What can you tell your customers about EV chargers?

Customers will not only rely on dealerships to help guide them with buying the right electric vehicle, but they may also need advice on how to charge it.

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The electric vehicle revolution is on its way and as we’re aware, by 2030 the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned.  Car buyers are already starting to make the switch, spurred on by the cost savings and environmental benefits.

These customers will be relying on dealerships to help guide them through the process of buying the right car for them, but they may also need advice on how to charge their new car.

Infrastructure is improving all the time, but what can you tell your customers about chargers? We asked Tom Barnard, editor of electric car website Electrifying.com: “There are plenty of public points but most electric car drivers will be plugging in at home, where they can fill their battery while they sleep,” he said.

Wallboxes, fuseboxes, wattage, speed, cost, tethered or untethered – there’s a lot to consider when plugging in at home.

“But first, they will need a wallbox charger fitted. It is possible to use a conventional three pin socket, but it’s not recommended for regular use with modern electric vehicles. This is partly because it can put a strain on household electrics, but also because it takes so long. A big-battery car like a Tesla Model S or Audi e-tron would take four days to charge using a three pin.”

For this reason, most electric car owners opt for a dedicated charge point which has its own separate supply from the house’s fusebox. The government currently provides a £350 grant to help with the purchase and installation cost.

These points allow the feed to be upgraded to allow faster charging. The cheapest option will be rated to 3.2kW, but it’s worth persuading the buyer to upgrade and ‘future proof’ with a 7.2kW. It’s possible to have up to 22kW if the property has access to an industrial-grade three-phase power supply, but this is rare.

The next choice will be between a tethered cable, which is fixed to the unit and can be unravelled to plug into the car directly. Or, go untethered, which just has a special socket and requires you to use the lead which will be supplied with the car. Again, it is generally worth paying the extra for the convenience of the tethered.

Just to complicate matters, the first-generation Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander use a different plug format on the car side – called a Type 1 – so make sure you order carefully. Tom said: “The Leaf and Outlander were big sellers but Type 1 is becoming obsolete, so if your customer is going to charge more than one vehicle or change cars soon, it’s better to go untethered to give flexibility.”

There are other decisions too. All wallboxes will have built-in electronics to protect the car and the power supply, but the more sophisticated units will also have timers and app controls which will let owners make use of cheaper night time rates of electricity.

Some will even connect to the internet via Wi-Fi and automatically start a charge when fluctuating energy rates go below a certain level. These wallboxes are more expensive but could save hundreds every year. Tom said: “It seems crazy, but some energy suppliers will allow you to charge your car for free at certain times in the dead of night when no one is using power and the wind turbines are spinning.”

The customer will need to decide where to put the charger on their house and be prepared to compromise if it will be difficult to access that location with a chunky cable. Installers will work hard to run a supply along or through walls, but they won’t be keen on taking up a driveway or tunnelling under a pond. For rented properties and communal car parks, you’ll obviously need to get permission from the landlord or residents’ association.

A bigger problem currently is getting hold of a charger. Companies are struggling to get them installed in a reasonable time frame as there just aren’t enough installers or hardware to go around. Most electricians will be qualified to install points but check they are registered with the government to claim the grant money, so it is worth calling a few for a quote.

This might all seem like a lot of work, but once installed the customer will never have to visit a fuel station again and could save a significant sum every year. Perhaps they could invest it by having LifeShine applied, so their electric car is always clean in more ways than one ….. :)

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