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Ten things you need to know about charging electric cars

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Electromobility is steadily gaining popularity. Besides Tesla, BMW, and Nissan, other brands – including VW, Renault, and Opel – have also launched electric cars. That said, only 50,000 of the 4.5 million cars currently registered in Switzerland are fully electric, although this number is growing.

A study by Swiss eMobility claims that all Swiss drivers will have gone electric by 2035. Have you already made the switch, or are you thinking about doing it soon? Our ten facts about functionality, charging stations, and range will help you decide.

1. How do electric cars work?

Like the internal combustion engine in a conventional car, the motor is the beating heart of an electric car. The difference is that it's powered by electricity stored in a battery. The battery can be compared to a combustion-engined car's fuel tank. It has to be charged regularly, and its capacity determines the car's range. Put simply, the motor converts the electric energy from the battery into mechanical energy.

2. How far can an electric car go?

Depending on how much electricity they use (measured in kWh/100 km) and their battery capacity, electric vehicles can have a range of between 100 and 600 km. Is that enough for you? Assuming you drive 10,000 km a year, that works out at around 192 km a week, so today's electric cars are ideal for everyday use such as commuting to work and shopping. There's no need to worry about them suddenly grinding to a halt.

But what about longer journeys? The good news is that virtually all new electric cars can use charging stations with a capacity of at least 50 kW thanks to the CCS plug, so they're ready to get going again within an hour. Some have navigation systems that are programmed to seek out the nearest charging station. This means that even longer trips aren't a problem for electric cars these days. 

Tip: Before you buy an electric car, think about how far you actually drive in a week. That will help you to work out what size battery you need, which is a significant factor in determining the price of the car.

3. Where can I charge my electric car?

It's useful if you can charge your car at home or at work, but it isn't essential. There are now charging stations at lots of locations throughout Switzerland, including rest stops, public parking lots, shopping malls, and supermarkets. The swisscharge.ch map is a handy way to find the charging station nearest to you.

4. How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The charging time depends on the battery's size, whether or not it's completely empty, and its maximum charging capacity. The outside temperature and the model of car also play a part. Charging from a conventional household mains socket takes the longest, and you should only do this if you have no other option as mains sockets aren't designed to be used at full power over long periods. A home charging station, often called a wall box, is quicker, while a fast charging station is the quickest option of all.

How to calculate the charging time:

Battery capacity (kWh) / charging capacity (kW) = charging time

5. What's the fastest way to charge?

If you want enough charge for 200 km, and your car uses 20 kWh/100 km on average, you need 2 x 20 = 40 kWh.

Here's how long it will take:

  • at a wall box (11 kW charging capacity): 3 hours and 36 minutes
  •  at a fast charging station (50 kW charging capacity): 48 minutes
  • at a fast charging station (100 kW charging capacity): 24 minutes

6. How much does it cost to charge at a public charging station?

The price at a public charging station may include a one-time charging fee, a price per kWh, and/or a parking fee. Prices can vary from charging station to charging station. As a rule, the faster the charging station, the more you have to pay. In other words, slower AC charging stations are cheaper. You can find estimated prices on swiss-emobility.ch (page is in german).

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7. How can I charge my electric car at home?

It takes a very long time to charge from a standard mains outlet because they just aren't designed for the job. That's why a wall box is a good compromise for charging at home. As a rule, they have a capacity of 11 kW and can charge most electric cars using a type 2 (AC) plug (see infographic on plug types below). AXA lets you include an additional component in your car insurance to insure your wall box against vandalism, theft, and incorrect usage. It will cover the cost of an equivalent new charging station, including installation. Click here to request a consultation about insuring your wall box.

8. Which home charging station is right for me? 

Depending on your connection options, the number of cars you want to charge, the type of charging station, and how you want to be billed, there are various options for planning and installing a home charging station. For example, swisscharge.ch offers individual solutions for private use as well as charging infrastructure and load management for landlords and companies: info@swisscharge.ch.

9. What types of plug are there, and what do I have to bear in mind when charging? 

Generally speaking, there are two types of plug: those for normal (AC) charging stations up to 22 kW and those for fast (DC) charging stations from 50 to 300+ kW. The charging time depends on the charging station's capacity and the car's charging speed. The infographic below gives you an overview of the main features of type 1, type 2, CHAdeMO, and CCS plugs.

Overview of electric car plug types

10. When is an electric car more sustainable than one with a petrol or diesel engine?

This depends on a number of factors, including the amount of energy used to manufacture the car as well as the electricity needed to charge it. In Switzerland, roughly 70% of household mains electricity already comes from renewable sources. Many public charging stations allow you to charge your car with 100% certified eco-friendly electricity. With swisscharge.ch, for example, the following providers offer this option:

  • Energie 360°
  • IWB
  • ewz

Installing a charging station in a condominium

Do you own a condominium property, and are you planning to buy an electric car? If so, you should take note of the following points with regard to having a charging station installed:

  • The meeting of condominium owners has the power of decision as to whether a charging station is to be installed, unless it's going to be installed in a self-contained parking bay.
  • You have to pay for an individual connection yourself. If the other owners aren't prepared to share the basic installation cost, you have to pay that as well as the cost of the wall box for your personal parking space. 
  • If the owners want to ensure that more charging stations can be added in future, you'll need a smart charging infrastructure. This involves a shared basic installation for the whole garage that the individual owners can have their personal wall box connected to as needed.
  • In any case, it's important to make sure that the electricity used can be billed separately. If multiple charging stations are in use in the same building, a smart power supply – also known as charging management or load management – can make sense.
  • If the charging station is installed on the condominium property, future owners may be obliged to pay a share of the installation cost after the fact if they wish to use it.

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