Electric cars explained

By Vehicle Contracts08-08-2023

Electric cars are becoming more popular and as the government pledges that by 2035 only new electric cars will be manufactured, they are going to be a common sight on our roads. However, the information around electric cars can seem a bit daunting and overwhelming, what do all the abbreviations mean? How do you know what type of charger you need? Here we hope to explain a bit about all these and give you a clearer picture and help you understand the jargon.

There are four different types of charging; slow, fast, rapid and ultra rapid, each measured in kilowatts and each charging type needs a specific cable attached to charge. Car manufacturers have their preferred method of charging and the cables come with the car. Additional cables can be bought and used, meaning that you can use a rapid charge station when out and about and need a quick boost to get you to where you are going.

You will also need to know is that you have two different charging types, AC and DC. Alternative current (AC) and High power Direct current (DC). You can get very science-y about the difference between the two, but in very basic terms they can be broken down into this. For the energy to be stored in your car battery it needs to be DC, but the power that is supply from the national grid is AC, so an AC charger takes the energy to your car and converts in to store in your battery. A DC charger does all the conversions in the charging station and transfers the charge to your battery, because the conversion takes place outside the vehicle it means that a higher concentration of power can be transferred and DC charging usually allows a quicker charge.

Here's where it gets a bit more complicated. There are two different types of cables, manufacturers use, usually depending on the country of origin. The CHAdeMO; meaning CHArge de MOve is a DC fast charge, usually using a charge power of 50 kW or higher and giving you a full charge in less than an hour. CCS; Combined Charging System, uses, as the name suggests, a combined charging system of both AC and DC depending on the charging station you are using, which will ultimately give you a greater choice of charging stations and flexibility. A CCS charging station with a 50kW charging power will charge your car fully in 30 minutes.

CHAdeMO is commonly used in Japan, and so it makes sense that you will find this adaptor on cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi PHEV Outlander. CCS charging is more commonly used in Europe and cars like the BMW i3, Kia e-Niro and the Jaguar I-Pace. Now, prepare yourself, as now you need to think about tethered and untethered cables. If you're at a charging station, and it has a tether cable, and it's not the one that is compatible with your car, then you can't use it; therefore untethered charging is vastly more popular.

Charging cables that are tethered can only be attached to the vehicle that has the same charging connections, and you can't add your own adaptor cable like at untethered charging stations, you may have to look for another charging station. Tethered public charging stations also normally rapid charge, and have a DC connection as they can harness larger chunks of energy fast, and so can charge your car faster. AC tethered charging points are usually used at home for overnight charging, as they are slower to charge and can take over 10 hours for a full charge. Untethered charging is usually seen as the best options as you can use your own adaptor and not rely on a cable that could be damaged and thus meaning that the charging station can't be used, there are also fewer cables at the station making it appear tidier and cleaner.

So, now you have your car, you have your charging wire, and you know what type of charging port you have, what else is there? Well, you need to know where the charging stations are that support your vehicle, this can be done by downloading an app, there are a few to chose from, and they are great little tools as they tell you where all the charging stations are, what type of charging stations they are and also, more crucially, if they are open and haven't been closed temporarily for maintenance.

Being an EV driver, if you are going to travel somewhere that isn't your normal route, it really does pay to be organised so that you know how far you can travel without requiring a charge and also where you can stop to charge up. Charging times and wait times, as there can sometimes be a queue for the charging bay, need to be factored into your journey time.

It is not really acceptable to park up in a charging bay and disappear for hours, especially if it is a rapid charge port where you could be fully charged and back on the road is 30 minutes. Usually this allows enough time to use the facilities or buy a snack or a drink if these amenities are available. Charging is going to take longer than simply filling your tank with petrol, but we do also need to be mindful of other drivers waiting for their turn so that they can continue on with their journey.

Hopefully now you know the difference between the different cables and the different types of charging stations, and hopefully you won't get caught out when travelling around the country. Here at Vehicle Contracts, we are always happy to answer any of your questions, or explain anything you aren't sure about. Please don't hesitate to contact us or have a browse through our extensive range of electric vehicles.

As more and more people turn to EVs there is always more infrastructure being built allowing greater freedom in charging locations, and with some recent great advances, in technology the batteries that are being installed into cars are getting better and faster and are lasting longer. These two things combined can only be a good thing in helping to eliminate range anxiety in electric car drivers and allowing you greater, stress-free travels.