ELECTRIC cars aren't new. They've been around as long as the internal combustion engine and, for a time, at the start of the 20th Century they were the first choice among early drivers.

Electric vehicles were driven by royalty, the well-heeled and captains of industry.

Battery-powered taxis ferried passengers around in London, Paris and New York. Electric heavy goods vehicles were used in some ports because the risk of explosion caused by a dirty, smelly petrol-powered engines was very real.

But after a few short years electric cars floundered. By the 1920s they were pretty much extinct.

The reason? The charging infrastructure or, rather, the lack of charging infrastructure.

Early motorists couldn't be certain they could find a way to charge their car's batteries when they went flat.

Fast forward 120 years and the AA tells us millions of drivers are uncertain about how to charge an electric car.

Almost 40 per cent say they wouldn't have a clue about which chargepoint would be compatible with a particular EV.

So let me help.

Pod Point is one of the leading providers of EV charging solutions in the UK. This is what James McKemey, head of policy and public affairs, has to say:

Charging your EV is different from refuelling a petrol car. EVs can effectively fuel themselves when they are parked, so long as you can put charging infrastructure in the places your car spends its time doing nothing. Most charging happens at people’s homes/workplaces, as cars spend a lot of their lives parked in these spots. However, public charging is still very important, particularly for those who can’t charge at home or at work.

We like to categorise public charging as either en route charging, or destination charging.

En route charging is the most analogous charging to conventional refuelling. You stop in the middle of a journey to extend your mileage. You want the fastest charging possible in this scenario, and that means it usually costs more - high powered charging requires big, expensive grid connections that operators need to recoup. However, contrary to what petrol car drivers often expect, it is rare that en route charging is required by most drivers - just a handful of times a year. It is also, paradoxically the least convenient - the only place where EV drivers genuinely have to wait to charge.

Destination charging is best thought of as charging that takes places where you were going to park anyway. For example, you may well choose to shop at Tesco because they offer their customers chargepoints, but you are still going there to shop. Destination charging is therefore often very convenient, taking place while the driver is busy living their life.

Finding your Chargepoint

Many EV sat navs keep information on where chargepoints are, which is particularly useful for planning long journeys. Otherwise third party apps like “Zap Map,” show where almost all public chargepoints are. In practice, most drivers do most of their charging in their local area and quickly become familiar with where their most useful chargers are, without referring to mapping.

AC vs. DC

Full battery EVs usually come with two charging capabilities - AC (Alternating Current), which tends to be lower powered (3.6kW up to 22kW, though usually 7kW in the UK) and DC (Direct Current), which offers higher powered charging (50kW up to 350kW).

Essentially all en route charging is DC charging, as high power is needed.

AC charging takes place at homes, work and destinations where it offers a gradual top up. DC charging does feature at destinations, where it offers an optional quicker charge, but it is almost always more expensive than AC charging.

Plugging-in to Your Socket

For all DC chargers the charging cable is tethered to the charging point, so you merely park up and plug the right cable for your car into your car socket. NB: There are a couple of different DC socket types, but most EVs these days have “CCS” connectors, some older ones feature “CHAdeMO” DC sockets (Nissan LEAFs being the most common of these).

For most AC chargers you must bring your own cable that plugs in the universal “Type 2” socket and into your car’s socket. There are 2 car side sockets, Type 1 and Type 2, however almost every EV on sale now has a Type 2 socket, Type 1 appears to be historic in the UK (e.g. early Nissan LEAFs).

For more information you can see which your car has from Pod Point’s Vehicle Guides, or learn more about connector types in general on this Pod Point Drivers’ Guide.

Starting or Ending the Charge

Whether it’s for DC or AC, starting and ending the charge varies from charger to charger. It is important to read the instructions usually on the unit, signage or on the unit’s screen.

Paying (for) the Charge

As en route charging is most analogous to refuelling, almost all en route chargers now have contactless bank card readers, allowing customers to pay with the simple tap of a card. Some networks offer app payment, this allows drivers to keep an easy record of each transaction and can even offer lower pricing as it removes the transaction fee. NB: Tesla Superchargers require no authentication, as Tesla administers the billing via the car, though the network is only open to Tesla cars.

Destination charging, particularly on AC, is more analogous with paying for/authenticating parking. As with parking, a range of solutions are used. Probably most common are app solutions run by each charging network. While having multiple providers may seem over complicated, in reality drivers gradually accrue these apps over time, often re-using the same one or two for most of their charging.

It is possible to authenticate/pay from within the car in some cases for both en route and destination chargers and this will likely become more common, but this is still quite a nascent technology.