If you own an electric vehicle or plan to own one in the near future, understanding the different types of charging is crucial for keeping your vehicle powered and operating properly.
There are three levels of charging for electric vehicles, each with varying power outputs and costs associated with them. While levels 1 and 2 can both be used as at-home charging systems, level 3 is the most powerful and can only be accessed from a public charging station.
In this article, we will discuss and compare these 3 levels of EV charging to help you decide which is best for your vehicle. Keep reading to learn about power output, potential costs, and more!
3 Types of EV Charging Stations
Electric vehicles (EVs) do not require gasoline or traditional fuel. Instead, these vehicles rely on charging stations and equipment to pump the needed energy into the car.
This can be one of the biggest points of confusion for new or aspiring EV owners — how and where can you charge an EV?
The 3 different levels of EV charging stations are as follows:
- Level 1: Level 1 charging is the most basic type of charging for an EV. This type of charging uses the charger that is included with the vehicle and can typically be used with any standard 120V outlet. A level 1 charger offers the most convenience, as well as being very portable to take with you on the go when you are unsure where the next charging station will be.
- Level 2: A level 2 EV charger must be purchased separately from the vehicle and uses a 240V (volt) system, similar to the types of outlets needed for a refrigerator or large freezer. Level 2 equipment offers a more powerful charge and is available both for home installation and via public charging stations.
- Level 3: Level 3 charging is known as DC Fast Charging and is only available via public charging stations. As the highest level of charging, level 3 offers exceptionally fast charging capabilities.
Let’s now take a closer look at each of these charging levels and what they entail, starting with level 1.
Level 1 Charger: Wall Plug EV charger
When you purchase an EV from a car dealership, the dealership will provide you with a charging cable that connects to your EV’s built-in charging port.
The charging cables included with an EV are typically very easy to use and can connect to any standard 120V outlet. In terms of power output, a level 1 charger can generally provide an EV with an average of 1.3 kW to 2.4 kW. This power output translates to roughly 3 to 5 miles of driving range for every hour charged.
Many EV owners consider their level 1 charger to be an emergency charger to carry with them in the car in case they run out of energy before reaching a charging station. Since a level 1 charger can be used with standard outlets, all an EV owner would need to do is find a place to plug in their vehicle.
Level 1 Charging Time
As mentioned, a level 1 EV charger can provide roughly 3 to 5 miles of range for every hour charged.
In most cases, EV dealerships recommend using this charger overnight for the best results if you intend to use it as your main source of charging. A full charge using a level 1 system can take between 12 to 24 hours total, hence the overnight charging recommendation.
Translating this charge time to cost, the total cost of a level 1 charge can vary depending on the cost of electricity in a given location. In the U.S., the average cost of electricity in residential areas is around $0.13 per kWh. Costs can also vary according to electricity rate and battery size.
Of the three charging levels, level 1 systems take the longest to complete a full charge. As such, many EV owners opt for either level 2 or level 3 for greater efficiency. However, level 1 charging is not without its benefits as well.
Why Level 1 Charging is Beneficial
Although level 1 charging does not offer the same efficiency or power as level 2 and level 3 chargers, it does offer a key advantage: convenience.
When purchasing an EV, it is crucial to have the security of a level 1 charger not just for emergencies but also for keeping your EV charged at a lower cost rate compared to the other two levels. In general, level 1 is the cheaper option as well, though costs are sometimes comparable to level 2 chargers.
Level 2 Electric Car Charger: At Home or Public Stations
The next level of EV charging is level 2 — a type of charger sold separately from a vehicle and available both at public charge stations and as a home installation by a professional installation company such as Wheel Power.
Level 2 chargers require a 240V outlet, which can produce enough energy output to provide power to larger appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, freezers, and electric vehicles.
You can also access a level 2 charger at a public EV charging station. Public charging stations that offer level 2 chargers will generally have chargers that are universally usable for different types of EVs. Some EVs — like a Tesla, for instance — may require an adapter to use a public level 2 charger. Luckily, EVs will typically include an adapter as part of the purchase.
Level 2 Charging Time
In terms of charging time and energy output, a level 2 charger can generally provide an output of between 3kW to 20 kW of power per hour. This is equivalent to a range of 15 to 30 miles for each hour charged, which is more than 3 times the output of a level 1 charger.
For charging time, a full charge using a level 2 charger can take between 3 to 8 hours total. It is important to note that there is not a standard brand of level 2 charger or EV battery, so charge time can vary depending on the type of charger and battery used.
As for the cost of charging, it depends on whether you install a home charger or use a public charging station.
SAE j1772 Connector
Almost every type of level 2 EV charger will have an SAE J1772 (also called the J plug) connector to connect to charging stations. This connector allows all types of EVs to connect to public and at-home level 2 charging stations and is compatible with most EVs. The only types of EVs that generally requires an adapter to use this connector are Teslas, though the adapter is typically included with the vehicle.
The J plug is considered the standard electrical connector for EVs within North America, making it a very easy connector to come across or purchase. This connector can be purchased by EV owners online or directly from an auto parts company that offers EV parts.
How to Find EV Charging Stations in Google Maps
Google Maps is an incredibly useful digital tool, offering not just GPS capabilities but also advanced search features that allow users to find rest stops, gas stations, and more.
As the popularity of EVs continues to grow, this popularity is reflected in Google Maps’ search features. When you enter a destination into Google Maps, you can then select the “Add Charging Stop” option to see nearby charging stations and choose the one you wish to visit.
You can also search for charging stations without adding a destination by simply searching “EV charging station” in the Google Maps search bar. This will show you all the nearest charging stations, as well as include information on what types of chargers are offered and the adapters required.
What is the Cost Difference Between an At-Home Level 1 vs. Level 2 EV Charger?
While both offer the convenience of at-home charging, the cost difference between a level 1 and level 2 charger can be quite significant.
With a level 2 charger, you have an upfront installation cost that is more expensive than using a level 1 charger that works with standard 120V outlets. However, many EV owners consider this overhead installation cost to be worth it, as one hour of level 2 charging can produce anywhere from 3 to 10 times the range and output of a level 1 charge.
In an IEEE Xplore study, researchers found that level 2 charging was on average 5.6% more efficient compared to level 1 charging. Additionally, this study found that the efficiency of level 2 charging increased under low or high temperatures, demonstrating overall greater effectiveness in adverse weather conditions compared to level 1 chargers.
Level 3 EV Charger: DC Fast Charging
The final and highest level of EV charging is level 3, also called Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFCs). Unlike levels 1 and 2, level 3 charging is only available via public commercial charge stations and cannot be installed as a home charging system.
A DCFC offers the most powerful charge of the 3 levels, producing a maximum output of 350kW. These chargers are designed to charge an EV as quickly as possible, with the average DCFC being capable of achieving a full charge in between 60 to 90 minutes.
Due to the speedy nature of DC fast charging, this is also generally the most expensive charging option and is often limited to commercial or fleet use, meaning home or residential installations are typically not permitted. However, public charge stations are normally approved as commercial use, allowing EV owners to access DC fast charging.
Level 3 Charging Time
A DCFC offers an average output of between 50 kW to 350 kW, enabling extremely fast charge times.
As we have covered, a full charge using a DCFC system can take just around an hour to complete. For shorter charges between 15 to 45 minutes, a DCFC can generally provide an 80% charge to an EV battery within this shorter timeframe.
As for the usability of DCFC, any public charging station with DC fast charge capabilities will often offer two main types of connectors: CHAdeMO and CCS.
We will now take a look at these level 3 connector plugs, including their output and compatibility.
Level 3 Connector Plugs
To connect to a DCFC system, an EV must use the proper connector plug. The two most common plugs are the CHAdeMO and the CCS (also called the SAE combo), with most EV manufacturers using these connectors.
However, these two connectors are not interchangeable and an EV will have either a CHAdeMo or a CCS port. Additionally, Tesla brand EVs have their own connectors called the Tesla HPWC (used for level 2 charging) and the Tesla Supercharger (used for level 3 charging) that can only be used by Teslas.
With this in mind, let’s examine the specifics of each of these DCFC connector plugs.
The CHAdeMO connector is compatible with some EVs, such as the Nissan LEAF and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. This connector can also be compatible with Teslas with the proper adapter.
CHAdeMO’s average output is around 100 kW, which can allow the average EV to charge in roughly 30 minutes. Japanese carmakers tend to be the biggest users of CHAdeMO connectors, so Japanese-manufactured EVs are typically compatible with CHAdeMO.
However, not every vehicle is compatible with CHAdeMO, so it is important to check your manufacturer specifications or owner’s manual to discover what type of connector your vehicle needs for DC fast charging.
Combined Charging System (CCS)
The Combined Charging System (CCS) is also called the SAE combo and is the standard connector used internationally, meaning an EV is far more likely to be compatible with the CCS connector rather than the CHAdeMO connector.
A CCS has a maximum output of 350 kW, which can allow an EV to complete up to an 80% charge in less than an hour. For most EV owners practicing regular charging, 30 minutes or less is sufficient for charging with a CSS connector.
Unfortunately for Tesla owners, not all Teslas are compatible with CCS. However, Tesla has developed an adapter for newer vehicles.
Most public DCFC stations will offer both CHAdeMO and CCS plugs.
For Tesla owners, the charging process is a bit different compared to other EVS.
First and foremost, Tesla offers its own exclusive charging stations with the Tesla Supercharger connector — the connector needed for DC fast charging. Tesla is currently working to expand the compatibility of the Supercharger to service non-Tesla vehicles as well.
Luckily, Teslas can be charged at non-Tesla charging stations with the right adapters. The most common adapter for Tesla is a CHAdeMO adapter, though as we have covered, Tesla has developed an adapter to connect to CCS ports as well.
Can You Sit in Your EV During Level 3 Charging?
In general, it is considered safe to sit in your EV while charging, regardless of whether you are using a level 1, 2, or 3 charger. The overall safety risk is regarded as low and no more unsafe than sitting in a gas-powered car while it fills up at a normal gas station.
However, there may be some risks for people with pacemakers involved with sitting in an EV while it charges. If you have a pacemaker, make sure to discuss with both your dealership and your doctor on the best safety practices for charging your vehicle.
Charging Station Cost
The price of EV charging can vary depending on which station you use.
For level 2 charging, many of the public charge stations offer free-to-use ports. If a level 2 charge station does charge, it will typically be around $1.00 per hour.
As for level 3 charging, it greatly depends on the station. Many stations will offer pay-per-use and membership options, allowing users to choose between a one-time payment or ongoing payments. While prices can vary, the average cost of level 3 charging ranges between $10 to $15 per hour.
In an Uswitch study of international electricity costs, the average annual cost of EV charging was estimated at around $222 (USD).
Final Thoughts: Which Type of Charger Should You Choose?
When it comes to which type of EV charger you should use, the answer is — it depends!
In general, level 2 chargers are the most commonly used, as they can be both installed at home or used at a low cost at a public charging station. Moreover, level 2 chargers offer a good level of efficiency and can provide an EV with a lot of mileage with each charge.
For rapid charging, level 3 chargers are the best option. However, these charging stations are often found in highly urban areas and may be harder to find in remote locations.
As for level 1 chargers, these are always handy to keep in your car for emergencies. A level 1 charger is provided with the purchase of an EV, so there are no extra purchasing costs associated with this charger.