As more automakers announce their newest electric car models, drivers think about replacing their internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, and property managers consider installing commercial charging stations, more people start to ask: what’s the difference between all the charging speeds? Why do more businesses install Level 2 chargers than DC fast chargers? Read on to learn more about charging your car.
A Quick Review of Terms
There are two types of electric cars: plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs). PHEVs such as the Toyota Prius Prime, Chevrolet Volt, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, and the Jeep Wrangler 4xe are hybrid vehicles that can fill up at a gas pump or at an EV charging station. This type of electric car is popular with drivers who want an electric car, but also want a backup internal combustion engine for long-distance driving. PHEVs provide anywhere from 14 – 50 miles of electric driving before the gas engine kicks in. On the other hand, BEVs such as the Tesla Model 3, Audi e-tron, and the Nissan Leaf are 100% electric cars. Because they only use electricity, not gasoline, BEV drivers must have access to a charging station. That’s where EV charging companies like SemaConnect come in.
Level 1 Charging
There are three types of EV charging speeds, also known as charging levels: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3/DC Fast Charging. Level 1 refers to the electricity provided by a standard 110V AC wall outlet. When you buy an electric car, you’ll also receive an EV charger that plugs into a 110V outlet. However, with this low-level outlet, you will only receive 4-5 miles of per hour. So if you have a car with 300-mile range… well, you do the math. A 100V wall outlet can be used as a last resort, but the trickle charge of energy is not ideal for most drivers. For this reason, most EV drivers either end up either buying a Level 2 charging station for their home or finding a commercial Level 2 station, such as those now being installed at many workplaces or apartment communities.
Level 2 Charging
Level 2 is the standard for daily charging and uses a 208/240V AC setup. With double the voltage of a 110V outlet, a 30amp charging station can charge electric cars at 25 miles per hour. At this speed, an EV driver can receive a full charge during the work day or while parked overnight. Whether your vehicle is a PHEV or a BEV, you can plug in at a standard Level 2 charging station, because the J1772 plug is compatible with all plug-in models in North America. A Level 2 electrical outlet is the same amount of energy that is used by appliances such as washing machines, allowing property managers to easily provide EV amenities.
In recent years, some manufacturers have introduced faster Level 2 stations that deliver 80amp and 19kW to the vehicle. These stations are made for specific-use vehicles such as buses and delivery vans, but they are not compatible with many EVs. This incompatibility is why 80amp Level 2 charging stations are typically reserved for charging large fleet vehicles such as electric buses or semi-trucks.
Level 3/DC Fast Charging
DC Fast Charging stations use 200-600V DC and 50+ kW. Most of these high-power stations can charge an EV in under an hour. Because these charging stations require so much electricity and are more expensive to install, you’ll typically find DCFC stations along highways and near shopping malls. The key use for DCFC is road-tripping when you are traveling in your EV and need to refuel along the way. While charging is standardized at Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations, BEVs can have one of three connectors for fast charging: CCS, CHAdeMO, or Tesla. EV drivers must know their vehicle’s plug type in order to use a fast charger that is compatible with their vehicle. Because of the lack of standardization and incompatibilities with specific EV models, some cities are now installing CCS, CHAdeMO, and Level 2 charging stations at the same site.
Each type of electric car charging station has different uses. The home and workplace have emerged as the main locations for charging, so EV drivers can charge at a Level 2 station overnight or while working. The best charging station for a business is the one that allows all vehicles to charge when they need power. That’s why 30amp Level 2 charging stations, which are compatible with all PHEV and BEV models, remain the standard for commercial charging. And when a driver can start charging at a station that is automatically compatible with their vehicle, that makes EV adoption even easier!
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