If you’re thinking about going electric for your next car (and according to the most recent Carzone of driver attitudes in Ireland, some 55 per cent of us want to buy an electric, or at least a hybrid, car next time out…) then you’re going to want to have a home charging point. It’s arguably the most critical piece of equipment to have if you want to get the most out of your new electric car (or plug-in hybrid, for that matter).
1. Make sure you have a driveway or a garage.
Live in an apartment? Or a terraced house? Then, just yet, electric motoring may not be for you. To maximise your charging, you really need to have off-street parking — a driveway or a garage — so that you can pull your electric or plug-in hybrid car up to charge. Solutions for people without their own driveways are being rolled out (more public charging points, the possibility of plugs in lampposts etc,), but for now, it really, really helps if you have your own parking.
2. Speed of charging.
If you’re still thinking of charging an electric car from a household socket, you’re not getting the best charge. A domestic three-pin socket, running at 230 volts, puts out around 3kW of power. Given that even the most affordable electric cars now have 50kWh batteries, you can do the maths on how long that will take to charge. A proper home ‘wallbox’ charger, which can run at either 7.4kW or 11kW, is a much better idea and will fully charge most electric models overnight, or fully charge a plug-in hybrid in as little as two hours.
3. How much power can you handle?
It’s critical to get a qualified electrician out to check your house before going ahead with a wallbox installation. Most houses have maximum 65-amp, 14.7kW load at any one time, so if you’re trying to charge your car while running an electric shower and/or an oven, you might overload your system and set off the trip switch. There is the possibility of an upgrade to an 80-amp, 18kW load, but a simpler solution would be a priority switch, which can cut power to the car charger when someone turns on the shower.
4. Charging at night.
Of course, that’s a moot point if you’re charging at night — and in general this is the best solution, not least because it can slash your charging costs. On the average domestic electricity rate of 26c per kilowatt hour (kWh) it will cost you around €15 to charge, from flat, an electric car with a 60kWh battery (think Volkswagen ID.3 or Hyundai Kona Electric). However, there are much cheaper overnight rates available — as little as 10c per kWh, although you do have to pay a higher standing charger — which would slash that charging cost to just over €6. There are even some special offers that will give you free electricity on some days of the week (Sunday for instance), which means that, with a little planning, you could potentially do most of your charging for free.
5. How much does a charger cost?
If you’re buying a new electric car, it’s likely that you will be offered a home-charging point as part of your purchase. These vary in cost, depending on whether they are ‘tethered’ (i.e. that they come with an integrated cable and plug) or ‘untethered’ (these are a simpler socket, and you use the cable that comes with the car), but in general a new wallbox, plus installation, will cost in and around €1,000.
The good news is that there is a €600 grant from the SEAI to help defray some of that cost. If you’re buying a second-hand electric car, there are some second hand wallboxes on the market, although we’d caution you to make sure these are thoroughly inspected before you try using them, and are only installed and signed off by a qualified electrician.
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