What is a wallbox charger?

What is a wallbox charger? What does it do? Do you really need one? We reveal all.

A key difference between electric vehicles and normal cars is where they are refuelled or, in this case, recharged. While normal vehicles with an internal-combustion engine have to visit a fuel station, the majority of electric vehicles are topped up at home.

According to the Government’s Go Ultra Low campaign, up to 90% of all electric vehicles are charged at home. The only issue with home charging is that it can take a while when using the standard three-pin plug that can draw a maximum current of just 3kW. In fact, recharging an electric vehicle this way can take a whole night.

To speed up the process, many owners are investing in a wall-mounted charging unit (or wallbox) for their home, which increases the charging rate. With electric vehicles rising in popularity, so are the number and choice of wall chargers. At the moment there are over 40 different ones to choose from. Read on to understand how wall charging works – and how to pick the right one for your electric vehicle.

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

In simple terms, a home wall charging unit is an additional charger that provides a faster rate of charge and can be installed outside your home to make plugging in the vehicle easier. Think of it as a bigger charging unit for your electric vehicle that’s connected to your home’s power supply.

If you have or are thinking about buying an electric vehicle, it’s important to think about the kind of daily use you will need from it. If you’re opting for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with a limited electric range and a smaller battery, charging it overnight via a home socket may be okay. A home socket can supply a maximum of 3kW, but it’s worth noting that not all home sockets 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.

If you go for an electric vehicle that requires regular charging at higher speeds, a home socket won’t do. This is where a wallbox comes in. The typical range for a home wall charging unit is between 3kW, 7kW and 22kW. This means that an electric vehicle can be charged in only a few hours, instead of needing to be plugged in overnight.

For example, a 40kWh Nissan Leaf would take 13.3 hours to fully charge on mains power alone. With a 7kW home charger, this reduces to 5.7 hours, or 1.8 hours with a 22kW system.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a wall charger, consider installing a smart meter in your home. This will help you get the best electricity tariffs when the vehicle is plugged in. The current average cost of electricity is 14.37p per kWh, but during off-peak hours this often reduces to around 10p per kWh. If you charge your electric vehicle regularly during off-peak hours, you can make serious savings.

How to choose the right one?

All wall chargers come with either Type 1 or Type 2 cable that can be plugged into your vehicle. It’s more likely that the cable is always a Type 2, though, which is accepted by all electric vehicles and PHEVs sold in the UK.

However, check with your vehicle manufacturer user manual or brochure to confirm the cable connectors in your car. This way you can make sure they are a good fit with any potential wall charger you are thinking of buying.

It’s then time to choose the speed. Some wallboxes come with 3kW, others with 7kW and some can even charge at 22kW. First decide how much charge you want; the higher the power, the more the unit will cost. For example, Renault ZOE owners might consider a 3.6kW charger from Pod Point. This will cost £279 (price includes the OLEV grant), while a 7kW charger costs £359 (including the OLEV grant). A 22kW charger will set you back £999 (including the OLEV grant).

The standard installation costs are usually included in the price, and a certified technician will do the job. Companies such as Pod Point say 90% of customers qualify for the free standard installation, with those falling outside the criteria needing to pay extra.

Government grants to help the process?

The actual cost of the 3.6kW home charger from Pod Point is £779. But thanks to the current Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV) grant towards home and public chargers, the Government will fund up to 75% of the potential cost of installing a charging station. However, the grant has a maximum monetary ceiling of £500.

Potential owners have to meet several clauses to be eligible for the grant. For example, only owners of eligible vehicles will be supported, with the charging point having to come from a Government-approved company. The charging point also has to be installed no more than four months ahead of the date of delivery or start of use.

For a full list of the Ts&Cs, visit gov.uk.

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 and swapping it for a new model, you will still be able to use your home charger as long as its connector suits the car. Given that most new electric cars and PHEVs come with Type 2 connector capability, 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 vehicle, you can ask the landlord or building owner to consider installing a public charging station for use. You may end up paying some or all of the costs, but the good news is that you may be able to split the cost with other residents who own electric vehicles or are considering buying one.