Last week, we wrote about the different types of electric vehicles on the market, from plug-in hybrids to fully-electric vehicles which run on electrical power that is transferred to your car via an external source. But what are these external sources of power? In this article, we will review how electric-vehicle charging functionally works, the 3 basic charging levels available today, and the degree of their accessibility to drivers on the road & at home.
How It Works
All electric vehicles, whether plug-in hybrids or fully-electric, have large, lithium-ion batteries that store direct current (DC) electricity and deliver it on demand. Electrical power from the national grid is transferred to your vehicle using a cord that connects from the car to a power source such as an outlet or another kind of electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE), such as a public charging station.
Most electric vehicles come with an on-board charger which converts the alternating current (AC) power that is taken from a home outlet and converts it to usable, DC power. This makes charging at home a viable option, although public charging is much faster. Public charging stations have their own charger that converts AC power from the national grid to DC power, which it doles out to vehicles.
The 3 Levels of Charging
There are three classifications, or "levels" of charge that an EV can receive, and each provides different standards of power.
- Level 1 Charging: The slowest form of charging, Level 1 charging can be obtained by connecting your EV to a standard household outlet (120-V). All EV's come with a cable that connects on the vehicle end to the standard (Level 1 & 2) port, also known as a J1772 electric power receptacle. The cord stretches from the J1772 port to a standard, at-home outlet, which means that this charging is by far the cheapest and most accessible form of electric vehicle charging. However, because it only provides between 2 and 5 miles of range per hour, Level 1 is also the least time-efficient. This form of charging is recommended for those who have only to travel 40 miles at most on a daily basis.
- Level 2 Charging: This level of charge requires a 240-V at-home outlet (such as the outlet often used for dryers and refrigerators) and a specialized EVSE "box" that becomes the intermediary between the power source and the car. The EVSE can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 before installation, but adds 10 to 60 miles of range per charge hour, so is suitable the range of most EV's. Here, you can find out whether your state of utility offers incentives for EVSE.
- Level 3 Charging: The fastest method of charging, Level 3, is also known as DC fast-charging. The charger is roughly the size of a gas pump and found in public. Drawing 480-V, Level 3 chargers provide about 90 miles of range in roughly 30 minutes, ideal for longer trips. However, different vehicles use different "connectors." Depending on the make of your car, you will look for either a CHAdeMO, Combined Charging System (CCS) or Tesla Supercharger connector. Tesla Superchargers are only compatible with Tesla models, while most other DC charging stations have compatibility for cars with either CHAdeMO or CCS charging ports.
The three different kinds of ports were developed by three separate entities; CCS was developed by a consortium of American and European manufacturers, so on these types of cars, it is likely the port you will use. CHAdeMo ports and cables were developed by Japanese manufacturers, so will be used on Japanese and other makes manufactured in the east. Tesla Superchagers are only used along with Tesla models, but Tesla models can now also utilize CHAdeMo chargers as well.
Before acquiring an EV, it is important to think about what levels are accessible--or can be made accessible to you. Here is a map from the U.S. Department of Energy that displays all of the public charging stations in the nation.
While public chargers are becoming more and more common along heavy traffic areas and urban settings, they are also the most expensive option for charging. It is also not recommended that you charge your vehicle with rapid charging every time it needs energy, because the fast charge can be tough on your battery.
Some tips for economically-efficient charging:
- Research manufacturer & dealership incentives for buying EV's.
- Contact your Fleet Management Expert at Caritas Vehicle Services to find out if there are current fleet incentives for buying electric vehicles.
- Find out if your utility offers any special incentives for EV owners. If so, it would be worth looking into having Level 2 charging EVSE installed at home--this may mean you never have to use a public station.
- Charge at home during off-peak hours and you may be entitled to discounted power from your utility.
For more information of charging your electric vehicle, or any other inquiries. please feel free to reach out to Fleet Services at (414) 813-8036 or Send Us An Email! Otherwise, stay tuned for another article on the most promising new EV's of 2020! And, as always, buckle up & drive safe!