Overview of Electric Car Charging

By
Laurance Yap
Updated:
Sep 2022
Time to read:
6
min
Once you’ve settled into electric driving, you’re not going to want to go back. But getting the best experience does require an understanding of the different kinds of charging available for your electric car – and how to make the best use of them. Here's a simple guide.
Electric Vehicle Charging Sign

I’m Buying an Electric Car. How Do I Charge It?

One of the greatest benefits of driving an electric car is that you’ll never have to go to a gas station again. In addition to zero tailpipe emissions, smooth electric performance, and great technology, you also get incredible convenience!

Once you’ve settled into electric mobility, you’re not going to want to go back. But getting the best experience does require an understanding of the different kinds of charging available – and how to make the best use of them.

In this guide, we’ll look at the different kinds of chargers, the different places that you can charge, and look at the future of electric car charging.

What’s The Difference Between Level 1, 2, And 3?

While all gasoline vehicles “charge up” at approximately the same speed – a few minutes spent holding a gas pump – not all ways to charge your electric vehicle are created equal. There are different kinds of chargers out there, fit for different purposes.

Level 1 chargers typically plug into a household 120-volt outlet – the same as you’d plug your phone into. Thus, it will take a long time to charge the battery in your hybrid or electric car – adding only 3 to 5 miles per hour of charging. While usable in a pinch for plug-in hybrid vehicles, we don’t recommend trying to charge your electric car using a Level 1 charger.

Level 2 chargers run on a 220-volt outlet, similar to what you’d plug your clothes dryer into, and can deliver 12 to 80 miles of charge per hour. They are perfect for home use as most electric cars can be fully charged in somewhere between three and eight hours – enough to give you a full charge before you leave the next morning. Level 2 chargers are also available in many public locations, useful if you’re going to be at a mall or at work for a few hours and need a top-up.

Delivering 3 to 20 miles of range per minute, Level 3 chargers use DC (direct current) instead of the AC (alternating current) of level 1 and level 2 chargers – Level 3 chargers are up to 15 times faster than a Level 2 charger! This makes them perfect for charging up your electric car quickly on long trips.

If you’re going for an electric car, you’re going to want to have a Level 2 charger to plug into on a regular basis, either at home or work.

Charging At Home

For most people buying electric cars, the majority of charging will be done at home. Plugging in and letting it charge overnight is convenient, inexpensive, and helps extend the life of your battery.

Charging at home is cheaper than using public charging stations. Your household electric bills will be higher, but you’ll see a huge savings compared to what you might spend on gasoline.

Check to see if your electric utility company provides special electric car rates or reduced rates at certain times – often at night. You can program your electric car to charge during the reduced-rate times.

You will want to install a dedicated Level 2 electric car charger at home. Order one from your electric vehicle’s manufacturer or numerous third-party options. You can research popular chargers right here on the GreenCars website – and find an electrician to install it!

Charging In Town

If you need to charge your electric car in a town you’re familiar with, think of where you park most regularly, and look for charge points in those locations. You may be able to charge near your gym, grocery stores, schools, libraries, or shopping areas and department stores in most towns across America.

Level 2 charging stations are the most common public chargers. A number are even free of charge – installed by businesses who use them as an incentive to get you to visit. Remember to bring your charging cable and your smartphone in case you have to download an app to use a charging station.

You may also find Level 3 fast chargers around town, in high-traffic areas like shopping malls, grocery stores, and busy office buildings. You will pay for the privilege of charging your vehicle much more quickly – sometimes, almost as much as gasoline per mile of range – but the convenience can’t be beat.

Charging On a Road Trip

On a long journey where you need to stop and recharge, you’ll want to find a Level 3 charger if you can. The easiest way to find a charging station is to use the navigation system built into your electric car. The vast majority of EVs have a live connection that provides real-time information, including the ability to help you find the nearest charger.

Some of the more sophisticated navigation systems will even be able to show you which charging stations are Level 2 (AC) chargers and which ones are Level 3 (DC) fast chargers. You can also use resources like the GreenCars Charging Network map or apps like PlugShare and ChargeHub to locate public chargers.

Some charging networks require a membership to access charging units. For instance, Tesla has established an extensive “Supercharger” network of stations at its dealerships and other locations worldwide exclusively for Tesla electric car owners. 

Using Charging Networks

There are a growing number of charger networks – such EVgo, Electrify America and ChargePoint – to make topping up your electric car fast and easy. By creating a free account online or in an app, you can find charging stations pretty much anywhere you travel. Once you’re signed up, you can charge by using the app or with a credit card. 

Is Wireless Charging the Future?

If you have a mobile phone made in the last couple of years, it probably can charge wirelessly. Imagine if the same were possible for your car: no fumbling around with heavy charging cords, no having to worry about charge port doors freezing shut in the winter…simply park and walk away.

In much the same way as wireless charging for your phone, wireless charging uses a pad installed, or positioned, where a vehicle is parked, and the vehicle has a wireless vehicle pad on its underbody. Current wireless charging systems operate with power outputs and speeds roughly equivalent to Level 2 charging, which would make them a convenient replacement for a home plug-in charger.

A number of vehicles in the Asian market are already available with wireless charging as an option. The technology has yet to make its way to our shores, but we suspect its introduction isn’t far away once regulators have had a chance to approve the systems for safety. And like when wireless charging for mobile phones was introduced, EV wireless charging may be a game-changer.

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