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Stop Wondering. Start Driving
Thinking about switching to an Electric car? If you’re new to the world of
electric and hybrid cars, our simple guide below will help to answer all of your questions.
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How does a battery electric vehicle work?
In simple terms, energy is stored in a large battery, which drives a powerful electric motor. Easy. To charge it, simply plug it into a home chargepoint, or a public charger when you’re out and about, and the car will take care of the rest.
Plug it in at home, and you wake up every morning with a ‘full tank’* – in the case of the e-Niro, that’s a potential 282-mile range! The car then drives on battery power alone, there is no need to add petrol or diesel.
It can even add charge to the battery while you are driving by recovering energy that would normally be lost – when braking for example.
How does a self-charging hybrid car work?
In terms of how you use it, a self-charging hybrid car works just like a conventional car – there is no need to plug in – simply fill up with petrol at the pumps, and off you go!
So what does hybrid mean? It’s pretty simple, along with a petrol or diesel engine, hybrid cars also have an electric motor that is powered by a small battery.
The aim of the electric motor is to assist the engine and occasionally drive very short distances on battery power – as opposed to driving long distances on battery power alone as a plug-in hybrid or a battery-electric vehicle would.
The battery is charged by recovering energy that would otherwise be wasted – when slowing down for example.
The battery then feeds this energy to the electric motor to help with acceleration or to drive the car at low speeds. This means lower emissions, better fuel economy and more money to spend on the things you enjoy. Great!
How does a plug-in hybrid car work?
A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) works in a similar way to a self-charging hybrid– there is a petrol engine combined with an electric motor and a battery.
In a plug-in hybrid, the battery is much larger than in a self-charging hybrid.
This means the car is able to travel around 30 miles on battery power alone – more than enough for the UK average daily commute – but it can also call on the petrol engine for longer trips.
Like a self-charging hybrid, the battery can be charged whilst driving, but for the full benefit, you will need to plug in.
Charging a PHEV should take less than three hours. Put this all together and you can enjoy miles of low-cost, all-electric driving while still having a petrol engine for those rare long distance trips. Perfect.
How does a mild hybrid car work?
A mild hybrid car works in a very similar way to a self-charging hybrid car, but it has a smaller battery.
Because the battery is smaller, a mild hybrid cannot drive on battery power alone – unlike a self-charging hybrid in which the motor can take over at low speed or when cruising.
Instead, the petrol or diesel engine does the majority of the work and the electric motor is there to provide assistance.
This means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard, which means lower emissions and increased fuel economy.
The battery is charged by recovering energy that would otherwise be wasted – when slowing down for example. There is no need to plug-in a mild hybrid, simply keep it topped up with petrol or diesel as you would with a conventional car.
How do you charge a hybrid or electric car?
Hybrid and electric cars are most commonly charged at home, but can be charged at work, or at thousands of public chargers, such as at supermarkets or service stations.
You can find out a bit more about how each works below.
Read our simple guide below to learn how to charge an electric car
Charging Point connections
How to charge an electric car at home
In the UK, the vast majority of electric car charging is done at home. This is usually the most convenient and cost-effective way to charge. Get home, plug in, wake up with a full charge. Brilliant! To charge from home, it is best to get a home charge point installed. A dedicated home EV charger will charge your car much faster than using a three-pin plug – up to three times quicker! It’s safer, too. A home chargepoint from Pod Point – Kia’s charging partner – is weatherproof, so you can of course charge when it’s raining. The charge point is also smart, and WiFi enabled which means it can keep track of how much you have spent on charging – so you can invoice for travel costs for example. It can even save you money by charging when electricity is cheapest.
How much does it cost to install a home charge point?
Good news, there is a £500 OLEV government grant available to help with the cost of a home charge point. This means for a standard installation, our partner, Pod Point, can supply and install a home charge point from as little as £279 for a 3.6kW charger, or, for Kia customers, a special price of £300 (£359 RRP) for a 7kW charger after the grant.
If you don’t know which charger you need, fear not, we’ll explain that next. If you’re thinking about getting a home charge point, it is also worth switching your electricity to a smart meter. If you haven’t already done so, switching to a smart meter is usually free, and provides many benefits for drivers who charge at home. A smart meter will allow you take advantage of smart tariffs, which mean your car can charge when it’s greenest and cheapest to do so. In future, you will need a smart meter to take advantage of the OLEV grant. (The benefit of the government’s £500 grant towards a home charge point, you need to own your home, have off-street parking and not have claimed the grant for the vehicle.
What type of charger do I need at home?
Yes, there are different types of charger and connector for electric vehicles. But don’t panic, it sounds more complicated than it is.
Chargers can range from 3.6kW up to 50kW, and there are even faster chargers coming soon. For now though, let’s look exclusively at home charging. When charging at home, there is a choice of 3.6kW or 7kW. As you may have guessed, a 7kW charger will charge faster than a 3.6kW, so is ideal for full EVs – such as the All-New Kia e-Niro. Not all cars can charge at 7kW, most plug-in hybrids will only charge at 3.6kW – this is because they have much smaller batteries and don’t need to charge as fast.
A 7kW charger will still charge a 3.6kW car, but only at the speed of a 3.6kW charger. You can also charge by plugging into a regular 3-pin socket in your house, but this is much slower, and best avoided. It is also important to check that it is safe to use a three-pin charger – they should not be used with an extension lead, for example – and it may not be possible in every home
. Once you know what charge speed you require at home, you then need to know how to connect the car to the charger. For home charging, there are two main types of connector, and they are simply known as Type 1 (a five-pin plug) and Type 2 (a seven-pin plug). For example, the All-New e-Niro uses a Type 2 charger and can charge at 7kW – but can also charge faster at rapid public charge points (more on that below).
You can specify your Pod Point charger to come with a Type 1 or Type 2 cable already tethered, or, you can have a universal socket, so you can plug your own cable in. The Kia e-Niro comes with its own Type 2 charge cable, so if you have two different vehicles that require different connectors, a universal socket is the way to go. You can find out more about home charging from our partner Pod Point.
How do I charge my car in public?
There are more than 20,000 public connectors in the UK at more than 7,000 locations, and that number is rising every day. Many public chargers can be found in town centres, supermarkets and motorway services. If you want to see where your nearest public charger is, whether it is in use and whether it is working, you can check with services such as the Zap Map app. Public chargers can vary in speed from 3kW to rapid 50kW DC chargers. Rapid DC uses different connectors – CCS (Combined Charging System) or CHAdeMO. The Kia e-Niro for example a CCS connector for rapid DC charging. It will be made clear which speeds and connectors your car is compatible with.
How to find electric car charging points: Zap Map
Finding somewhere to top up your electric or plug-in hybrid in public is easy with Zapmap.
To find the closest one to you, type your postcode and Zap Map will show you all available charging stations nearby. You can then click on individual icons to find out more information.
Things like whether the station is free to use, and the type of charging cables included are listed, as is commentary from previous drivers – such as whether the cafes nearby are nice or if they’ve ever had issues using the connectors.
You can also find the rates of charging, often displayed as £ per kWh, and whether the chargers require a subscription account before use, or if you can pay directly. This will help you compare various charging prices from nearby stations, much like comparing fuel prices across local forecourts.
How do I pay for public charging?
Some public chargers are free, but many will require payment. Different chargers can be run by different networks, and each will have slightly different ways of charging. But generally, it’s as simple as having an app on your phone and selecting the charger you wish to use. Take Pod Point for example, you simply plug in your car, select the charge point you are using in the app, and you’re good to go. It’s that easy.
For networks that require payment, this is usually also done through the app. Some networks used to require you to use an RFID card that would be sent in the post, but for the most part these have been replaced by smartphone apps. You can check apps and websites such as Zap Map to find out more about the different charging networks. You can also use the service to look up which networks operate your local charge points.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car?
Much like charging times, the cost of charging a car will vary by battery size and when and where it is charged. The average overnight electricity rate in the UK is 13p per kWh, so to fully charge a Kia e-Niro from 0% could cost around £8.30 – but this will vary depending electricity supplier and and tariff fluctuations.
The cost of charging at public charge points varies by network, but is still substantially cheaper than petrol or diesel per mile.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
That’s a good question. And the answer is, it varies massively depending on the size of the car’s battery and the charger being used. Let’s use the Kia e-Niro as an example. The Kia e-Niro can drive up to 282 miles on a single charge – one of the longest ranges available right now. Part of the reason it can achieve this range is because it has a very large (64kWh) battery. So how long will it take to charge?
It’s incredibly rare that you charge from 0%. The majority of the time, when you plug your car in at home or in public, you’ll likely be topping up. If you did want to charge from 0% though, it would take just over 10 hours to get a full charge at home on a 7kW charger. If you were charging in public at a rapid 50kW charger – at a motorway services for example – you could get from 0% to 80% charge in an hour. 100kW rapid chargers are also coming soon, which will allow 0% to 80% in 45 minutes. To put this into context, you could stop at the services, plug in, grab yourself a coffee and a bite to eat, then return to the car with around 200 miles of range in the battery. Great!
Plug-in hybrids have much smaller batteries, so don’t take as long to charge.
All New Kia e-Niro: rewriting the rulebook on electric driving
Powerful acceleration. A generous equipment list. Impressive range. It’s little wonder the All-New Kia e-Niro is WhatCar?’s Car of the Year.
The All-New e-Niro’s revolutionary powertrain means an emission-free range of 282 miles, with enough power to sprint from 0-62mph in just 7.8 seconds. Find out more about the All-New Kia e-Niro
The All-New Soul EV:
No more searching for petrol stations, no more oil changes, no more loud, vibrating engines and absolutely no emissions.
Instead, the All-New Kia Soul EV gives you long-range driving with easy charging and instant acceleration – in a modern atmosphere where the only thing loud is your music.