As Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) become more accessible and more manufacturers are producing EVs, it is only natural for people to have concerns. One of the biggest concerns for new EV owners is how to charge their vehicles. We are used to pulling up to one of many gas stations, spending a few minutes filling up our tank, and moving on with our day. EV owners have to be more strategic about where and when they can charge their vehicles. This heavily relies on where the closest charging station is and if they have an EV charger at home. But what exactly is EV charging and how does it work?
What is EV Charging and How Does it Work?
Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles alike require an EV charger to fully charge their battery, just as you would charge your phone and other electrical devices. According to WattLogic, “An EV charger pulls electric current from the grid and delivers it to the electric vehicle through a connector or plug. An electric vehicle stores that electricity in a large battery pack to power its electric motor.”
Levels of EV Charging
Currently, there are three levels of electric vehicle charging: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Read on to learn more about the different levels of EV charging and where you might find them.
Level 1 Charging
Level 1 chargers are your regular 120-volt household outlet. When you plug your electric vehicle into a Level 1 charger, it has the charging capability of 3 to 5 miles per hour. This is the slowest way to charge an EV and would take around 30 hours to fully charge your car. Now if you own a plug-in hybrid car, this may work for you as PHEVs have a smaller battery and would require less time to charge the battery. Charging speed, however, would still stay the same. EVs have a larger charging capacity than PHEVs and a level 1 charger would not be ideal.
Level 2 Charging
Level 2 chargers are what you would expect to find in residential homes as well as in public areas, such as business, train stations, shopping centers, etc. A typical charger that would be found in a home is a 240-volt, 40-amp charger, though they can range from 208-volt to 240-volt and up to 80-amps depending on the EV Charger.
The average level 2 charger has a charging speed ranging from 12-80 miles per hour depending on the power output which is 10x faster than the level 1 charger. With a level 2 charger, EVs can be fully charged from empty overnight, which is what a typical EV owner would require.
Level 3 Charging
Level 3 chargers are the fastest EV chargers and can charge at a rate of 3 to 20 miles per minute. This is a big jump from even a level 2 charger. Levels 1 and 2 EV charges utilize alternating current (AC), whereas level 3 chargers use direct current (DC). The voltage is also a big jump up, ranging from 400-volts to 900-volts. The high voltage is why level 3 chargers are typically not seen in homes, in addition to the level 3 chargers costing tens of thousands of dollars.
Tesla calls their Level 3 chargers, Superchargers, and others call them DC Fast Chargers. At the moment, Tesla Superchargers can only be used for Tesla EVs, whereas many other Level 3 charging stations can accommodate a wider variety of vehicles, including Tesla vehicles.
EV Chargers At Home
Most homes can install a Level 1 or Level 2 EV Charger. A Level 2 EV Charger requires a dedicated 240-volt circuit, the same that an electrical dryer or kitchen range would require. As mentioned in the Level 2 section, Level 2 chargers can charge your EV at a rate of 12-30 miles an hour depending on the power output of your charger. This will allow you to charge your EV fully overnight from a drained battery.
Level 1 Chargers are capable of charging your EV but are not necessarily the most efficient as it only charges at a rate of 3-5 miles per hour and can take up to 30 hours to fully charge the vehicle. Level 1 may work for PHEVs, though it will still take time to charge but the battery on a PHEV is smaller compared to an EV. In the long run, a Level 2 EV charger is more suitable for both an EV and PHEV.
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What does the future of EV charging look like?
The largest technological improvement to the EV charging space is vehicle to grid. Vehicle to grid, also known as V2G, is where a vehicle can be plugged into a home or business and backfeed the building with power. This has a long list of benefits that include the following:
- Reduced cost of backup power. Due to the EV car industry being heavily subsidized, you’re able to purchase much more KWH of battery in a car than with an at home battery backup system for a cheaper price. The typical EV has a 60 – 100 KWH battery and costs roughly $50,000. To purchase the same amount of battery storage for a home backup system would come with a $100k price tag or more.
- Autonomy and redundancy. Having a vehicle to grid + solar system would allow the EV to be charged from your home by solar, or your place of work during the week. The battery could be cycled down to a selected state of charge during the night to reduce overall grid consumption and still leave you with a backup power source that recharges from the sun the next day. The vehicle can also be used to cycle during peak demand times if on a utility billing structure that charges you higher rates at specific times of the day.
- Micro grid capabilities. Places like Hawaii have already moved forward with this technology where the local grid pulls battery power from multiple homes across the area to reduce the stress on power production from fossil fuel sources during peak hours of the day. This has significantly helped Hawaii’s transition 100% renewable energy
All EV chargers coming out today have the capability for V2G. However, only a few of them are advertising it. This technology has come into a few roadblocks. These include local jurisdiction regulations, proprietary regulations between different car manufacturers. There has also been a gap with solar and car manufacturers to develop an integrated transfer switch that allows for the grid, EV, solar, and other power sources to work together seamlessly. These smart transfer switches and system controllers are now becoming available. This equipment requires knowledgeable electricians that are focused on the renewable energy and electrification industries to be properly installed. Rhino Renewables is your one stop shop for consultation, installation and support with these solar + storage + vehicle systems.
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