An electric vehicle (EV) can be a great way to get around while minimizing your carbon footprint. If you're a new or prospective EV owner or if you're looking at new ways to charge your vehicle, finding the right charging station can be difficult. Today, we're going to help narrow the field by explaining the three levels of EV charging stations.
Related Blog: Where Are EV Charging Stations Being Installed?
The 3 Levels of EV Charging Stations
Level 1—Standard Standalone Plug
The first level of EV charging refers to a standard 120V electric outlet of the kind you probably already have in your home. Because your vehicle will need steady power, you must have a dedicated 20-amp circuit on this outlet. You should not plug anything else into the outlet while your car is charging. As you would with any major appliance install, if this is your first time charging an electric vehicle at this outlet, consult with an electrician first to be sure it is safe.
Note that Level 1 charging stations will charge your vehicle slowly. Usually, you will need to charge your vehicle every night, all night. As long as you charge your vehicle each night at one of these stations, you should have enough charge to last through the day, enough for approximately 40 miles.
Level 2—Upgraded Outlet for EV and Large Appliances
While standard outlets supply 120V of power, Level 2 chargers supply 240V, the equivalent of the larger outlets you will find in laundry rooms. This voltage type lets you pull more power and charge your EV faster while still using standard wiring. If you would like to add Level 2 charging, any licensed electrician can come in and add the outlet.
Level 2 charging stations work approximately five times as fast as Level 1. In order to get the same 40 miles from a Level 2 station, you only need to stay plugged in for a couple of hours. You will often find this kind of charging station at venues like restaurants or sports stadiums where drivers can leave their vehicles to charge while they spend time inside. This station type is less practical for places like gas stations where drivers can't afford to wait that long.
Level 3+—DC Fast Charging
Level 3 and Level 4 charging stations represent the high end of EV charging and a real departure from the kind of electricity used in everyday household applications. In order to understand this type of charging, it's important to understand the difference between AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current). AC, or the form of power used in most homes and businesses, refers to a modulated form of electricity which makes the energy more manageable, less dangerous, and more efficient over long distances. DC refers to the original form that electricity comes in, a form which is usually changed in nearby transformers before it reaches your home.
Installing Level 3 charging stations requires direct access to the power grid, which can only be performed by highly-skilled technicians usually working with special arrangements with local authorities. For this reason, you will usually find Level 3 chargers in gas stations and other well-regulated locales. Your municipality will probably not allow you to install one in your home. This charger type is the fastest of the three and can charge up to 80% in less than 30 minutes.
What You Need to Know About Battery Capacity
A final note on all three types and charge times. Rechargeable electric car batteries like all batteries have built-in safeties to prevent overcharging. After 80% of charge at any level, the battery will start to trickle charge. This means that once the battery reaches 80% of capacity, all three levels will charge at roughly the same slow speed by design. For this reason, many Level 3 charging stations automatically cut off at 80%. If rapid charging for long distances, drivers should keep in mind that fully charged may not mean 100% and should calculate recharge times accordingly.
EV Charging with Mader
With our partner, ChargePoint, we're able to install highly efficient charging stations wherever they are needed. If you're interested in an EV charging station design or installation contact us today!