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What is a wallbox charger? Home electric car charging points explained

What is a wallbox charger? What does it do? Do you really need one if you have an electric car? Here, we answer the most common questions about charging your electric car at home

A significant benefit of owning an electric car that’s often overlooked is the ability to charge at home. It was never possible to have a constant stream of petrol or diesel to fill up your conventionally fuelled car on your driveway, but with 90% of all electric-car charging taking place domestically (according to the government’s ‘Go Ultra Low’ campaign), home charging has become the norm for most EV drivers, with thousands opting for the convenience of a home wallbox charger.

With the public charging network constantly expanding, and rapid and ultra-rapid charging points becoming more readily available, it’s more convenient than ever to charge wherever you are – some of the latest models can now be recharged from 10-80% battery capacity in less than 20 minutes.

Nevertheless, the main reason for charging an electric car at home is that, given electric vehicles take longer to charge than filling up a conventional car does, home charging allows you to keep your car topped up and ready to go when you need it. It’s possible to charge using a three-pin domestic socket, although these deliver power at just 3kW, at which rate it could take up to two days to recharge some of the latest electric vehicles. Installing a home EV charging point can alleviate this problem.

Home wallbox chargers offer much faster charging speeds than conventional plugs, helping electric-car drivers get back on the road with a full charge much quicker. But what exactly is a wallbox, how much faster do wallboxes recharge your electric car, and how do you choose the right wallbox from the many options on the market? Here’s our guide to understanding how wallbox charging works – we also have a guide on how to pick the right wallbox for you.

Wallbox charger

What is a home wall charging unit, or wallbox – and do I need one?

If you have – or are thinking about buying – an electric vehicle, it’s important to think about what type you’re getting and how you’ll use it. If you go for a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with limited electric range and a small battery, charging overnight is usually possible from a standard domestic socket. A home wallbox charger is an additional charging unit that provides power at a higher rate than a standard three-pin plug socket. Installing one on your driveway or in your garage can make charging an electric car easier.

A home socket can supply a maximum of 3kW, but it’s worth noting that not all can do this. Manufacturers don’t recommend using them long-term, as this can cause damage to the socket due to the high amperage drawn over a sustained period of time. Most electric or plug-in hybrid car drivers will only use a three-pin cable as an emergency backup option.

If you buy an electric car that requires regular charging at higher speeds, a home socket won’t do. This is where a wallbox comes in. The typical speed range for a home wallbox unit is between 3 and 7kW, with some capable of up to 22kW if you're lucky enough to have three-phase power in your home, which can enable you to recharge an electric vehicle in only a few hours. For example, a 40kWh Nissan Leaf would take 13.3 hours to charge from a regular mains socket fully. With a 7kW home charger, this falls to 5.7 hours, or 1.8 hours with a 22kW system.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a wallbox, you should also look at what electricity tariff you’re on and whether you could switch to one designed specifically for electric-car owners. The current average cost of electricity is around 19p per kWh, but you can potentially save money by charging your electric car during off-peak times. It’s worth checking with your electricity provider to see when rates are cheaper, for the most cost-effective top-ups.

Electric car wallbox installation

How do I choose the right wallbox?

All wall chargers come with either a Type 1 or Type 2 cable that you can plug into your vehicle. It’s more likely that the cable will be a Type 2, though, as this is compatible with all new electric and plug-in hybrid models sold in the UK. However, check your vehicle's user manual or brochure to confirm the cable connectors for your car. This way, you can make sure they're a good fit with any potential charger you're thinking of buying.

When choosing a wallbox charger, you first need to decide how much power you want; the higher the power, the more the unit will cost. The greater the power output, the faster your EV will be able to recharge. Some wallboxes offer 3kW, others 7kW and some can even charge 22kW if your premises has three-phase power.

Standard installation costs are usually included in the price, and a certified technician will do the job. One company says 90% of customers qualify for the free standard installation, with those falling outside the criteria needing to pay extra if further work is required.

Are there any government grants to help with the cost?

The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) for several years offered a grant of up to £350 towards the cost of a home wallbox – known as the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS). Scottish EV drivers are eligible for an additional £250 towards the cost of a wallbox through Energy Savings Trust Scotland.

Unfortunately, the OZEV grant ended for single-unit homeowners as of 31 March 2022. Those living in apartments or rental accommodation can still avail of it, but there are other barriers to getting a charging point installed in those circumstances – such as whether it's you or your landlord who pays for it, and whether it's even possible to install a point when the property's parking space isn't located right next to it.

Can I use my home charging unit on another electric vehicle (e.g. if I was to change cars)?

If you end up selling your current electric car and swapping it for a new model, you'll still be able to use your home wallbox, as long as its connector suits the car. Almost all new electric and hybrid cars use the European-standard Type 2 connector, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

I live in an apartment, what can I do?

If you live in an apartment, but are considering buying an electric car, you can ask the landlord or building owner to install a charging station. You may end up covering some or all of the cost of this, but you may be able to split the expense with other residents who own electric cars or are considering buying one.

What is a 'smart' charger?

Smart chargers are connected to the internet, meaning that charging can be controlled remotely using a smartphone app. This means you can schedule charging sessions to suit your needs, either making use of the cheapest electricity overnight or guaranteeing you have a certain amount of range when you need it.

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