The other kind of miles-per-hour
Fast chargers are all very well, but what if you're charging your electric car from a regular plug socket?
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A few years ago, in a previous staff job as a road tester, I had my first go in a Tesla Model X. I hadn’t driven a huge number of electric cars at that point, and wasn’t really up to speed on the myriad ways you can charge them.
Having picked the Tesla up from a nearby dealer, I drove it around for a few hours, had some pictures taken and took it back to the office. We had an outside charger there, left over from when it had been a rental car office, but it was very old. This was no modern fast charger, it was a three-pin socket on a bollard; basically a glorified extension cable.
But anyway, it was just before lunch and I plugged in the Tesla, which had about 12 miles of range left. Then I sat in the office for the rest of the day, typing.
At 5.30pm I went back to the Tesla, unplugged it and prepared for the 50-mile drive home. After around five hours of charging, it less than 25 miles of range.
I swore, and took a different car home.
Wouldn't it be easier if you could plug your car into the same socket that your phone goes into? (Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash)
One of the main challenges of expanding electric car ownership is the infrastructure around it. Getting people to accept the concept of an electric car is one thing, but it also requires a change of mindset when it comes to refuelling with electricity rather than petrol or diesel. You can’t just swing into any one of dozens of nearby fuel stations and top up in a couple of minutes; even with a public fast charger you’ll need to go and get a cup of tea and wait while your range creeps up.
Assuming you have somewhere at home to park at or near an electricity source, you’ll likely want to get a dedicated wall box installed to charge up at a decent rate. Maybe you’ll get a good deal on one when you buy your car. But it’s all extra expense and extra faff. And if there’s one thing the general public hate, it’s faff. Oh, and change. Faff and change.
Wouldn't life be easier if domestic plugs gave more charge?
Aptera's electric car promises a 1,000-mile range or more
So imagine if you could just plug your electric car into a regular wall socket and still get a decent range, relatively quickly. That’s the dream of American startup Aptera, which claims its forthcoming electric car can charge at a rate of 13 miles per hour from just a regular household plug.
That would have meant that a few hours charging at my old office would have given me plenty of range to get home. Then I could have plugged it in again, left it overnight and given myself 150 miles with no fancy equipment. Even if we believe Tesla’s claim that its cars can get 6-8 miles per hour, that’s still only 90 miles or so. Judging my most owners’ experiences, it’s closer to 2-4mph, which wouldn’t have got me back to the office again.
If Aptera’s claim proves accurate in the real world, it could be a big draw for potential EV customers that either don’t want or can’t have a wall box installed for home charging. While the global charging infrastructure is improving at a rate of knots (or Watts), there are still huge swathes of the land where finding a fast charger is extremely difficult. But virtually everywhere has a regular socket to spare. Just carry an extension cable around with you, and you should be able to plug in at all sorts of places and get a boost of range to suit most situations.
We’re curious to know what you think about this. What are the major blockers stopping you getting an electric car? And would you be more likely to get one based on how fast it would charge from a normal plug?