How to use an EV charger – everything you need to know

Avoiding risk and frustration with our advice on EV charging.

One of the many benefits of owning an EV is the cleanliness and convenience of charging it. Even the best fuel forecourts will always have a trace scent of petrol or diesel. And there’s no avoiding the smell of liquid fuel, with its pungency and toxicity, when you open that filler cap and fuel your petrol or diesel car.

But with an EV, there’s no toxicity smell. Or the risk of spillage if you are unfortunate and have a nozzle safety catch failure on the pump trigger. Charging an EV is much cleaner because electricity doesn’t smell or drip, but there are some differences between pumping liquid fuel and charging your EV, which are worth knowing.

> Read more: Lotus deal to add 600,000 chargers 

Positioning your EV at the charger

Experienced drivers know the benefit of neatly lining up that filler cap with the fuel pump, preventing fuel hose stretching and strain. You want to do the least amount of hose movement to refuel a car, and that same logic applies to charging an EV.

Unlike most conventional liquid fuel stations, many EV chargers don’t allow you to charge port-to-charge-station adjacency. What does that mean? In a traditional fuel service forecourt, you can pull up right next to the pump, whereas most EV chargers are mounted at the front of a parking bay, meaning you can either position your EV nose- or tail-on to the charger.

Because charging ports are side-mounted on a vehicle, you need to position the charging cable to manipulate it more than would be required with petrol or diesel refuelling. Some new EV charging stations in the UK are configured like a traditional petrol or diesel forecourt, with the ability to position your car adjacent to the charger.

> Read more: kerbside chargers 

Charging cables and injury risk

What do you need to think of when unfurling an EV charging cable? There’s quite a lot to think of.

Firstly, evaluate how heavy the cable that you are using is. EV charging cables can be much weightier than a conventional petrol or diesel fuel pipe. High-energy chargers can have reasonably heavy cables that are made even more challenging to use due to the thickness of their insulation, limiting cable flex.

Don’t assume a cable will flex and shape like a conventional fuel hose. It won’t. Guiding a high-energy EV charger cable to your car and plugging it into the port is a two-handed effort. Don’t try to be cavalier by using only one hand; you could be overwhelmed with the weight of the charging cable as it uncoils, and the insulation material’s lack of flexibility resists it. Keep one hand on the charger coupling’s handle and the other supporting the cable. Using both hands also keeps your field of vision focused on the cable as it unfurls, allowing you to see any potential snag risk.

The second important issue to consider when plugging in your EV charger is to remove the charging port’s bottom cover. By removing this cover, which is tethered to the vehicle’s charger port casing, you can use a full-capacity charger if available (which it should be, as most public charging stations are configured this way).

Tripping is a real risk when charging your EV. Be mindful of how the charging cable is routed from its charger to your EV, and always take the slow and steady approach when moving around a charging station area. If you rush or have forgotten something in the car and are scrambling to recover it, remember that there is a heavy-duty cable close by, which can be unsighted if you are distracted and cause a nasty fall if you trip over it.

> Read more: UK fails to meet EV charger target

Why doesn’t it want to disconnect?

Your EV has charged, and you want to continue your journey or head home, but it feels stuck no matter how hard you pull on the coupling handle. Now what?

Because of the volume of energy that transfers between a charger and an EV, couplings won’t disconnect without the charger being commanded to because of safety.

If your schedule requires you to go before your vehicle fully charges, you can push the disconnect button on the charger terminal or the override icon, a button you’ll see in your EV’s charger port casing.

It’s a good protocol and EV charging manner to place the connector back in its mounting port. This prevents an uncoiled cable, which could be a tripping risk for other users, and keeps any contaminants or moisture from entering the charger’s connector.

> Read more: finding EV chargers made easier

Sober charger expectations

Decades of pumping fuel into cars have conditioned most drivers to never think about the quality of petrol or diesel they are getting. Or how much range it will deliver. But EV ownership is different.

In a world of data abundance, EV owners can see how much energy is being transferred from a charger to the vehicle. And the numbers might not always be as promised.

EV chargers are built to set power specifications. But they don’t always produce their peak-rated power outflows, which isn’t unusual. EV owners shouldn’t expect peak charging performance at every charger each time they plug in. It can vary, and although using one of the charging network apps does help monitor charging station health and set your expectations, it’s best to be conservative and expect a public charging station to underdeliver slightly on its peak power output.

If rated recharging performance is a non-negotiable, download all the charging brand apps available in your area – or where you plan to journey – and monitor the real-time status of available chargers. It’s also worth using the power of the community to learn which chargers are highly rated for producing energy consistently on their rated output. Check the reviews of chargers in your area or those on the route you plan to follow for a weekend away.

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