EV Charging: Everything you need to know when buying an electric vehicle
Are you considering EV ownership, but you know little about charging? You have come to the right place. At Green Wave, we are all about helping people understand the ins and outs of EV ownership in a simple, accessible way.
The first thing to know is that there are 2 types of electric vehicles:
- EVs, which run on electric power only.
- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, or PHEV, which run on electric power when charged, and then are gas/electric hybrids that run on standard gasoline after the electricity has been used up.
There are 3 types of charging:
- Level 1: This is basically plugging your vehicle into a 120 volt wall socket at your house.
- Level 2: This is more than twice as fast, and can be done at your home by installing and/or plugging into a 240 volt outlet, like for your clothes dryer.
- Level 3 or DC Fast Charging: This is the fastest type of charging, and it requires a special machine that is primarily used for public or fleet charging. Think of the Tesla Superchargers, but there are other types and brands as well.
Level 1 Charging
Level 1 charging is basically plugging your vehicle into a standard 120 volt outlet at your house. This method of charging is not a great option for many EV owners, because it only adds 3-5 miles of range per hour. This can work if you have a PHEV like the Chrysler Pacifica, which only has a 30 mile range with its 7 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery, but even then it takes almost 10 hours to charge fully. This is not a feasible option for a daily EV driver, because it would take days to charge higher range vehicles like Tesla or even large kWh PHEVs like the Chevy Volt. But if you don’t drive often, and you want to save the expense of installing a charger at your home, then this is the most economical approach.
Level 2 Charging
Level 2 charging is where it’s at for home charging, and it is where you are going to get the most bang for your buck. Most EV owners will have a Level 2 charger installed at their house, and it can get you anywhere from 15 to 30 miles of range per hour. The lowest cost for power, and the most convenient place to charge are both right in your driveway.
Types of Level 2 Chargers:
There are several types of Level 2 Chargers for your home, and they come in many shapes and brands. The most popular home chargers include Clipper Creek, Juicebox, and Wallbox. The chargers have different ratings, ranging from 12 amps all the way up to 64 amps; the more amps the charger is rated for, the quicker it delivers electricity to your car. But that doesn’t mean you automatically want the 64 amp beast-mode charger in your garage. There are a few important factors to consider:
- Do you have a 200 amp electrical panel at home?
a. Most modern homes do, but make sure first! A 60 or 100 amp panel will mean you probably need an upgrade.
- Do you have space on your panel?
a. You need to have open space on your circuit breaker panel to wire up the EV charger. Go take a look now. We’ll wait.
- Is it worth the expense?
a. A 40 amp EV charger is going to cost around $700, but a 64 amp panel is over a thousand dollars. You will get about 9-10 kilowatts per hour on a 40 amp charger, and that gets you about 200 miles of range in 6-7 hours
Here at Green Wave, we recommend a level 2 charger for your house. Most times we can even include the cost of the charger and installation with your purchase, so you can finance it and don’t have to pay all at once.
Here’s some even better news: the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides a credit of 30% of the cost of the charger and installation, up to $1,000!
Other things to know about Level 2 chargers:
- Some EVs come with a level 2 charger included, and you can mount the included hardware on your wall.
- Level 2 EV charging is the safest for your battery: it is what they were designed for.
- Most Level 2 chargers are weatherproof: you can charge outside in rain or snow.
- There are bi-directional Level 2 chargers available, so that you can power your house with your car, if your EV is equipped to do so (I’m looking at you, Ford F150 Lightning!). But those are significantly more expensive, and require more in-depth electrical work at your house.
- Level 2 chargers can be powered by solar, if your house is equipped with solar panels. Some fancy level 2 chargers can be programmed to only charge your EV when your home is drawing power from your panels. Now you’re driving on sunshine!
Level 3 Charging:
This is the fastest type of charging, and it draws direct current (DC) off the grid, unlike at your home, where you have alternating current (AC) in your electrical system. That’s why it is commonly referred to as “DC Fast Charging”. This is generally only available on EVs and not available on PHEVs.
DC Fast Charging is perfect for road trips or long day trips, because if your EV has a 250 mile range, you can get from 20% to 80% in about half an hour. Here’s how your day looks:
- Get on the road with a full charge at home.
- Drive for about 3 and a half hours (200 miles).
- Park at a fast charger and plug in. Go get a bite to eat. Check your email.
- 30 minutes later, you’re back up to 200 miles in range. Keep going, and before you know it you have driven from Portsmouth, NH to Philadelphia, PA.
Because DC Fast Charging is done at public places, like highway rest stops and Wal-Mart Supercenters, there is a charge. This can be anywhere from $.16/minute to $.32/minute, and is charged by the station operator. All in, you can expect to pay $10-$30, depending on how much juice you need.
Paying for DC fast charging is done in a few different ways, depending on the charger:
- Some DC Fast Chargers have credit card readers; just tap, and start charging!
- Some DC Fast Chargers require an app on your phone to sign up for an account and pay on your phone. This is also the case for many public level 2 chargers.
- Some cars charge according to an account set up by the vehicle manufacturer. This is the case for the Ford Mustang Mach E, which comes with a certain amount of free charging on participating DC fast chargers (like Electrify America), as well as for Tesla. Some Tesla models even come with free lifetime supercharging on the Tesla Supercharger network.
Sounds great! What’s the downside? The problem with DC fast charging is it is known to degrade the battery. The vehicle manufacturers all recommend that fast charging is not your daily power source; every once in awhile is okay. But honestly, if you need to go from Portsmouth to the City of Brotherly Love 5 times per week, you are going to do a number on your EV battery over time.
Getting Connected: The CCS Standard
Before we wrap, there is one little thing you must know: the Common Charging Standard, or CCS. This is the shape of the charging connector on your car that is used for DC Fast Charging. Most EVs except Tesla models are now manufactured with this standard form of charger. Tesla went out on their own and created a separate charger interface that only works on their Supercharging network. Each Tesla comes with an adaptor that allows the Tesla to charge on any CCS port, but it doesn’t work in reverse. So the Tesla can charge anywhere, but if you have a Chevy Bolt, then you can’t get charged at a Tesla Supercharger. Thanks Elon!
There is also the CHAdeMO charger, which is a version that was originally popularized in Japan, and a few key EV models still have this form of connector for DC Fast charging. The most notable example is the Nissan LEAF, but it also applies to the North American models of the Honda Fit EV, and Kia Soul EV pre-2019. The CHAdeMO charger is a little less common on the roads today than the CCS, so some LEAF drivers find the feature somewhat limiting.
Finding a Charger on the Go
Most drivers will use a level 2 charger at their home or workplace for daily charging needs, and increasingly hotels, attractions, and parking garages have these chargers. But for longer trips, a combination of DC fast charging and level 2 charging is what you will want to keep on the move. So how do you find a charger while planning a trip or on the road? You have a couple of options, based on your vehicle.
- On-Board Navigation: many higher-end EVs have integrated navigation that automatically calculates charging into your trip route and even estimates charging time! This is true for Tesla models, as well as for the Ford EV models.
- The Plug Share App: This free app for iPhone or Android gives a pretty comprehensive picture of the charging options on the road. You can put in your vehicle, and it automatically filters to only show you options that fit your car, and you can filter for Level 2 or DC fast charge options. Many stations also have pictures and ratings, so you know what to expect when you show up.
- Provider Apps: If you have an account with one of the major charging provider networks, like Electrify America, Chargepoint, or EVGo, then you can use their app to find their chargers.
Now you should be ready to go with your charged-up knowledge. Call Green Wave to schedule a consultation about what will work best for you today!