate guide gives you the lowdown…


How do you charge an electric car at home?

Most electric car owners use a home charging point. These are dedicated devices that you install so you can plug in and charge when you’re at home. They’re weatherproof and are specially designed to safely charge your electric car.  

Home chargers use a normal domestic electricity supply (known as a UK domestic AC single phase supply) to give speeds of up to 7kW.

How long does it take to charge an electric car at home?

If you drive a Nissan LEAF with a 39kWh battery, for example, it takes around seven and a half hours to fully charge – and that charge would give you 168 miles of range. 

It’s rare to fully flatten a battery, though, so it’s unlikely to take that long. Most drivers keep their cars at 20%-80% to look after the battery.  

electric car charging at home

When is the best time to charge an electric car?

For most of us, the cheapest and most convenient way to charge is overnight. You’re at home and energy tariffs can be cheaper. This is also the time of day when more of the grid’s energy is coming from renewables – but this changes according to your energy company and tariff.  

Smart chargers have intelligent built-in features to manage your car’s charge. You can set charging times and schedules. When you enter your energy provider and tariff they can charge automatically while you sleep or when energy is cheapest.

You can also check on your car’s battery while it’s charging and see your stats from a smartphone app. Some smart chargers also let you use energy from solar panels on your home, so you can use free power from the sun rather than from the grid.  

Electric car chargers usually have a tethered connection. This is a permanently attached cable and charging socket.

Some chargers are ‘untethered’ so you can plug in different cables. This is useful if you have more than one electric car with different cables or if you think you might want to change your cable length.

Most tethered chargers use a Type 2 cable, which fits all new cars in the UK. It uses a 7-pin plug, often called a ‘Mennekes’.

You might sometimes see Type 1 cables, which use 5 pins. They’re getting rarer and rarer though, as they were only used on early Nissan LEAF models, the first-generation Kia Soul EV and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Yes – there’s a grant of up to £350, or 75% off the cost to buy and install a socket, whichever amount is lower, for people living in a flat, apartment or rental property in the UK to install an electric car charger.

To qualify for the OZEV (Office for Zero Emission Vehicles) grant, you’ll need to:

  • show you’ve recently bought or are leasing an electric vehicle
  • show that off-street parking is available at your property, and
  • have your landlord’s permission if you’re a tenant.

Also, you can only get the grant when you buy your first electric car, and you can’t have more than two OZEV-funded chargers at the property already. 

How do you install an electric car charger at home?

Once you’ve decided which charger is right for you and whether you’re eligible for an OZEV grant, it’s time to pick an installer.

To install Indra Smart PRO chargers, we partner with Plug Me In, who can install across the whole country.  

Our installers will start by visiting you to check over the details. This survey means they can do the essential electrical safety checks before they set a date to fit your charger.

Sometimes you might need to upgrade your distribution board or other electrical components first, but your installer will explain the details. 

They’ll also agree where to install the charger with you. They need to follow electric car charger installation guidelines and the latest regulations, as well as checking where your nearest power supply is and making sure you can park off the street.

Then on your installation day, they’ll fit your charging station and make sure the charging cable is in a safe place. It normally takes about three hours, but it’s a good idea to be available for the whole day just in case.

Before they leave, they’ll register the charger, set up your details and carry out various tests to make sure things are working properly. Then they should show you how to use the charger and how to install the app, as well as help you download the app onto your phone, tablet or computer. As it’s a smart charger, you can check it and control it with the app whenever you’re online. 

untethered Indra charger at home

Can home car chargers use energy from solar panels?

Yes they can – and it can make a big difference when the sun is shining. But you’ll need to do your homework first…

First, you’ll need a solar-compatible charger. Some just work, others need a bit of extra hardware and some don’t work at all.

Second, you’ll need enough power from your solar panels to charge your car and your house. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for about 8-12 panels facing in a direction that gets plenty of sun. This should give you enough power – for example, the Indra Smart PRO charger needs a minimum of 1.4kW/6A to charge a car.

Then – once you’ve got the right charger and you’re generating enough power – you can drive your sunlight-powered car!

This is one of the big challenges for people who want to go electric but who don’t have their own drive.

The most common choice is just plugging in to a destination charger – either near your home or at work. If you can make it work, it might be the best option.

Otherwise, some councils offer on-street residential parking – so it might be worth talking to them. Different solutions include lamp post chargers, free-standing units on the pavement, or telescopic chargers. 

While you might sometimes see cars parked up with a 3-pin cable running across the pavement, we don’t recommend it. 

There are a few questions you should ask when you’re choosing which charger is right for you:

  • How smart does it need to be? Not all smart chargers are the same: some use simple timers you need to set while others (like the Indra Smart PRO) have advanced features like smart scheduling and continuous updates.
  • Tethered or untethered? Tethered chargers have a cable permanently connected, which makes it much simpler to plug in when you get home. Untethered means you can remove the cable: either to swap it for a longer or shorter cable or for one with a different socket.
  • Do you have solar panels? If so, carefully check that you choose a compatible charger.
  • How does it look? Most drivers want something subtle, especially if it’s on the front of their house, but you can choose from plenty of different styles, from the mild to the wild. 

Why choose an Indra Smart PRO charger from ElectriX?

The Indra Smart PRO charger is designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK. It’s one of the smartest on the market and it works with all electric cars. What we really like about the Smart PRO is that it helps you charge from home when it’s cheapest – and it can charge quickly at speeds of up to 7.4kW.

We offer a complete home charging solution with Indra, a leading British EV charger and smart energy technology firm – and we can get your charger installed for you too. 

Our customers love how reliable and efficient the Smart PRO is, while also including smart features like personal charging schedules, solar matching compatibility, a quick boost function, automatic software updates and patented home fuse protection. It has a five-year warranty as standard.  

You can also check your status, update preferences and track your home charging history directly from your phone with the Indra app.

What’s included with an Indra charger from ElectriX?

We also offer a straightforward installation programme with our nationwide installation partner, Plug Me In. 

If you buy from ElectriX, your charger will include a site survey and installation, with up to 15 metres of mains supply cabling. You’ll also get a 5-metre charging cable. You can connect it via Wi-Fi, 4G or an ethernet cable.

There’s a bit of price variation but you should budget about £1,000 for a quality charger like an Indra Smart PRO.

What does that include? First of all, it should include a well-built and well-designed smart charger – plus a site survey, standard installation and VAT. It’s also worth checking whether you’ll need to pay extra for things like internet connections and integration with a home solar system. 

You might also have to pay for any extra electrical equipment you need. Before they do anything, your installer will check with the electricity company that runs the energy network to your home. If they insist on adding or changing anything like an isolator switch or distribution board, that will add to the bill too.

There are a few ways you can check. Your car can tell you how much juice it has on its dashboard display, as well as how much range that gives you – and plenty of other details about your battery. Most modern cars have an app, too.

You can also check your charger. A good quality charger will have a display or indicators on it, while the most advanced smart devices will have a companion app.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car at home?

It depends on your tariff but you can charge for as little as 2p per mile.

A lot of electric car drivers choose an off-peak tariff which is cheaper at night (though more expensive during the day). That’s because there’s less demand for energy in the middle of the night, so it’s much cheaper to buy. And if you’ve got a smart charger you don’t even need to turn your charger on or off during the night: it just happens automatically.

They’re not very popular yet, but some energy suppliers also offer variable tariffs. These use smart technology to change your prices depending on how much demand there is. 

Can you power your home with an electric car?

Using a car to power your home is called ‘V2H’ or ‘Vehicle to Home’ technology. This promising new technology lets you use your car’s enormous battery to power your home.

As well as being very useful during power cuts and unexpected outages, it also lets you store up either solar power from your roof panels or off-peak electricity you’ve bought cheaper at night.

There have been several trial schemes already but it hasn’t yet come to market. 


Do home chargers have any common problems?

According to the experts at Indra, there are two common problems. The first is when a charger’s internet connection isn’t good enough. The charger will still work but you won’t be able to use the charging app. In this case, they recommend running a cable to your charger for internet.

The second is ‘nuisance tripping’, when the charger keeps turning off – normally because of something happening with your home’s electricity supply. Advanced chargers like the Indra Smart PRO have technology to deal with the problem.


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  • Smart charging – schedule charges when you need them and when energy is cheapest
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How often do I need to charge an electric car?

How often do I need to charge an electric car?

How often you need to charge an electric car depends how much you drive and what type of electric car you have, but most people only need to power up about once a week.

image of an MG5 electric car

Will I need to charge every day? 

It depends how much you drive and what type of electric car you have, but most people only need to power up about once a week. 

How often you drive…

Lots of modern electric cars can go at least 180 miles on one full charge, and often further.

A Volkswagen ID.3 with an 58kW battery can do about around 215 miles on a full charge, and you’ll get about 200 miles from the Nissan Leaf E+.      

Since the average UK commute is a 23-mile round-trip, that still leaves plenty of room for nipping to the supermarket and visiting your friends and family at the weekend.

And if your commute is longer or you spend more time behind the wheel, it’s no hassle to juice up quickly at home or at one of the 45,000 or so public charge points across the UK.

Osprey Public Charging

Are there any advantages to charging electric cars?

Another benefit if you can charge at home, is that you can forget that last-minute dash to the petrol station. It’s like waking up to a full tank every day. 

If you charge away from home, there are over 45,000 public charge points and more popping up all the time. You’ll now find them in loads of car parks, supermarkets and even in more rural places. 

The biggest advantage is cost, as it’s miles cheaper to charge your car than pay for petrol or diesel. And you can take advantage of renewable energy and cheap night time electricity prices. You don’t get a midnight discount on petrol. 

If your electric car is a bit older, you probably won’t be able to drive as far on one charge as a newer model with longer range. So you may need to plug it in a bit more often. 

Lots of people who have been driving electric vehicles for years only use public charge points – and this is getting easier.

You’ll see charge points popping up everywhere from workplaces to supermarkets, so it’s super easy to top up on the go. Check out a charge point map or app to find one near you.

Electric car charging in the rain

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