• #EV charging
  • Jul 11, 2021

If you are switching to an electric vehicle (EV) and can park on a drive or within cable-reach of your home, you’ll want to plug it in.

Charging at home is one of the most convenient bits about owning an electric car, avoiding any fuel stations, and it can make it seriously cheap to drive. Installing a wallbox or EV charger at home gives you the option to add miles to your battery much faster than you can using a three-pin plug. Some chargers also offer you a lot more than simply being a quicker way to charge.

Which home charger should you choose? Although there are quite a few options, here are six easy questions to make sure you get a great match:

1. Can you park two cars side by side?
2. Is size and design important?
3. What if your WiFi doesn't reach?
4. Don’t want to dig up your drive?
5. Have you got solar (or thinking about it)?
6. Want greener and cheaper grid energy?

1. Can you park two cars side by side?

Answer ‘yes’ to this and you’ll probably find a tethered charger is your best option. Most people prefer a tethered cable - that’s one that’s always attached to your home charger. The advantages of a tethered charger are that you can arrive home and plug straight in without going to fetch your cable or store it in your boot. The cable is also permanently attached to the wall, so you don’t need to worry about leaving it out.

untethered charger
An untethered charger gives you flexibility if you can't park two cars side-by-side

The main disadvantage of a tethered charger comes if you need flexibility. If you can’t get two vehicles close to the wallbox, then if you got a second EV or have a friend over who wants to charge, you may in the future want a longer cable - this would make an untethered charger a good option.  

If you have an older EV with a type 1 connector, you definitely want to opt for an untethered charger in order to future-proof your driveway.

2. Is size and design important?

Depending on the best spot for your charger, you may be limited by size or not prepared to compromise on looks. Wallbox chargers range from tiny sockets barely bigger than the plug itself to plastic boxes larger than a cereal box. Untethered wallboxes are always smaller in size and minimalist in design, so could work well if you’re looking for a subtle addition to your house.

Home charging can blend in with your location

Other products go to lengths to get noticed, for the right reasons. Andersen chargers are available in multiple subtle colours, with beautifully grained wooden panels made from Accoya, a sustainably sourced timber used in bridge-building or on a ship’s decks.

3. What if your WiFi doesn't reach?

To get clever features from your smart charger you’ll need to link it up to the internet. If your WiFi signal is weak in the location where your charger would be installed, but you have a good mobile phone signal, then the Ohme is a great option.

Ohme is the only charger that uses a 3G/4G mobile connection rather than your home’s internet. Ohme’s wall chargers and cables can all connect to 3, EE, O2 and Vodafone networks. The unit will connect to whichever signal is strongest in your area. There is no extra ongoing cost as Ohme takes care of the mobile data charges.

Ohme charger
Ohme chargers offer smart features using a mobile connection rather than WiFi

Ohme offers one of the best value EV chargers on the market, especially with a hefty discount for Octopus Energy customers. They also offer a cable only option, so there’s potential to upgrade an existing ‘dumb’ untethered unit too. We’ll talk more about Ohme’s green energy features a little later on.

Zappi is another possible option, as it uses its own wireless connection between devices and the centrally located Hub (that does require WiFi). This wireless frequency has a better range than WiFi, but can still be affected by thick walls.

For all other chargers, you can try Power Line adaptor plugs to extend your wifi outside. For this to work, you’ll need to use two household sockets that are on same ring main.

4. Don’t want to dig up your drive?

‘Earth’ rods (a long copper rod) are commonly inserted into the ground near the charger to protect you should the system develop a fault. In some cases earth rod installation is simply not possible, or you may have a lovely driveway that you don’t want to disrupt. The good news is that there are plenty of chargers that have built in earth protection - making the installation simpler. Using a Government authorised EV installer means any specific issues at your home can be addressed properly.

Many chargers don't require an earth rod, so your driveway won't be disturbed

Pod Point is one of the UK’s biggest charger providers and installers. None of their models need an earth rod. Their Solo Smart Home Chargers come with a universal socket or tethered cable and in a variety of power ratings - from the 3.8kW to 22kW - though most people opt for the 7kW version listed as costing £599 including installation (after government grant).

Myenergi’s Zappi eco-friendly smart chargers also have built-in protection which means an earth stake is not needed.

ROLEC offers an O-PEN:EV consumer unit compatible with their 20A or 40A WallPod:EV chargers as an alternative to an earth rod, but this comes separately rather than the functionality being built-in to the wall charger. It will cost you around £130 on top of the charger cost.

EO chargers advise the use of Garo earthing devices instead of an earth rod. The Garo gadget is a bit like an RCD, and will disconnect if a fault is detected. It will also add around £130 to your install cost.

As you might expect from a top-end design, the sleek Andersen A2, hides all it’s own cables and doesn’t require an earthing rod either.

5. Have you got solar (or thinking about it)?

If your property has solar, or if you are considering getting solar in the future, and you are regularly able to charge your vehicle in the day with surplus solar energy, then the Zappi is a good option.

The Zappi charger was the world's first solar-compatible EV charger. Zappi has special ECO charging modes that will benefit homeowners with grid-tied solar or even wind generation. Two special ECO charging modes automatically adjust charging current in response to on-site generation and household power consumption. In FAST charge mode, zappi operates like an ordinary EV charger.

zappi charger with solar
A Zappi charger works well for homes with solar or wind generation

Zappi is produced by British manufacturer Myenergi. It works with a supporting solar power diverter (eddi), energy harvesting wireless sensor (harvi) and smart Hub. You’ll need the Hub to qualify for the OLEV grant and it allows for connection between the Zappi charger and your phone via an app. After the OLEV discount, the zappi & hub units together will set you back around £430 plus installation costs.

The Zappi is capable of putting out either 7kW or 22kW, (but you'll need a three-phase power supply for the latter). You can choose between a tethered or untethered 6.5-metre cable.

6. Looking for cheaper, greener grid energy?

The Ohme syncs automatically with your EV-friendly energy tariff, taking advantage of the cheapest electricity rates, such as those offered by Octopus Energy.

What's the best tariff for me?

Compare EV tariffs

Ohme is currently the only charger in the UK to offer these type of smart features via an easy-to-use app. The app will let you keep track of costs, but also the carbon impact of the energy you use.

Charging an EV with surplus power from your solar panels is greener and cheaper 

As we mentioned earlier, the Ohme products require a 3G/4G mobile phone signal to work as a smart charger. This allows you to see more accurate costs (great if you claim the cost of your miles back), as mobile data can be more reliable than a WiFi signal, depending on the location of your charger and router. However, it’s worth noting that without phone signal, you won’t be able to benefit from Ohme’s smart charging capabilities.

7. Can't get a smart meter installed?

A smart meter is essential for most time-of-use tariffs. If you can’t get a smart meter installed, another way around the problem is using a smart charging app, like ev.energy, that works with a number of utilities to give you rewards for shifting your charging to off-peak hours. Utilities that offer tariffs that work with ev.energy include Igloo Smart EV and E.ON Next Drive. The app currently works with either a connected car (all Teslas and most other OEMS via an integration) or a limited number of chargers (Rolec being one). Full details from ev.energy's charge and car FAQ.

Why do I need a charger installed?

A regular three-pin plug will draw a maximum charge of 3kW, adding around 10 miles every hour it is plugged in. This might be too slow to fully recharge an electric car from empty in a useful amount of time, but it will work if you don’t do many miles each day so only ever need to ‘top-up’.

Many manufacturers supply a cable with a three-pin plug with your car. However, there are safety features and protections on all wallboxes that will protect you in the event of a rare fault. Home chargers provide electrical safety for the operator and lower risks of fire and electric shock.