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EV Charging Options For Electric Cars

There are many advantages to operating an electric vehicle, from saving on gas and reducing tax liability, to quick acceleration while still helping the environment. And yet, EV adoption is still not quite mainstream despite modern EVs being in existence for decades.

One of the most commonly cited reasons is range anxiety, or the fear that an electric vehicle won’t have enough juice to get you to your destination. We previously reported on how much it costs to charge an electric vehicle, but now we’re going to take a look at what charging options exist and how long it takes to charge an EV.

Woman charging EV with Level 2 Charger

What charging options are available? For home use, consumers have two options for charging their EVs and a third option is available in public settings. Each of the options below varies in cost and charging speed.

Level 1 charging puts out about 1.3 kW of charging power and thus is the slowest method because it only uses a standard 120-volt wall outlet. Any electric vehicle can charge this way, but because charging time is incredibly slow, it’s recommended for EVs with smaller battery packs, such as plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles with a shorter range. Level 1 charging adds an average of five miles of range per hour of charging time.

Level 2 charging involves the purchase and installation of specialized charging equipment because it requires a dedicated 240-volt circuit, similar to an electric clothes dryer. The equipment is called electric vehicle supply equipment and can put out between 3 kW and 19 kW of charging power. Level 2 charging is faster than Level 1 and works with any EV. Level 2 charging adds an average of 24.5 miles of range per hour of charging. In addition to home use, Level 2 chargers are also installed in many public areas and workplaces.

Level 3 charging, more commonly known as Direct Current (DC) fast charging, is typically found along major travel corridors and shopping centers. Putting out between 50 kW to 350 kW of charging power, this option isn’t suitable for home use because a minimum 480-volt circuit is required for this type of charging. DC fast charging is capable of adding 10 miles of range per minute of charging time allowing for longer road trips and helping to eliminate range anxiety.

DC fast charging equipment for EVs

How long will it take to charge? Everyone's time is valuable. With time being a precious commodity, it’s worth knowing what the opportunity costs will be when your EV needs to be charged. Having this knowledge is helpful in planning your day-to-day trips and activities. The following examples were derived from the EV Charging Time Calculator on homechargingstations.com. Otherwise, you can use the simple formula: battery size (kWh) / charging power (kW).

For example, utilizing Level 1 charging for a 2022 Nissan Leaf with a 40 kWh battery pack and 149 miles of range would take around 40 hours to reach a full charge from empty.

Level 2 chargers offer a range of charging power which affects how quickly an EV charges. The higher the kilowatts the faster it is to charge. For this example, let's assume that we’re charging the same Nissan Leaf with a 10 kW Level 2 charger. Using the formula above: 40 kWh/10 kW = 4, the time it takes to charge shrinks down to about 4 hours.

DC fast charging offers a lot of range in minutes rather than hours. Assuming we charge the Nissan Leaf with 100 kW charging power, it’ll take under 30 minutes to reach a full charge.

Realistically, in the case of Level 1 charging, overnight charging will be adequate. That’s because emptying the battery completely can irrevocably diminish capacity. It’s also worth noting that as an EV’s battery pack approaches full, charging slows down to a trickle so as to not overcharge the battery. This is by design and prevents damage.

Tesla Charging at Tesla Supercharging Station

Which option is best? It really depends on an individual’s situation. For most consumers, Level 1 charging will get the job done just fine. Level 2 charging requires the installation of specialized charging equipment which may be out of reach for folks who don’t own their own home or who can only afford a less expensive short-range EV or plug-in hybrid.

There is some good news for when you’re out on the road, however. Adapters to proprietary charging systems, such as Tesla’s network of Superchargers, will be available for purchase in the future making DC fast charging practically universal. This will enable EVs to rival their gas-guzzling counterparts on long road trips across the continent.

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      Cristyn is a member of CarsDirect's Socal-based team of pricing and incentive experts helping uncover must-know insights for car shoppers. A native of Bakersfield, California, Cristyn has a degree in Liberal Arts from Santa Monica College, with over 10 years of experience in the areas of research and data analysis.

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