A Complete Guide: Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Levels, Explained
Although there is extensive infrastructure for refueling vehicles with internal combustion engines, it’s highly likely that many of these gas stations will close in the next decade while electric vehicles (EVs) become more widespread.
The range of many EV models has expanded in recent years, more and more car shoppers are going electric, and federal EV tax credits for some models make EV ownership more affordable. As EVs grow in popularity, charging networks are also scaling up, creating opportunities for clean energy professionals.
A Brief Overview Of EVs And Charging Infrastructure
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) do not have internal combustion engines and are powered exclusively by the battery. So when it is fully discharged, the car won’t drive.
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy stored in the battery. In addition, they feature regenerative braking, which helps charge the battery. The gas engine commonly turns off when it isn’t needed. As a result, HEVs usually have better fuel economy than cars with only an internal combustion engine.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) share characteristics of both HEVs and EVs. Like HEVs, they have an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, yet drivers can plug them in to charge the battery.
As of September 31, 2021, there were 2,147,000 BEVs and PHEVs in the United States. Now that gas prices have climbed, there is increased interest in EVs. As a result, sales of electrified vehicles, including BEVs, PHEVs, HEVs, and fuel-cell-powered vehicles, have increased recently and now account for 12.6% of the United States auto market according to Kelley Blue Book and Cox Automotive.
Yet, nearly half of United States consumers say charging the battery is a top concern with EV ownership. Therefore, building a more extensive EV charging infrastructure is critical for more car shoppers in North America to switch to EVs.
Level 1 EV Charger
Level 1 chargers use a standard 120-volt wall outlet. Unfortunately, these chargers are very slow and can take 24 hours for a full charge. However, they are simple to use because EV drivers can charge anywhere a cord will reach the vehicle, and Level 1 chargers come with most BEVs and PHEVs. Because of their slow charging speeds, they are rarely found in public charging stations in parking lots.
Level 2 EV Charger
Most residential and commercial charging stations are Level 2 and can charge vehicles fully in a few hours. Charging times depend on the charger's amperage, the discharge level of the battery, and the total battery capacity. For example, a 2022 Nissan Leaf may have a 40- to 62-kilowatt-hour battery, while some Tesla models may have a 100-kilowatt-hour battery.
However, Level 2 chargers require 240-volt power, so an electrician usually installs them. In some cases, it might be necessary to upgrade the electrical panel if used in commercial applications, but a 200-amp panel is typically sufficient for most home EV chargers.
Level 2 chargers have SAE J1772 connectors, also known as a J plug or type 1 connector. Some state or utility incentive programs offer rebates for installing Level 2 charging stations. It is helpful to know if such programs exist in your area so you can inform your clients.
Level 3 EV Charger
These have the fastest charging rate and are also known as Direct Current Fast Chargers, or DCFCs. Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive option to install because they use specialized equipment.
A tiny fraction of public charging stations are DC Fast Chargers. They are the most convenient and the fastest charging option, especially during road trips. Among the most popular DCFCs are the Tesla Superchargers; they are Level 3 but are only compatible with Tesla vehicles.
What To Look For When Choosing An EV Charger
When installing an electric vehicle charging station, it’s important to consider the desired charging speed, project budget, charger warranties, vehicle compatibility, and available electrical capacity. DC fast charging equipment is usually prohibitively expensive, so most homeowners, organizations, and businesses select Level 2 electric vehicle supply equipment.
The National Electrical Code requires that an electrical circuit is rated with 25% more amperage than the EV charger’s output. Therefore, a 40-amp Level 2 charger needs a circuit breaker rated for at least 50-amps.
Also, it’s important to consider the charger's location to ensure convenience. This can be especially difficult if a client doesn’t have their own driveway or a dedicated parking spot. However, some states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, and Oregon, have Right to Charge laws that can help increase access to EV charging infrastructure.
EV Charging Levels FAQ
Many potential EV drivers have a lot of questions about EV charging. Here are some answers to the most common questions.
What Is A Fast Charger Or Super Charger?
These charging stations are the fastest, most expensive chargers available They are worthwhile sometimes in areas with high demand, especially along highly trafficked routes so EV drivers can charge on road trips when a long stop is not practical.
How Much Do Chargers Cost To Install?
The installation costs of an EV charger vary depending on the required electrical upgrades and the cable length and typically require a licensed electrician. Therefore, they range between about $400 and $1,000 for a home charger depending on the situation. However, it can be more expensive sometimes, especially if a pedestal is installed.
Do EV Chargers Have Warranties?
Yes, most EV chargers come with warranties of 1 to 3 years, but it varies by the manufacturer. The warranty period often begins with the date of installation and may require the equipment to be installed by a licensed electrician. Be sure to walk clients through any warranties associated with their new chargers.
Do DC Fast Chargers Damage EV Batteries?
Decreasing the battery capacity of an EV gradually and slowly shortens the range of the vehicle. Although occasional use should not be a problem, habitual use of a DCFC can cause a minor decline in the battery capacity. Therefore, EV experts recommend using these chargers sparingly.
What Is Smart Charging?
Some EV chargers include smart charging features that optimize charging. For example, if the local utility company offers time-of-use rates, the electricity cost is often lower in the middle of the night. If it isn’t urgent to charge the vehicle right away, smart charging controls will take advantage of lower-cost electricity if available.
Can Someone Charge an EV With a Rooftop Solar System?
Yes, if a home or business has solar panels, it is possible to charge the EV with this power. In fact, some home and business owners are adding more panels after acquiring an EV to ensure the solar power system produces enough energy to cover the additional load of charging an electric car.
Understanding EV Charging Capacity To Aid Clients
Although many people could practically refill their gas tanks in their sleep, some potential EV drivers are struggling to figure out how to charge their EV batteries. As consumers learn more about charging options, many will have questions. Knowing the different available charging options, charging times, warranties, and installation challenges is critical for helping clients find the best solutions.
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