Understanding Electric Car Charging

Tesla Model S charging

Understanding electric car charging is essential in evaluating how electric vehicles 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. 

EV Charging at a Glance

Charging Type Level 1 (120V)
Level 1 EV Charger
Level 2 (240V)
Level 2 EV charger

DC Fast Charging

DC Fast EV Charger
Charging Port J1772 J1772 DC CCS Tesla Charge Port
AccessUniversalUniversalEVs support only one of the above charge ports
Typically FoundEverywhereFound at homes, some apartments, hotels, and places of businessAlong freeways and other major arteries
AdoptionPlugs into any standard wall socketRequires electrician to install 240V EV ChargerOnly available at public charging stations
Charging SpeedUp to 5 miles per hour Up to 35 miles per hour Up to 650 miles per hour
Usage RequirementsTypically included with EV PurchaseAround $600 plus the cost of installation. Check out EV charger incentiveswill require a mobile app to use chargers
Average per kWh costs (California)Local Utility Rates$.30 per kWh$.40 per kWh
Images courtesy of Con Edison

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 up to five 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 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 at 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. 

Charge 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 charge port, while the other car manufacturers either subscribe to the CCS standard or the CHadeMO. As a result, Tesla’s charge type can only work with Tesla’s DC fast chable attachment, Teslas can work ChadeMo and CCS ch with an optional cable attachmentarging stations

CHAdeMO

Charge de Move (CHAdeMO) was designed by a group of automotive manufacturers in Japan and can be found in Nissan electric vehicles.

CCS

Combined Charging System (CCS) is an open standard typically found in electric vehicles made by North American and European car makers. Almost all North American EV makers use CSS (except Tesla)

Tesla

Tesla developed their standard for use on their proprietary DC fast chargers (called Tesla Superchargers), only accessible by Tesla owners.

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.

J1772

The J1772 charge port is used on levels 1 and 2 AC charging. All electric vehicles natively use the J1772 standard except Tesla, which requires an adapter.

What Impacts Electric Vehicle Charging Speeds

Three different kinds of chargers will determine how quickly an electric vehicle can recharge its battery. EVs charging times can also be affected by the following:

Battery Size

Electric vehicle batteries are measured in terms of the number of kilowatts of electricity they can store. The more killowats a battery can store the longer it takes to charge fully charge.

Temperatures

Temperature is a factor in charging speeds. Furthermore batteries do not like extreme heat or cold temperatures. As a battery charges it generates heat and as temperatures rise the vehicles battery management system will slow down the charging speed to prevent overheating. Outside temperates can also further affect the rate of charging as well.

EV Battery Depletion

Many factories impact an electric vehicle’s charging speed. Suprisinly EV battery depletion affects charging speeds. The more depleted an electric vehicle is, the faster the charging speed. Batteries however do not charge in extreme temperatures. As charging speeds increase so does the battery temperatures slowing down the rate charging. Your electric vehicle manages the charging speed to maintain battery health.

How Do I Pay to Charge an Electric Vehicle

Charging at home shows up on your electric bill. While on the road however paying for EV charging typically occurs through the use of mobile applications. For example Tesla owners have their credit card on file and when they charge using one of Tesla’s Superchargers, the owner’s credit card is charged. Other charging networks like Electricify America, ChargePoint, Blink and others offer mobile applications with the ability to pay.

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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