While it might sound like a simple question, there's no single answer to how long it takes to charge an electric car. In fact, the real-world charge time of electric cars can vary from under an hour to about a day.

A good comparison is to ask how much it costs to fill a petrol tank . The answer depends on the price per litre of petrol (or diesel), the size of the fuel tank, and whether the tank is completely empty or not.

In terms of electric cars, the time taken to reach full charge can depend on an even longer list of variables. Let's look at some factors that influence electric car charging times and the steps you can take to reduce EV charging times to their absolute minimum.

What Affects Electric Car Charging Times?

First of all, let's consider a 'Goldilocks' electric car charging time. A mid-range EV battery  offers about 60 kWh on a full charge, and a standard home charging point puts out about 7 kW of power.

Based on those figures, an empty-to-full charging time is likely to be about eight hours. That's a realistic overnight charging time, so if you only use your electric car in the daytime, you could reasonably charge it while you sleep and wake to a full battery.

Rapid chargers have a significantly higher power rating, typically around 50 kW. Just half an hour hooked up to one of those is enough for top electric car models to cover about 100 miles of range — so for short to medium-length journeys, you might only ever need to charge for less than an hour at a time.

This is ideal if you often need to charge away from home, or away from your workplace charging point for commercial electric car fleets. Many EV drivers rely primarily on these 'top-up charges' rather than depleting their battery to zero and then waiting for it to recharge to 100%.

Again, compare this with combustion engine vehicles — most drivers do not wait until their fuel gauge is in the red before completely filling their petrol tank, but instead top up by a quarter or half tank, or a certain amount of money, to keep the gauge in the middle of the range.

How to work out electric car charging times

In general, there are five main factors that affect electric car charging times.

These are:

  1. Battery Capacity (in kWh and based on the make and model of electric car)
  2. Battery Charge (topping up is faster than a full 0% to 100% recharge)
  3. Max Charge Rate (EVs have a maximum charging rate they can support)
  4. Charge Point (the power rating of the charge point in kW)
  5. Environment (variables like ambient air temperature at the charge point)

The first four of these are quite obvious — they equate to the amount of energy you need, the rate at which that energy is supplied, and the physical limits on that rate due to the charge point and the vehicle itself.

The fifth factor, environmental conditions, is particularly related to the lower efficiency of electric cars in very cold conditions. As such, you might find it takes longer to charge your battery during the coldest weeks of winter, especially if you use an outdoor charge point.

Because the vehicle's performance is also affected by extreme cold, your total range will also be slightly lower — so you'll need to charge to a higher percentage to cover the same number of miles, adding to the charge time even more.

Example EV charging times

Let's compare electric car charging times for some common battery sizes and charger types. In the table below, all times are approximate — there will be specific issues that might affect the real-world charging time — but are based on a full charge from zero to maximum capacity.

Battery

3.7 kW

7.6 kW

22 kW

50 kW Rapid

150 kW Rapid

15 kWh

4 hours

4 hours

3 hours

40 minutes

N/A

40 kWh

12 hours

6 hours

4 hours

1 hour

N/A

75 kWh

24 hours

12 hours

6 hours

2 hours

Under 1 hour

These are just a guide — the exact time will depend on the make and model of your vehicle and whether it can support high-power 'Rapid' charge points. In general, though, the higher the power rating of the charge point, the faster it will be to reach a full charge.

It's also worth noting that the gains you make from using a high-power charge point are much more significant if your vehicle has a high-capacity battery. On a Tesla Model S, for instance, using a very high-power 150 kW Rapid charge point can cut the full charge time from nearly a day, to less than an hour.

How to charge an electric car faster

There are a few things you can do to charge an electric car faster, some of which we've mentioned in some detail above.

Charging Infrastructure

The charging infrastructure itself has the most direct impact on your total charge time, so if possible, plug into the highest power rating of Rapid charge point that your make and model of vehicle can support.

It's also worth using the manufacturer-supplied charging cable where possible. The top electric car models incorporate technology to make charging as fast as possible, and using the supplied charging cable can make sure you don't add unnecessarily to that time.

Remember, plugging into an ordinary three-pin wall socket will take the longest of all, but it is the most widely available option if you're charging in a friend's driveway or garage.

High-powered Rapid charge points (up to 150 kW) are the fastest, but also the most expensive and least accessible.

Charging location

Weather conditions are often overlooked when calculating electric car charging times, but extreme cold can make it take longer to reach the same percentage, and can also affect how many miles you get from that charge.

If you're charging in a driveway, consider moving the car into the garage if there is one, as this should raise the ambient air temperature slightly and shave valuable minutes off your charging time in a pinch.

Top-up vs. full charge

Finally, consider whether you need to hit 100% each time you charge your vehicle. If you never need to do an empty-to-full battery charge, then the maximum charging time might not be a major concern.

Instead, look at new electric car models that offer the fastest top-up charges on a 7 kW home charging point , and you might never need to plug in your car for more than about 30 minutes at a time — especially in city centres, where public charging points are increasingly available in council-run car parks .