How long does it take to charge an electric car in 2023?
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How long does it take to charge an electric car in 2023?

May 18, 2023

One of the first questions people ask about an electric car is how long it will take to charge. It's a question that has its roots in the rebirth of electric cars in the mid-2000s. Back then, the poster child for electric vehicles was the G-Wiz, a micro electric car that was built cheaply, using common-or-garden technology. That meant the G-Wiz was powered by the same sort of tech used in a petrol or diesel car's own 12-volt battery – a full charge from a three-pin plug would take six hours and get you no further than 50 miles. It barely counted as a car and, in fact, in Europe it was classified as a ‘heavy quadricycle’.

Today things are very different. For starters, all EVs use more advanced lithium-ion battery technology and employ sophisticated software to allow much faster charging speeds. Charger technology has moved on, too. Home wallbox chargers typically push out 7kW (kilowatts) – far more than the 2-2.5kW from your home's standard three-pin plug. And the fastest public chargers can provide anything up to 350kW, although chargers in the 50-100kW range are more common.

Of course, the other chief consideration is the size of the car's battery. No matter the speed of the charger, much like filling a petrol tank, the larger the battery, the longer it’ll take to fully charge.

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If you want a rough estimate of an electric car's charging time, it's easiest to look in your car's manual, or take a look at the data listed on the manufacturer's website. If you want something a bit more specific, there are many online calculators that will work out how long it will take to charge. However, it really only requires some simple arithmetic:

Battery size ÷ the speed of the charger = charging time

For example, charging a Volkswagen ID.3 with a 58kWh (kilowatt hour) battery, using a 50kW charger, should take a little over an hour. Whereas charging the same car using a 7kW home wallbox will take over eight hours.

But there are some pretty major caveats to those sums. Firstly, it assumes that your car is able to accept a charger's full rate. You could hook up the aforementioned VW ID.3 to a 350kW charger, but that car will only accept charges of up to 135kW – anything above that and it will throttle the charge to protect the battery. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to have a Porsche Taycan, or an Audi e-tron GT, the same charger should have no problem pumping out the full 350kW.

Secondly, the speed of charge isn't linear. When you’re using a high-speed public charger, you may see it delivering some big numbers when the battery charge level is low, but as it approaches full, the rate of charge will slow as the car seeks to reduce heat build-up to preserve the health of the battery. It's for this reason that car manufacturers record charge times from 0-100% for slower home charging, but 0-80% for rapid charging. That last 20% can take almost as long as the previous 80% when using a high-speed charger.

Thirdly, charging speed can fluctuate in line with other loads on the electrical supply. If you’re charging from home, you may well find your charge slows when you turn on an induction hob or electric oven. Similarly, you might receive the full rate if you’re the only one hooked up to a bank of chargers in a shopping centre, but, if you’re joined by other cars, then the available electrical supply will be balanced out between all chargers. However, it's important to note that some public charging infrastructure does make efforts to minimise this.

Finally, these calculations assume you’re always charging from flat. In reality, you’ll always have a bit in reserve. Of course, just how low you let your battery go will depend on your confidence in getting to a charger in time, as well as your experience with the car.

As we’ve seen, how long an EV takes to charge is governed by the rate of the electrical supply, and the size of your car's battery.

At home, a standard three-pin plug is capable of delivering around 2.3kW, so it would take our VW ID.3 more than a day to charge. And a basic home wallbox charger will provide around 3kW, which will still take the same battery more than 19 hours to charge. It's for this reason that most EV drivers choose a 7kW wallbox – our ID.3 will only take around eight hours.

If your property is served by three-phase power, rather than the more common single-phase, home charging up to 22kW is possible – our ID.3 would be fully charged in around two and a half hours. Unfortunately, three-phase power is a costly option, so it's not generally something most homeowners enjoy.

Many potential EV drivers are alarmed by the prospect of a full charge taking that long, but the reality is that most EV drivers get into the habit of charging – if needed – overnight, plugging in when they get home and having a full charge when they leave in the morning. Even then, a significant number of drivers only need to charge once a week.

Public chargers boast an enormous range of speeds. You might find a free charger in your local supermarket that will deliver just 7kW, and you’ll probably exceed the limit on your parking time well before your battery reaches 100%.

If you’re paying to charge, then most will be in the 50 to 150kW range. As we’ve already said, assuming your car can accept a higher rate of charge, the faster the charger, the quicker your car will charge. At 50kW, our ID.3 will take a little more than an hour. A 150kW charger – limited to the car's 135kW maximum rate, remember – will take less than half an hour.

READ NEXT: The best EV chargers for your home

It's understandable that first-time EV drivers will be wary about charge time, because, obviously, even the fastest chargers take far longer than a petrol pump to deliver a complete top-up.

However, the vast majority of electric-car drivers quickly become used to a new way of thinking. Assuming you have off-street parking, it's easy to get into the habit of charging as soon as you get home. And it's only a little harder to top up your car, little and often, when going about your daily business – 10% charge while at the supermarket, 5% at the gym, 20% at the shopping centre, it all adds up.

Arguably then, it's only on those longer – probably less frequent – journeys where charging time really matters. The key here is planning ahead: you can use an app, such as Zap-Map, to help plot the best route to take you via high-speed chargers. Or you can filter the results to show only the chargers that are relevant to your needs – on a long motorway slog you’ll probably want rapid chargers, but if you’re stopping somewhere overnight then a nearby 22kW may be more than enough.

When driving an EV, particularly over a long distance, pragmatism is key.

Battery size ÷ the speed of the charger = charging time READ NEXT: The best EV chargers for your home