Any driver considering buying or leasing an electric or plug-in hybrid car needs to think about how it will be charged.
The obvious question from novices – which, let’s face it, is most of us when it comes to electric cars – is whether it can be charged from a regular household socket.
In theory, it can. But using a 13Amp socket is not recommended by either the car manufacturers or the electrical trade. Charging a car like a BMW i3 this way would take around 10 hours, and such a prolonged draw of current can be dangerous, potentially overwhelming the system and, in the worst case scenario, causing a fire.
And remember, if you fail to follow instructions correctly, and your home burns to the ground, your insurer could take a dim view of your actions.
As if that weren’t reason enough, a wallbox is a more efficient method of charging a big battery in an electric car or plug-in hybrid. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes and Smart, says that by charging with a more powerful wallbox instead of a household socket, an electric car like the Smart Electric Drive will be 6% more efficient. That’s because energy loss is at its lowest when charging with a large amount of power.
That’s why the car makers and wider industry offer the installation of wallboxes at private properties or places of work. They are dedicated charging points that quickly replenish a drained battery.
To help drivers, the government has put in place financial grants for those installing a wallbox. These incentives are a carrot that’s hoped to temp motorists out of diesel or petrol cars and into something with lower levels of harmful emissions.
For those considering having a wallbox installed, here’s what you need to know.
Practical considerations before installing a wallbox
Do you have off-street parking, access to a garage or the permission of a landlord to install a wallbox or post-type charging point in a private car park? If not, it will likely be impractical to have a device fitted at your home.
Any reputable supplier or installer of wallboxes will be able to advise whether they believe an installation will be feasible. Remember, the unit can be mounted outside or indoors, as it’s waterproof.
Before completing a formal application, they may ask you to send some photographs of your property’s fuseboard and main electricity supply, and approximate distance the fuseboard to the location where you’d like to have it installed.
Tethered or socket type?
There are two types of wallbox available. A tethered type has its own, integrated charging lead, so there’s no danger of leaving it somewhere else. It runs to an industry standard 4.7 metre length, and the supplier will be able to ensure the connection is right for your make and model of electric car or plug-in hybrid.
A socket type will allow the car’s portable charging cable to be used. It also works with a wide range of other electric vehicles, so if you intend to change cars at a later date, it would be best to install a socket type.
Is the wallbox secure if mounted outside a property?
There is the option to have a lockable wallbox, so even if it is mounted outside and is visible to others, it could not be accessed without the key.
I’ve heard about WiFi enabled wallboxes. What do they do?
By hooking up a WiFi enabled wallbox to the Internet, drivers will be able to use dedicated apps to set charging schedules. When the car is plugged in to the wallbox, they’ll also be able to begin or stop charging at a moment’s notice, or set the car’s climate control to switch on at a certain time. The latter means in the winter you could venture out to be greeted by a warm car, or a cool car in the summer – without having to drain the battery’s energy reserves.
How much does a wallbox charger cost?
The price varies between brands, but the Energy Saving Trust says that the typical cost is £1000. However, around three quarters of that can be covered by grants – see below.
Some car makers offer their own, purpose designed charging units and the price will be listed in the options. After grants are applied, BMW i3 buyers will pay £570 for the rather stylish looking BMW i Wallbox to be fitted. Jaguar’s less fancy I-Pace box costs £334 fitted. The Tesla Wall Connector is £460, excluding installation. If you are buying a Renault Zoe, its partner, Chargemaster, will install a wallbox for free.
Applying for grants and funding
Aware that the majority of drivers are wary of paying an additional £1000 before they can charge it safely at home, the government offers incentives.
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) offers a grant of £500 towards the installation of one wallbox charger per home, via its Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. Accredited wallbox suppliers handle the application. And the Energy Saving Trust tops it up with a further £300, leaving around £300 to be settled.
During the process, drivers will need to be able to show that they are the registered keeper, lessee or have primary use of an eligible electric vehicle.
How long does it take to have a wallbox charger installed?
It’s between three and four hours, say providers.
What is the charging time of an electric car using a wallbox?
The charging time will depend on the capacity of the wallbox and the vehicle. However, BMW’s 11kW i Wallbox takes less than four hours to charge from 0-80%. Jaguar and Tesla’s wallboxes are 7kW rated (unless your property has a 3-phase grid connection) and charge at a rate of 22 miles per hour, or a full charge overnight. Renault’s Zoe achieves a full charge in around 8 hours, using the manufacturer’s 7kW unit.
If I move house, can the wallbox be moved too?
In short, yes it can. Contact the original installer for a quote, and compare it to other accredited installers’ quotes.