How to charge electric vehicles

10 Min Read
#Alternative Fuels, #EV
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EV charger

As the world moves towards sustainable transportation solutions, the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is rapidly growing. But with the upcoming ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, more businesses need to consider switching their fleets to electric. 

In March 2024, electric vehicle public charging infrastructure statistics  estimated that the UK had:

1

60

20%

million EVs registered

thousand public EV chargers

of public EV chargers with 50kW of power or above

For businesses to successfully implement EV charging solutions, several factors need careful consideration. Recharging is one of the biggest changes for drivers, so businesses need to determine the logistics of this and decide on a payment solution. Drivers also need to be educated on how to charge electric vehicles and how to maximise range in between charges. Fortunately, we’re here to help with this!

Understanding the different charging levels

There are 3 levels to EV charging, each offering varying speeds and applications. The higher the level, the faster the charge. At each charge point, it will be clear what level of charge you’ll receive; however, this is dependent on the EV used as some models are not compatible with the higher levels. This means that even if a 150kW charger is used, your EV won’t recharge as quickly, and your driving range will be limited. 

Level 1 EV chargers

Level 1 chargers are the entry-level option for EV drivers and are typically around 7kW. Although they are the slowest chargers, they are the cheapest to use. They’re used most for home charging, as drivers can plug in and charge overnight and avoid the logistics of using public charge points. To save more money, you could choose an even lower power rate, but this will take longer to charge your EV.  

Level 2 EV chargers

Level 2 chargers are being installed more frequently on the BP Pulse network, as you can get up to 40 miles of range in around 15 minutes. Their faster speed makes them much more practical than level 1, so they’re often used at public charge points. 

Currently, this is the most common charger on the BP Pulse network and our EV customers can use their BP Fuel and Charge card at thousands of these charge points across the UK.  

Level 3 EV chargers

Level 3 chargers have different names depending on the network:

However, due to their fast speed, these chargers are much more expensive to use than those at level 1 or 2. It’s important to note that your ability to use a level 3 charger to its full capacity will depend on the capabilities of your EV.

Level 3 chargers require a high-voltage supply, so they’re rarely used at residential locations. Instead, they’re often installed at public charge points to help make the EV infrastructure more practical for drivers. Investment in these faster chargers will likely continue as more drivers switch to electric.  

How to install an EV charging station

Around 80% of EV charging takes place at home. Drivers can conveniently plug in overnight and wake up to a full charge. They can also save money as it’s much cheaper to recharge at home than if you use public charge points.

Before installing an EV charging station at home or at a business, you’ll need to do your research and consider the potential costs. You will also need to get a written letter of authority from the landowner. 

The installation process will involve you choosing:

  • The speed of charger (this will depend on the capabilities of your EV)

  • Tethered or untethered cable

  • The location of the charging station 

  • An EV charging provider

An EV charger technician will then come to install your charger, and this will typically take them around 3-6 hours. 

To make it more affordable for you to install an EV charging station at home or at work, there are various Government grants available. This includes the Workplace Charging Scheme which provides up to 75% of the total cost of the purchase and installation of EV charge points.

Electric charging points: where are they?

At the end of March 2024, there were almost 60,000 electric vehicle charging points across the UK, a 47% increase from March 2023. However, this figure doesn’t include home or workplace charge points which are estimated to be more than 700,000. This shows the development of the EV infrastructure, as drivers can easily access charge points wherever they go.

The different locations for charging points are:


Home charging stations - this is the most convenient and cost-effective choice for EV charging but generally requires you to have off-road parking. To help EV drivers who don’t have access to a driveway, some councils will now allow you to install an EV charger at a parking space outside. However, this requires additional permissions and is not always possible logistically. You’d also need to consider safety, as you’d be responsible if your lead causes an accident. 

Workplace charging facilities – by installing workplace charging facilities, employees can conveniently recharge during work hours. This gives them peace of mind, particularly if they have a long commute to work and eases the transition to electric. If it’s not possible to install workplace
charging facilities, then you’ll need to direct your EV drivers to the nearest public charging points.


Public charging stations – the public EV charging network has grown substantially over the last few years, so you’re never too far away from an EV charger. Payment is simple with our EV charge cards and you can locate your nearest EV charge points with the BP Pulse app and the Shell Recharge app.

Destination charging - more destination points, such as hotels, resorts and tourist attractions are installing EV charge points to meet the growing demand of visitors. These accessible charge points promote the use of sustainable vehicles and provide a practical charging solution for drivers. 

Motorways – fast-charging stations have been introduced along travel routes, facilitating long-distance travel for EVs. These chargers will be more expensive to use but they’ll help minimise downtime, allowing you to reach your destination sooner.  


A white electric car charging station

Factors that affect EV charging

Unlike petrol and diesel vehicles which are relatively straightforward to refuel, EVs are impacted by various external factors. This can have a significant effect on the speed of recharging and will dictate the charging points you choose to use. 

Battery capacity and State of Charge

The battery capacity of your EV will have one of the most significant impacts on its charging speed. Older EV models are likely to have a lower voltage limit, so will not be able to use level 3 chargers to their full capacity.

The State of Charge (SoC) refers to how full your battery is in terms of percentage and this impacts the speed of recharging. The lower the SoC, the faster your vehicle will charge. To improve overall battery life, you should aim to keep your EV between 10-80% charge. As EV batteries deteriorate over time, they’ll lose their charging capacity and charging speeds will inevitably decline.

Charging infrastructure

The infrastructure plays a crucial role in determining EV charging speeds. Factors such as the type of charging station (level 1, level 2, or level 3), the power output of the charging station, the capacity of the grid connection, and the condition of the electrical infrastructure all impact charging speeds. 

Drivers are more likely to stay in the car whilst it recharges at a public charge point. However, using the radio, air conditioning, lights etc can extend the charge time as the energy from the battery is diverted to other loads.

Temperature

EVs have a Battery Management System (BMS) which helps to maintain the health and capacity of the EV battery. This system helps to control charging speeds in extreme temperatures to keep the battery at the optimal temperature, ensuring a fast but safe charge. 

 If it’s freezing cold or very hot, then your charging speeds will be slower. When temperatures drop below 8 degrees Celsius, you can expect your EV to charge up to 20% slower.

Charging method

The different levels of EV chargers will impact how fast you can recharge. EV drivers may have concerns that using level 3 chargers too often will cause a deterioration in battery life. However, the BMS in modern EVs protects the battery and enhances performance, so using level 3 chargers frequently will have a minimal effect on range and battery capacity.  

Vehicle efficiency

The efficiency of the systems and components in your EV, such as regenerative braking and HVAC usage, can influence charging requirements. More efficient vehicles consume less energy, resulting in shorter charging times. 

The capabilities of EVs vary and they’re not all compatible with level 3 chargers. If your vehicle has a lower kW then you’ll be limited to slower charging speeds. 

How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?

The time it takes to charge an EV depends on the battery size and the type of charger used. Some EV chargers can charge your vehicle to 80% in just 30 minutes, whereas others can take up to 8 hours. 

To find the fastest chargers in your local area, use the BP Pulse and Shell Recharge apps (depending on your EV charge card). 

Charging level

Power (kW)

Charging time

Charger locations

Level 1

7kW

≈ 8 hours

Home or workplace

Level 2

50kW

≈ 1 hour

Public charge points

Level 3

150kW

30 minutes

Motorways

How much does it cost to charge an electric vehicle?

The cost of charging an electric vehicle can vary depending on the type of charger and the vehicle used. Some operators require drivers to have a subscription, but many allow you to charge on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ non-subscription basis.

EV charging prices have fluctuated over the last 2 years in line with the rise in wholesale electricity costs in the UK as shown below: 

chart showing annual EV charging costsSource: RAC Charge Watch

Currently, the average costs for charging an electric vehicle* are:

  • Level 1 (7kW): 59p

  • Level 2 (50kW): 77p

  • Level 3 (150kW): 83p 

It’s also possible to charge your EV for free. Various businesses and attractions offer free charging to paying customers, however some fees may still apply. 

Zap-Map has mapped 95% of available chargers in the UK, allowing you to search for specific chargers and see how much charging will cost.

Tips to extend electric vehicle range between charges

By optimising your EV range, you can reduce the time and money spent on EV charging, helping the bottom line of your business. Here are some top tips to extend your electric vehicle range between charges:

  1. Drive efficiently: maintaining a steady speed, accelerating smoothly and avoiding harsh braking can help conserve energy and extend range.

  2. Regenerative braking: by converting kinetic energy back into stored energy in the battery when slowing down or braking, you can increase efficiency and range.

  3. Maintain the optimal charge: keeping your EV between 10% and 80% charge will ensure the battery lasts longer and enhances its driving range.

  4. Check your tyres: ensure your tyres are properly inflated and in good condition, as this can decrease rolling resistance and improve fuel economy. 

  5. Plan your route ahead: avoid unnecessary detours by planning your route ahead, factoring in public charge points if you’ll need to recharge. On slower roads, EVs can use regenerative braking to recharge their battery, helping to extend your range further.

  6. Preheat your EV: when temperatures drop, your EV will lose some of its range. To prevent this, you can preheat your EV whilst it’s still plugged in. This uses electricity from the mains instead of the vehicle’s battery. 

EV charge cards

There’s never been a better time to switch your fleet to electric. The EV infrastructure is expanding, and more advanced electric models are now being introduced to the market. Government grants are also still available, making it more affordable for businesses to electrify.

To help ease the transition, we offer businesses the choice of two EV charge cards, BP Fuel and Charge and Shell Fuel and EV. Both cards can be used at thousands of EV charge points across the UK in addition to many petrol stations. 

Regardless of whether you use your EV charge card for petrol, diesel, or EV charging, all transactions will be displayed on one invoice which you can access through our online account management system. This allows you to easily monitor your fuel expenditure without needing to keep hold of receipts. 

Apply for an EV charge card today.

*Prices in pence per kilowatt hour (kWh) and are accurate as of April 2024.

Picture of employee

Matt Dodds
Head of Strategic Sales and Partnerships

With over 14 years of experience across two of the leading fuel card companies in the UK, Matt Dodds joined RFC Edenred to help lead the development of products to support our customer's move to EV and other alternative fuels, a transition he feels passionately about.