Understanding Electric Car Charging

Tesla Model S charging

Understanding electric car charging is essential in evaluating how electric vehicles can fit into your lifestyle. For example, gas cars require frequent trips to the gas station, while electric vehicles are different. Electric cars do most of their charging overnight at home. Outside of long trips, or if you forgot to charge overnight, most electric car owners have no downtime waiting to recharge. Let us start by explaining the basics of electric car charging. After that, we will cover the basics of charging at home and on the road.

Electric Car External Chargers Explained

The first step is understanding what electric car charging is. An electric car charger can mean two different things, one being called an onboard charger and the other an external charger. For this article, we will focus on the external charger. An external charger can also be called electric vehicle supply equipment. The external charger takes AC electricity and converts it to DC power, stored in your car battery. Each external electric car charger can provide so many kilowatts per hour of electricity. 

Level 1 Electric Car Charging

 The least-costly method to charge your electric car utilizes a standard electrical outlet, otherwise known as level 1 charging. The onboard electric charger built into your vehicle is used to plug into an electric socket. However, while level 1 charging is readily available, it charges at a rate of about 2 miles an hour of electricity. Therefore, if you have an electric car battery with a 200-mile range, it could take 100 hours to charge your car. Because of the long recharging time, level 1 charging is not recommended and is used as a last resort, assuming no better options are available.

Level 2 Electric Car Charging

The most common external charger is a level 2. Level 2 chargers are available throughout the country at hotels, malls, and even used in the home. Furthermore, level 2 chargers are a big step up from level 1 charging in that they can charge up to ten times faster. For example, a level 1 wall socket charges at a rate of 2 miles per hour. Meanwhile, a level two charger can charge around 25 to 35 miles per hour. If you plan to add a level 2 external charger to your home, you will need a dedicated 240v line. 

Destination Charger in a Hampton Inn Hotel in Gilbert Arizona.
While staying at a hotel overnight, we used the hotel’s destination charger to recharge our electric car | Electric Driver image

DC Fast Chargers Explained

DC fast charging, or direct current fast charging is the quickest way to charge your electric car. These external chargers run between 400v to 1000v of electricity. Subsequently, these chargers can charge most electric vehicles to 80% battery capacity in about 20-40 minutes. DC chargers are commercially available all across the country but are too expensive for home use, with a price tag of around $50,000. Many companies provide their DC fast-charging network for public use for a fee. On average, expect to pay about twice what you pay at home for a kilowatt of power. Companies like Electrify America and Tesla’s private Supercharger are all DC fast charging providers.

Electricity America electric vehicle charging station
A DC Fast charging station with a Volkswagen ID.4 charging | Electric Driver image

DC Fast Charging On the Road

While on the road, using DC fast chargers when on the road is a positive experience. Think of DC fast-charging stations like a gas stations for electric cars. Most DC fast-charge stations are near shopping malls or restaurants. So while you recharge your electric vehicle, you can grab a bite to eat, take a bathroom break, or do some shopping. I recently took a road trip through the Mojave desert and Mesa, where I stopped at DC fast charge stations,

Home Electric Car Charging Basics

The average driver commutes around 29 miles per day. Most EV batteries have a driving range of over 200 miles, so they can handle their daily commute without charging. Therefore, electric vehicles do most of their charging home overnight. Convenient home charging requires a level 2 external charger, which can recharge the typical electric car in around 8 hours. 

How Much Will it Cost to Setup a Home Charger

Level 2 external chargers can range from $250 to $2,500. You can purchase a good EV charger for around $600. As for installation, you will need to hire an electrician. HomeAdvisor says the national installation cost for installing your EV charging station is about  $456 to $1,080. 

How Do I know where and when to Charge

Trip planning is relatively easy with electric cars. Within your vehicle’s infotainment system is trip planning software. For example, if you wanted to take a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, your electric car would plan your route with stops at EV charging stations along the way. With most vehicles able to go 200 plus miles on a single full battery, when you stop to charge, it lines up pretty well with when you have to stop for food or a bio break. 

Plug Type Determines What DC Fast Chargers You Can Use

One thing to keep in mind is not all chargers will work with every EV. Each car manufacturer supports a specific method for EV charging. For example, Tesla has its proprietary plug, while the other car manufacturers either subscribe to the CCS standard or the CHadeMO. As a result, Tesla’s plug can only work with Tesla’s DC fast chargers. However, with a cable attachment, Teslas can also work ChadeMo charging stations

The good news is your electric vehicle can guide you to any supported charger through the navigation and trip planning software within your infotainment system.

Parting Words

After reading this article, I hope you understand electric car charging better. Researching your electric vehicle can be daunting, but help is available. Visit Electric Driver to learn more about electric vehicles and find one that fits your lifestyle.

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