If you’re considering buying an electric car or just a suitable charger for your house or condo, it’s essential to know the different types of chargers and what they mean.
Whether you are an EV enthusiast or a first-time EV buyer, understanding Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 of electric car charging is imperative to the longevity of your car and its future.
This guide is for “unenlightened” drivers who are considering purchasing their first EV and need to know how to charge up the battery. We will also hopefully give you a better understanding of how to charge your electric car at home and conserve energy.
I. What are the Different Levels of EV Charging?
There are three main levels of EV chargers being used today. Although there are many variations and improvements, these three key types will help the buyer and user determine what type of charger is best for their personal needs.
Level 1 charging
Level 1 charging is the slowest method, which delivers power to your battery at a rate of 2.3 kW (10 A). This equates to 4-5 miles of range per hour in ideal conditions, and less if your car has a large battery or you live at a high altitude. This means that it does not provide much energy and, in most cases, does not provide any range.
Level 2 charging
Level 2 charging is a method of charging where you plug your vehicle into a wall with a special outlet. This kind of charging is also called Level 2 AC charging, or Level 2 Chademo/SAE combo.
The wall unit includes a battery as well as an inverter and controls. Typically, the battery will be sized between 8 and 24 kWh depending on the power requirements and length of time to charge.
Level 3 charging
Level 3, or fast charging, is a specific type of fast charging technology that uses a high-voltage DC supply capable of providing up to 350 kW. The AC power is converted from the grid and is then delivered to the electric car in a short amount of time.
This is possible because the charging station can use super-fast rectifiers and more power converters to charge the EV battery in only 15 minutes.
II. Why are there Different Charging Types?
There are two primary types of charging: Level 2 and Level 3. Few cars can handle the faster speeds required for level 3 charging, but some manufacturers (Tesla and BMW especially) have introduced them in the past.
The other big difference is what kind of outlet a charger uses. Chargers come in different shapes and sizes to be installed anywhere – even inside a vehicle – but they use different outlets to accomplish this.
Charging speeds are measured in miles driven per hour. The faster the charger, the more electricity can be pushed into your battery, and the faster you get to drive again. Also, if you’re going long distances and staying overnight, you might want a higher-speed charger so you can charge overnight.
The cost of each charging station is different, depending on how powerful the station is and how quickly it charges.
III. Level 1 Charging
- Voltage: 120V
- Charging Rate: 4 miles per hour
- Connector Options: Standard 3-prong household plug, J1772 connector, CHAdeMO, Tesla or other proprietary DC
- Charging Time: 30+ hours
- Typical Locations: Residential
Level 1 is the most common level of EV charging and is found in residential locations. Level 1 charging involves connecting to a 120V household outlet in your garage, apartment, or home.
Depending on the make and model of an EV and its individual electrical needs, the typical Level 1 charge rate can range from 0–10 miles of range per hour.
IV. Level 2 Charging
- Voltage: 240V
- Charging Rate: 12-30 miles/hour
- Connector Options: J1772 Connector, Tesla
- Charging Time: 8-12 hours
- Typical Locations: Residential, Commercial
Level 2 is the next level of charging. With the upgraded 240V outlet and the Level 2 charger, a range of around 25 miles per hour can be achieved. Since it is plugged into a 240V outlet, charging on this level is quick and convenient. Electric car owners will charge their cars at home instead of gas stations or public charging stations. However, achieving this higher power requires an upgraded electrical system with a higher amperage in your breaker box (if one exists).
V. DC Fast Charging
- Voltage: 480+V
- Charging Rate: 3-15 miles/minute
- Connector Options: CHAdeMO and SAE Combo
- Charging Time: 30 minutes to 80%
- Typical Locations: Commercial
DC fast charging is the last of the three charging levels. Here, you will use 480v rather than 120v or 240v. Furthermore, these stations are only found at commercial charging stations as there is no EVSE with DC Fast Charging. As a result, since Level 3 charging utilizes DC power and Level 1 and 2 use AC power, it’s best not to charge 100% while using a DC Fast Charging station.
VI. What is Alternating Current(AC)?
Alternating current, or AC, is the type of current that flows through an electrical circuit. AC circuits use alternating voltage to create their current flow sinusoidally.
The voltage in an AC circuit reverses its polarity repeatedly. These characteristics make AC ideal for power transmission over long distances but require special equipment and controls to be effectively used at the destination end.
It is the type of electrical power supply used to power most appliances and electronic devices. The flow of current alternates in direction, causing it to flow in ‘waves,’ called cycles.
VII. What is Direct Current(DC)?
Direct current is the same as that used by rechargeable batteries and is also produced by solar power and wind power generators. Direct current (DC) flows in a straight line and is always “positive,” unlike alternating current (AC), which reverses direction periodically. DC is more predictable than AC since you know that it will be steady and always flow in a uniform direction.
VIII. What Type of EV Charging is Suitable for Home Charging?
You can go with a level 2 EV charging station.
This charger allows you to charge a 30 kWh electric car 3 times faster than with level 1 charging, or 5 times faster if you have a Tesla. It uses a 240V/16A electrical outlet and allows you to drive longer distances than level 1 charging.
IX. Which Levels of Charging are Available for Public Charging?
The most common public chargers in the U.S. are level 2 and level 3 stations, which usually have a dedicated parking spot. All EV drivers can use these public charging stations, another advantage over gasoline stations. However, several differences between the two charging levels are mostly related to cost and electricity consumption.
X. Bullet Points for Three Levels of Electric Car Charging
- Level 1: This is the slowest way to charge an electric car. With a level 1 charging station, you can add only 2 to 4 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 1 chargers are typically installed at home for the owner’s convenience.
- Level 2: Level 2 chargers offer the fastest way to charge an EV. Because of this time threshold, you would have to stop at a level 3 charger when you could not finish charging your EV in one ride. We recommend using level 2 stations only when you need to save money or are short on time.
- Level 3: DC fast-charging stations are only compatible with a limited amount of electric cars. They deliver a significant amount of battery range quickly, but you should make sure your EV is compatible with DC fast charging before using this type of station. Because of its speed, you will be able to get more than 100 miles of range after 30 minutes of charging.
There are three charging levels: level 1, 2, and 3, all with their perks. Each level of EV charging has its pros and cons. Level 1 is best for home use since it’s the safest way to charge your EV at home.
On the other hand, Level 2 is a good option if you have time constraints and need to travel long distances.
Anytime you travel a great distance and charge your car, it’s worth the investment. By choosing the right charger for your car, you can save money and time while charging.