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Electric car charging explained

Finding it hard to understand all of this new EV charging jargon? Our helpful car charging glossary will tell you all you need to know

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As we have covered recently at The Car Expert, the charge of the electric vehicle (EV) brigade is bringing with it a whole new world of technical terminology that’s going to take some time to get used to.

BEV, HEV, Regen and REx: they’re all new terms to thousands of motorists, especially those considering switching over to an electric car in the near future. And, going one layer deeper, to the specific topic of charging your vehicle, another catalogue of jargon can be found.

With charging being one of the main areas of concern for would-be electric car users, it’s important to get to grips with all the terminology and jargon surrounding this particular topic. There are different speeds at which you can charge a car, various power ratings, ways to pay for your energy and a selection of connectors. It’s all a minefield that needs careful thought and research.

Award-winning company car and salary sacrifice scheme organisation Tusker campaigns constantly to help customers and businesses understand more about EVs and the advantages of running them, and strives to encourage drivers to embrace battery power in the future.

So to help you understand more about car charging jargon, here is a list of some of the terms and phrases you might come across:

CCS

Combined Charging System: There are several different types of charging connectors to power up cars and CCS is one of them. It’s a popular choice which features a regular ‘Type 2’ connector for slow charging, such as at home (more of that later) plus an extra DC connector which allows for more rapid charging: useful when you are away from home and need a quicker top up.

Fast charging

Charging up overnight is fine if you don’t intend to go out again until the morning. Even so, a household three-point plug still won’t be quick enough for many people and that’s where a fast charger comes in. Fast charging means a speed of anything between 7kW to 22kW, which means it’s capable of topping your battery back up to full in 5 to 10 hours. For people who mainly charge overnight at home, that should be sufficient for most of your needs.

You’ll also find these types at shopping centres, supermarkets and restaurant/retail outlets where you might be planning to stay for a couple of hours.

ICEd

If you own an EV the last thing you want is to be ICEd. It’s got nothing to do with winter weather or scraping windscreens. Being ICEd means someone has parked an internal combustion engine (ICE) car – which means a petrol or diesel car – in a space designated for electric vehicles, and that means you can’t access the charger there.

It can be very frustrating and inconvenient, whatever the reason. Possibly the other driver didn’t notice the signs saying it was an EV space or occasionally the driver just didn’t care. Either way, you have to find the careless owner, or hope there’s another designated space somewhere.

kWh

This is a unit of energy, more specifically a unit of electricity. So an electric car that has a 20kWh battery will take 20 units of electricity before it is completely full.

The vehicle’s power gauge will tell you how quickly the charge is running down, depending on the length of time and style of driving. The maths is fairly simple: if your car has a 5kW motor to power it you would get four hours of motoring (20 divided by 5).

Rapid charging

Slightly confusing terminology here, but rapid charging is faster than fast charging (see above). If you’re running low on power while on the motorway, a rapid charger is useful because it will top up your car’s battery much quicker than the trickle of an overnight slow charger.

They draw much greater power, 40-50kW or even more, compared with 7kW of a domestic charger. Technology is improving and already cars are becoming equipped to take very fast charges of over 200kW which can put three quarters of power back into a battery in half an hour. Even 15 minutes – a cup of coffee at a motorway service area – can give you 40 miles of range.

RFID card

A little like owning a bank or credit card, an RFID (radio frequency identification) card allows you to operate an electric charge point using a particular supplier’s app.

They’re not universal, so you need to have an account set up with a supplier to use their RFID card. If you have more than one supplier stored as apps in your mobile phone, you probably need a separate card for each one. With the account working the supplier can track your usage and take payment for your electricity.

Slow charging

Slow charging generally refers to plugging your car into a regular three-point pug socket. Charging speed is no more than 7kW so it’s only really suitable for overnight charging as a latest-generation EV with a large battery could take a day to fully charge.

There are public, street-sited charge points like this too. Simple and convenient, but certainly slow, they will charge at around 3kW, which means around 10 to 15 hours plugged in for a full top-up. Only really useful if you parking on the street overnight.

Smart charging

Smart charging systems work intelligently to help suppliers monitor their charging stations: how they are being used, by what number of vehicles, and how busy they are.

That gives them the opportunity to track usage and restrict it if necessary, optimising the current grid that supplies the energy, reducing the risk of overloading and removing the need for investment in areas where it’s not going to be needed. This ensures efficient charging using the available power.

Type 1/2/CHAdeMO cables

Most cables that are supplied with your new EV are called a ‘Type 2’ cable, and that’s the one that is now required by EU law (which still applies to cars in the UK market). Some cars will come with other cables as well as the Type 2 cable, while if you’re buying a used EV that’s more than a few years old, it may have one of the other cable types below.

Type 1 cables are mostly seen on Japanese, Asian and American cars and are a five-pin design with a latch that keeps it in place when connected to the vehicle. Type 2 cables feature a seven-pin design and a locking pin to secure the plug in place.

CHAdeMO is a trade name, meaning Charge de Move (charge for moving), and works with other companies to offer charging solutions of their own. Using DC (direct current) for charging, it offers another way to power up an EV.

VTG

Vehicle to Grid: Don’t need all the electricity you have stored in your car’s battery? Some cars and home charging systems allow you to send electricity from your car back to the grid. That’s what V2G is all about. There are many ways in which households can supply the grid with unwanted energy, such as that gained from roof-mounted solar panels, and this system is similar.

When a battery powered or hybrid car is parked up and not using energy, if it’s plugged in, it can trickle back unwanted electricity to the grid. That’s very useful at times of high usage and profitable too: owners signed up for V2G earn money from the electricity they give back.

Still not sure about what something means?

Ask the specialists – Tusker want you to change over to EVs for the right reasons, based on goals that you understand and, if you’re still not sure what something means, you can contact its support team for help.

Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.

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