Like gas powered (ICE) vehicles which require routine fueling using chemical energy, which provides them with the energy for motion, electric vehicles (EVs) also require a form of energy – electrical energy, for their motion. However in the case of EVs, this energy is stored on a battery pack just like the radio control cars you grew up playing with. Also unlike ICE vehicles which have access to an abundance of gas stations, access to charging stations has been a challenge which evidently is the biggest concern and hinderance towards EV ownership.
This make total sense because the average driver has spent their life driving around in gas-powered cars, conveniently filling up at one of the millions of gas stations in operation around the world today. However fueling up an EV is not as straightforward fueling up an ICE vehicle. With EVs, you have to plan your driving around fueling as opposed to planing your fueling around driving.
So if you are in the market for an EV, already own an EV, looking to install an EV charging station in your home, business or commercial property, here’s a quick rundown of how electric charging works so far.
Types of charging
Automakers currently use the same Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J-1772 plug for Level 1 and 2 charging, with the exception of Tesla which has its proprietary adapter for Level 2 and Level 3.
Level One (L1) Charging
Level 1 charging uses the same 120-volt current found in standard household outlets and can be performed using the power cord and equipment that most EVs come with. Making this type of charging available on your business property is as simple as installing dedicated 120 volt outlets in your company parking lot.
- No installation cost if you already have an outlet near where your electric car is parked
- Low impact on electric utility peak demand charges (often applied to commercial accounts)
Level Two (L2) Charging
Level 2 charging uses 240 volt power to enable faster regeneration of an EV’s battery system. Providing this type of charging requires installation of an EVSE unit and electrical wiring capable of handling higher voltage power. Many utilities are offering free level 2 charging equipment and/or incentives with an electric car purchase.
- Faster charge time – typically 10 – 20 miles of range per hour of charge
- More energy efficient than Level 1 – about 3% gain in efficiency
- Handles cold weather charging a bit better than Level 1
Variety of EV charging manufacturers provides differentiated products for distinct markets and requirements, including networked systems that can schedule charging, track use, and collect fees
Level Three (L3) Charging
DC fast charging provides compatible vehicles with an 80% charge in 30-60 minutes by converting high voltage AC power to DC power for direct storage in EV batteries. L3 chargers typically use 480 volts power.
For DC fast charging, there are three plug types used by different automakers: the CHAdeMO, SAE Combined Charging System (Combo/CCS), and Tesla Supercharger.
Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles use CHAdeMO while current and upcoming vehicles from US and European manufacturers have SAE CCS ports. Tesla’s Supercharger equipment is only directly compatible with Tesla vehicles, although they offer an adapter which allows Tesla owners to use CHAdeMO equipment and recently began allowing non-Tesla owners to use Superchargers via an adapter.
- Charge time is reduced drastically–it’s nearly as fast as refueling a gasoline vehicle
- Variety of charging equipment manufacturers provides differentiated products for distinct markets and requirements
Winter or cold conditions do not negatively affect DCFC efficiency as much. Best for places that have prolonged cold periods like Norway.
In a place like New York, where winter temperature can get as low as -3°C, Level 3 or DCFC is the best option.