How long does it take to charge an electric car?

Does it take a long time to charge an electric car? 

This is a classic ‘How long’s a piece of string?’ question. You’ve got to factor in the age and model of your car, where you are and what type of charge point you’re using.  

We’ll use the VW ID.3 as an example. This is Volkswagen’s electric answer to its bestselling Golf, and it does about 215 miles when it’s fully charged.  

Standard charging

In a pinch you could charge using any normal household plug socket with a 3-pin plug cable (sometimes called a granny cable). Yes, the same one you use for your toaster or hairdryer.  

You can power up your car pretty much anywhere using this method, but it’s the slowest way of doing it. You’ll need 29 hours for a full charge. And 1 hour would give you enough juice to drive 8 miles, handy if you’re not far from home but a bit inefficient.  

The charge point you’ll see the most (sometimes called a destination charge point) is one where you pop it on charge while you do something else. It could be your home, the supermarket, your office, or when you visit someone else.  

Most of these charge points are 7 kW, so they give your car 7 units of electricity for every hour they’re on charge.  

Your VW ID.3 needs 1 kWh unit of electricity to drive 4 miles, so an hour at the supermarket would give you 28 miles drive time. 6 hours at the office would give you 168 miles. Want it fully charged? You’ll need 8.5 hours on a 7 kW charge point, so overnight at home is a great option if you have a drive or garage.  

Charging technology’s improving all the time and some cars have onboard chargers that work even faster. If yours is 11kW, it means for every hour on charge you get 11 units of electricity. That hour at the supermarket = 44 miles worth of charge. 6 hours at the office? 264 miles and you’d be fully charged.  

11 kW is the maximum charge capacity for the new VW ID.3s if you power up at home or on a standard charger. But cars with a 22 kW onboard charger can fully charge in a super speedy 2.5 hours.  

Rapid charging

Then there’s rapid charging. Most of us won’t need the superchargers that give a whopping 1,000 miles of charge an hour, but 200 miles could be useful.  

When you stop for petrol or diesel now, most people don’t fill up completely and it’s the same with electric cars. If you don’t want a full charge, you can stop whenever you want. So, for your ID.3 you can get 80% full charge in the average time it takes to grab a coffee and have a bite to eat.  

A simple everyday plug socket can get you out of a tight spot but when the whole family wants a leg-stretch and a fast-food fix at the services, charging the car doesn’t force you to hang around any longer than you need to. 

Checking out the UK charging network

The McGlynns, with the help of Zap Map route planner, take their Nissan Leaf on road trip to see how good the charging network is on long journeys.