If you have taken delivery or are planning to purchase one, it is essential that you know how charging electric vehicles works. This is because the type of charging you choose determines how long the process takes. Also, you will be able to decide on the one that works best for you.
This article will look at how electric charging works in an EV and the type of charging available to you in the US.
How does electric vehicle charging work?
An electric vehicle has a battery instead of or alongside a fuel tank. When there is only a battery, the car is known as a battery-electric vehicle, BEV, and a hybrid when the car combines a battery and a fuel tank that usually acts as a backup.
When you plug your electric vehicle into the grid, the onboard charger inside the car accepts the AC and converts it into DC, then stores it in the battery. The onboard charger can be bypassed in some type of charging, and the DC will go directly into the battery.
The electric motor draws power from the battery and converts it to mechanical energy, which moves the wheels. The more you drive, the more the charge stored in the battery reduces. Other operations of the car tap from the battery, including the air conditioning and audio system.
How long it takes to charge your battery depends on the type of charging, which we will look at next.
Types of electric vehicle charging
How electric vehicle charging is classified in the US is different from Europe and Asia. However, if you are familiar with the American system, you can handle the others.
The American classification has three categories; Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. As you shall see, the higher the level, the faster your car charges.
This is the slowest type of charging, and you will probably use it only when other options are not available. Level 1 chargers will add between three and five miles per hour to your battery, meaning you could spend all day or weekend before you reach 100 percent.
However, Level 1 is the most convenient and cheapest. It uses the standard 120-volt outlet in your house, so you don’t need to make any modifications to your wiring. You will typically use them at home or in public places that offer free charging while you are on the premises.
Level 1 chargers use J1772 or J-Plug, except for Tesla cars.
This is the most common charger used by EV owners. Level 2 chargers can work at home, at the workplace, or in other public places. They can add up to 80 miles to your battery per hour of charging, depending on the maximum charge rate of the car. This means you can plug in overnight and wake up to a full battery.
Level 2 chargers, however, are more expensive to install as they have higher requirements. For example, they use 240-volt power, and you might need trained technicians to set it up. The cost is lower if you already have a 240-volt line for high-power appliances like an oven, water heater, etc.
Level 2 chargers also use J1772 or J-Plug, except for Tesla. They can cost more than $2,000 to set up, although you might be able to take advantage of government incentives depending on where you live.
Sometimes, however, you need to charge faster, for example, when you are on a long trip and can only stop for a few minutes. This is where Level 3 chargers come in.
Level 3 or DC fast chargers
Remember we mentioned that an electric car could sometimes bypass the onboard charger and send DC straight to the battery? That is how Level 3 chargers work, and this makes them very fast.
Level 3 chargers convert the AC into DC outside the car and send up to 150 kW to the battery. You can get an 80% charge in under 45 minutes.
They are costly to install as they require upwards of 400 volts. This is why you do not install them at home, but they are maintained by public third-party operators like a chain of fuel stations. An example of public charging network is Electrify America. Tesla maintains its Supercharger network exclusively for its cars.
When using a public charger, you might be charged a fee or be required to maintain membership.
Level 3 chargers use either the CHAdeMO or Combined Charging System (CCS) standards. Tesla uses a proprietary connector.
While Level 3 chargers are fast, it is not advisable to depend on them as they can damage your battery.
DC fast chargers cost tens of thousands to install.
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