You don’t need a degree in rocket science to charge an electric car. Plugging in an electric car for charging is no more difficult than refueling a car that runs on gas. However, things can get a little confusing when you start digging into the weeds of different charging equipment and different speeds. Jargon, for example SAE J1772, DC fast charging, or Level 1 and 2 chargers can make topping up your electric vehicle’s battery seem a lot more complicated than it is. With that in mind, we’ve taken the time to break things down for you by explaining the basics of EV charging and the different “levels” involved.
Charging levels of electric vehicles
The Society of Automotive Engineers outlines three levels of charging for electric vehicles: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. The one you use at any given time can depend on several factors, such as your home’s electrical system and the availability of public chargers in a given community.
Automakers often include Level 1 charging equipment in new ones electric cars. This device plugs into a regular 120V household outlet. The ubiquity of these regular household outlets makes Level 1 charging incredibly convenient, even though this type of charging recharges your car’s battery at a very slow rate. Plan for your EV to increase your range by about two to four miles per hour, depending on the efficiency of your particular battery-powered car, truck, or SUV. This type of charging is much slower, much less efficient, and will cost you more than Level 2.
Level 1 alone will not be enough to meet the charging needs of most EV owners. However, if you only ride 20 miles or so each day, you could probably get away with just level 1. One quick word of caution: Never connect a Level 1 charger cord to an extension cord, as the extra length of cord creates resistance that can overheat the extension cord and can cause the charger to malfunction and stop charging.
A Level 2 charger operates at 240 volts and is typically three to four times the amperage of the smaller Level 1. Therefore, most Level 2 units add electricity to your EV’s battery at a rate that is about six to eight times faster than Level settings 1, which equates to 12-32 miles of range for every hour of charging.
But the charging speed of level 2 can vary quite dramatically. A typical 240-volt, 24-amp unit can produce about 6.0 kW of continuous power. But the fastest possible Level 2 charging is 80 amps, or 19.2 kW, which is more than three times faster. Your vehicle’s hardware determines the maximum rate of Level 2 charging, and most vehicles are not capable of charging at 19.2kW, so you’ll want to match your charger to what your EV can handle so you don’t pay for the capability. which you can’t use.
We recommend that any electric vehicle owner install Level 2 charging at home. If the supplied or optional charging cord is not compatible with a 240 volt outlet, you will need purchase special level 2 charging equipment for your home. You may also need to add electrical power to your home. Consult an electrician to make sure your home’s electrical panel is up to the task.
Although installing Level 2 charging capability at home is an additional expense, a number of states and localities provide government incentives to help offset some of the cost. Be sure to check to see if such incentives are available where you live.
Level 2 chargers are also commonly found in public areas such as parking lots and parking lots. The end of the cord that connects to your electric car looks identical to the one you use to charge at home. These devices can add enough range to your EV within hours.
Level 3 or DC fast charging
The Tier 3 Chargers are the Speedy Gonzales of the bunch. Alternatively known as DC fast charging devices, Level 3 chargers are especially useful during long trips that require charging between destinations, as this type of charging can add approximately 100-250 miles of range in 30-45 minutes. Unlike Level 1 and Level 2 charging, Level 3 installations connect to the vehicle through an outlet with extra contacts to handle a higher voltage (typically 400 or 800 volts).
Tesla supercharger the network offers Level 3 charging, although the American automaker uses a proprietary plug that only works with its vehicles. Drivers of other electric vehicles can find Level 3 chargers at a number of charging stations from vendors such as EVgo and Electrify America.
Level 3 charging figures currently range from just 50kW to 350kW, depending on the charger. But the fee rate is a two-way communication. If your EV can handle a maximum of 50kW on a level 3 charger, then it will not charge faster than that, even if it is connected to a charger capable of reaching a maximum of 350kW. In addition, the charging rate of an EV on a Level 3 charger varies dramatically depending on the battery’s state of charge, slowing significantly as the battery approaches 80 percent capacity to prevent overheating or overcharging. For example, charging from 80 to 100 percent may take the same amount of time as charging from 10 to 80 percent. That’s why, during long trips in electric vehicles, the fastest way to get back on the road is usually to charge no higher than 80 percent.
Do all electric vehicles use the same connector?
As mentioned above, Teslas rely on a plug from the manufacturer for charging. Adapters are available that allow the Tesla to charge at public or home charging stations that do not use this specific Tesla connector. In addition, there are transitions to connect a non-Tesla electric vehicle to Tesla Level 1 or Level 2 charging equipment.
The vast majority of electric vehicles use the same type of connector. For Level 1 or Level 2 charging, this standard round port is called a J1772 connector. The fast charging connection is called SAE Combo or CCS; it uses the same J1772 socket for charging levels 1 and 2, plus two additional pins to allow fast DC charging.
The third type of fast charging connector is CHAdeMO. Few cars use this adapter, incl Nissan Leafalthough the Leaf still uses the J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 charging. However, Nissan is ditching the CHAdeMO socket for CCS on its new Ariya.