Electric car charging etiquette – the do’s and don’ts of EV charging

Electric car charging etiquette – the do’s and don’ts of EV charging
Charging an electric car away from home takes longer and requires more forward-planning than filling up a conventional car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) with petrol or diesel.

As a result, there are a few written – and unwritten – rules around this process.

Our guide will help you to charge your electric vehicle (EV) quickly and efficiently, with maximum consideration for other drivers and minimum stress. It will stand you in good stead for our increasingly electric future. 

Non-EVs parking in a charging bay

When an ICE vehicle parks in a bay specifically reserved for EV charging blocking access to the charge point, this is sometimes referred to as ‘ICEing’. It is one of the most frustrating scenarios an EV driver is likely to experience. Some smartphone charging apps allow the reporting of ‘ICEd’ bays so that other EV drivers will know they can’t charge there.

EV charging bays are only for plug-in vehicles. So, can hybrids use EV chargers? Yes, but only if they are plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). Some EV drivers get annoyed about PHEVs using charge points, arguing that these cars can also fall back on a petrol or diesel engine. This is certainly true, but PHEV drivers have a right to recharge as well.

Any driver can be guilty of blocking an EV charging bay if their vehicle is fully charged. The main point is that vehicles should only use these facilities when plugged in and recharging. Ideally, you should vacate the bay as soon as charging is complete. Some bays even have a specified time limit, with a penalty if drivers exceed the permitted duration. 

Etiquette at public EV charge points

Plan ahead

Try to plan ahead using an app such as Zap-Map or PlugShare. This allows you to see which chargers are occupied in real-time, reducing the risk of a frustrating and timely wait. Aiming for a large charge hub (such as those operated by Gridserve), also means a greater likelihood of being able to charge straight away. 

Motorway service areas are great because they usually have plenty of charge points. However, there can be a queue of drivers waiting to use them, so it’s always best to check a location’s operational status and how busy it is before you park up. 

EV charge point queuing

If there are several drivers waiting to charge, it can be chaotic. Unlike a fuel station, there is no real queuing system – drivers just have to be considerate and respectful of who was there first. As the number of EVs continues to grow, this is something that may be introduced. For now, although some smartphone apps, or websites such as EVgo in the US, allow charging bays to be reserved, EV drivers still need to be patient.

Allow extra time for charging in case – despite your best efforts to plan ahead – there is a queue. Try to be patient and polite. Despite EVs’ increasing popularity, there is still a community feel among EV drivers.

Don’t be a bay hogger

Aim to unplug and move your EV as soon as it has finished charging. This won’t always be possible (if you leave the car on charge while shopping, for example, in which case you could leave a note in the windscreen), but parking in charging bays long after your vehicle has fully recharged won’t make you popular. Many charge points will only allow a fixed period of charging (e.g. 45 minutes) to discourage this. 

If there is someone waiting to charge after you, consider telling them that you’re only going to be a few more minutes if you’re near the end of your charge period. That way, they’ll know they don’t have long to wait.

Charge at the right speed

All EVs have either a Type 1 or Type 2 socket for slow and fast charging, and a Combined Charging System (CCS) or CHAdeMO socket for rapid battery refills. Type 1 and CHAdeMO sockets are more commonly found on Japanese cars such as the 2010-2017 Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Type 2 and CCS sockets are largely used on almost all the EVs and plug-in hybrids sold in European countries.

Type 1 and Type 2 chargers are rated for charging at between 3.7kW and 7kW, so are the connections to use for a home charge point. Fast, rapid and ultra-rapid chargers are rated from 50-350kW, but your EV will also be rated, limiting the refill power and speed it can take. 

As a rule, only higher-end EVs such as the Porsche Taycan can use the fastest and most powerful 350kW chargers. Typically, most ‘affordable’ EVs charge between 50kW and 100kW. Find out more about EV charger power, speeds and refill times in our extensive EV charging speed guide

Try not to use rapid or ultra-rapid chargers unless you have a suitable electric car. Plugging in a PHEV that charges at 7.2kW to a 50kW fast charger makes limited use of that device’s capacity and could prevent somebody else from charging far more quickly.  

Don’t unplug other vehicles

Lastly, don’t unplug other cars! In most cases this won’t be possible, since the cables lock into place once the charge is underway, but some early EVs and PHEVs with Type 1 connectors could be unplugged without unlocking.

Etiquette at workplace EV charge points

If there aren’t enough workplace charging points for every EV driver to be allocated one each, you will need to share. This means being considerate and moving your car when it has finished charging. 

Consider leaving a note for colleagues who may be waiting, or perhaps setting up a WhatsApp group for workplace electric vehicle drivers. That way, you can alert everyone – or be alerted – when a charger becomes free. 

You could also petition your employer to install additional EV charging points if the present number is insufficient for the demand. They will likely be needed as the number of EVs on the roads grows anyway. 

More tips for considerate EV charging etiquette

Remember that electric cars charge relatively quickly up to 80 percent capacity, then the rate slows down to protect the battery. This is why most car manufacturers typically quote a ‘10-80 percent’ charging time. If the charge point is busy, do you really need a full charge? If not, you could save both time and money.

Another EV charging rule to remember to not block in other cars while you wait for a charger. It won’t make the process any quicker and could cause tempers to flare.

If there is someone waiting for your charger, tell them that you’re only going to be a few more minutes if you’re near the end of the charge. Again, this keeps everyone informed and minimises the risk of arguments.

Unless you have workplace charging, charge at home whenever possible if you have a home charging point. It’s certainly a lot more convenient and almost always cheaper, too. If you recharge your EV overnight, you may rarely – if ever – need to use a public charger. When it comes to electric car charging rules, in most cases, it just comes down to consideration and common sense.

Following these rules will make driving an electric car more pleasant for everyone. However, most of us have stories to share from the frontline of EV ownership: of being ICEd, or of ‘range anxiety’ due to the actions of others. Let us know your experiences of electric car charging etiquette, good and bad, in the comments below.

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