When you’re thinking about making the switch to an electric car, it can be overwhelming to think about all the things that will change. One thing that many drivers look forward to is no longer having to stop for gas and waking up to a “full tank” every day. However, there can be some anxiety around learning about charging: at home or on the road. What do you do if you’re going on a road trip or a longer journey? What sort of plug do you need? Will it have to be installed?
And most importantly: Do all EVs use the same charger? (No, the answer is no.) Luckily, Recurrent is here to let you know the basics about charging so you can jump into an EV with confidence and excitement. You may not miss gas stations at all!
There are different charging plugs for different vehicles, and different charging speeds. It sounds confusing at first, but in practicality, you learn what you need for your car and can ignore everything else.
AC Charging: Level 1 or Level 2
AC charging is what you can expect to do at home or at work. AC charging takes AC current directly from the grid and your car converts it into the DC current that it needs. Since you are using power directly from the grid, a home charger will add whatever electricity you use to your home energy bill. AC chargers come in two speeds.
Level 1 charging uses a standard, at home, 110-120V plug. It is not a practical option for most EVs since it can take over 24 hours to refill a battery with such low wattage. However, you can add a modest 3-4 miles of range per hour using a standard plug if needed.
Level 2 charging is by far the most common type of charging. It is considered “fast,” but should not be confused with “DC Fast Charging” or supercharging. Level 2 charging uses a 220-240V plug, which is what most home washer dryers use. Homeowners often choose to have a Level 2 charger mounted in their garage or driveway, and many apartments have (or are willing to install!) one. It is recommended that a professional electrician install the hardware.
The Level 2 hardware itself can often be purchased from a car manufacturer or online from companies such as Enel X, Charge Point, or Blink. Prices are generally a few hundred dollars but almost always under $1000. Many utilities, charger manufacturers and even car companies subsidize or offer rebates on the purchase and installation of this hardware, so it can often be quite cost effective.
Most Level 2 chargers offer around 6-12 kW of power, with future-proof, public Level 2 chargers designed to deliver up to 22 kW. With a 6-12 kW charger, some smaller BEVs charge fully in around 5 hours, with some of the larger battery sizes taking 6-10 hours. A PHEV can usually recharge fully in an hour. The exact timing will depend on your EV and the wattage of the charger.
For most EVs today, there are two sorts of plugs, or connectors, you will need to “plug in” your car:
- Non-Tesla vehicles come with a J-1772 plug used for AC charging.
- Tesla has its own, proprietary charging system and network of charging stations, but there are adaptors so Teslas can use the J-1772 when needed.
DC Charging: Level 3 or “DC Fast Charging”
DC Fast charging is a great option when you’re on the go. The AC energy from the grid is converted into DC energy before your car gets it so there is less of a bottleneck refilling quickly. This charging option is limited almost exclusively to public charging stations, but it lives up to the fast charging name! DC Fast Chargers start at 25 kW and can go up as high as 350 kW. However, your car may have its own limit to how fast it can charge - the onboard charger controls the speed of incoming electricity. Many BEVs can fill from 0-80% or 20-80% in 30-45 minutes at a DC Fast Charger. PHEVs generally do not support DC charging.
For DC charging, there are two main plug options depending whether you drive Tesla or not. Unsurprisingly, Tesla has its own plug for use with the supercharging network. Most non-Teslas will use the predominant charging standard in the US, CCS, or Combined Charging System. It combines lower power level 2 chargers with DC chargers for a high speed charge between 25kW and 350kW. CCS has broad adoption and many cars use it. Teslas can also use an adaptor to connect to CCS chargers.
The other option that is more rare in the US is CHAdeMO: a charging standard developed by a consortium of carmakers and charging companies. It was developed in Japan and older NiIssans, Toyotas, and Kias can use the plugs. For US production, many of these vehicles are being switched to CCS and some public charging companies are deprecating their support of CHAdeMO.