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Sales executive at GlobalVans

Charging your electric van

Everything you need to know

Electric Vans / Electric Van Guides / Charging your electric van

AC, DC, CCS, Type 2, Kilowatts, Gigawatts – You can be forgiven for finding the world of electric van charging a little confusing at first sight. It’s all reasonably simple though, as our Van Expert Tim Cattlin explains…

Drive a new diesel van away and you know what’s involved, find a filling station, make sure you’ve got the diesel nozzle, fill up and pay for it. Simple. It’s a little different with an electric van but you’ll soon be doing it blindfolded (caveat – I’m not actually recommending you do this…).

Tell me about cables and sockets

Virtually all electric vans have the capability to be charged with AC or DC power. Typically, your home or workplace charger will be of the AC type whereas the current supplied by a public chargepoint will be DC in nature. We’ll not delve into the differences here as the electricity does the same thing once it’s in your battery pack.

Let’s look at a typical electric van that represents the majority out there. The Vauxhall Vivaro Electric has a dual-purpose socket located behind a flap. The top portion of the socket is called a ‘Type 2’ connector, and this is where you’ll plug in your home AC charger, or ‘wallbox’. The lower part is called a CCS socket and here, you’ll connect the DC public charger.

Your new van may come with one or two cables to use at home or work. One will be a type 2 to type 2 cable, connecting your wallbox to your vehicle. A second cable may be a type 2 to a standard mains 3-pin socket for slow charging (check the instructions for use with this type as there are safety implications). Bear in mind that these cables may be optional and not included as standard with your new van. Public chargepoints have their own integrated cable.

Do I need to buy a home wallbox charger?

It’s likely that you’ll want to charge your van overnight at home, so investing in a wallbox is wise as using a standard domestic 3-pin socket takes a very long time to charge the van. There are choices to be made here regarding power output. A 3.6kw version is only a little faster than the normal domestic socket so the most popular option is a 7kw unit. You could opt for a 22kw wallbox but, you’ll need to have a 3-phase electricity supply at home, and bear in mind that the internal charger in your van might not be able to utilise that extra power depending on its rating. Our Vivaro has a 7.4kw AC charger as standard with an 11kw facility as an option so wouldn’t fully benefit from a 22kw supply.

You’ll also have the choice of the cable being tethered or not. The advantage of tethered is that it’s permanently connected to the wallbox and you’re not having to dig it out from the garage or the back of the van. The negative side is that it perhaps looks unsightly and is vulnerable to damage or theft.

How do I use a wallbox or public chargepoint?

At home, connect the wallbox to the vehicle socket using either your tethered or loose cable. The vehicle and box communicate briefly, the van locks the cable to the socket so that it can’t be disconnected either accidentally or deliberately, and charging commences with the vehicle display showing the increasing range available and the percentage of capacity achieved. Upon completion, you can unplug and drive away.

It’s not dissimilar with a public chargepoint, but you’ll have to have a payment method. Increasingly (and in the near future it’ll be mandatory) contactless payment using your debit/credit card or phone is possible, but there are also mobile phone apps or physical cards which have either a prepaid balance or a credit facility.

How long will charging take?

Unsurprisingly, how long depends on the capacity of the battery, how discharged it is and the charging rate. Our Vivaro when fitted with the 50kWh battery pack will take 28 hours to charge from 0 to 100% using a domestic 3-pin socket, but with a 7kWh wallbox, this is reduced to 7 hours 30 minutes. If you find a rapid DC chargepoint producing 100kw, you’ll get to 80% of charge from flat in just 35 minutes. One other thing to remember – DC chargepoints are very unwilling to charge your battery pack past 80% of capacity, you’ll need an AC supply to get yourself back up to 100%.

And how much will it cost?

At home, on a standard domestic tariff of 27 pence per kWh, you can reckon on a full charge costing around £16 to £20 depending on the size of the battery. Some domestic electricity suppliers offer cheap overnight rates for vehicle charging which can considerably reduce the cost.

The cost of using a public chargepoint varies considerably, often the fastest type being the most expensive and you could pay as much as 85 pence per kWh at the time of writing. But, once again the capability of the vans onboard DC charger needs to be considered. There’s no point paying a fortune to get a 300kWh ultra-rapid charge when your van can only cope with 100kWh.