A whole new way of driving a car has begun with the advent of the modern electric vehicle (EV). Unlike a car with an internal combustion engine, one major advantage of an EV is that you can charge it at home or at an EV charging station when you’re out and about. You will probably spend most of the time charging your EV at home or at work. But charging stations can also be found in other places such as city centers, restaurants, or retail parking lots.
EV charging stations are becoming more available as greater EV adoption is taking place. There are over 47 thousand charging points available in the United States according to the US Department of Energy.
What’s the difference between home charging systems and public charging stations?
Home charging systems supply AC power. Consequently, your EV will use its onboard AC-to-DC converter to charge its battery.
Public charging stations may supply both AC and/or DC power. For higher power charging, charging stations will have much larger AC-to-DC converters already installed in them. This power bypasses your EV’s converter and supplies pure DC power.
Photo courtesy of US Department of Energy
How do I locate a public EV charging station?
There are two ways to do this:
EVs that have a navigation system can automatically locate charging stations nearby.
You can download a location app to your smartphone. Location apps are regularly updated with information about the station. Examples include:
How do I use an EV charging station?
Important note: Some public chargers are free to use but others will have you pay by the kilowatt-hour (kWh).
Most public EV charging stations are networked stations. They will require you to sign up for an account and subscribe to a network before you can use them. They will store your credit card on file and typically give you a card to wave in front of the charger to activate it.
Non-networked (or independent chargers) are installed by local businesses or by individuals who want to make charging available on their property. It’s not necessary to be a member of a network to use those chargers.
Operating an EV charging station is simple and similar to filling your car up with gas at a gas station.
- Open the charging port on your car.
- Remove the charger from the station holster.
- Plug the charger into your car’s connector port.
- Wait until fully charged.
A display at the charging station will show you how much electricity (and how much money) you’ve added to your electric car.
What are the different types of public EV Charging Stations?
Public charging stations allow drivers to charge their EVs when they are traveling long distances that are outside of their normal range. Charging stations are categorized by charging speeds and data transfer. There are three charging level choices:
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|Charging Rate||5 miles/hour (20+ hours to charge a low or empty battery)||10-20 miles/hour (5-6 hours to charge a low or empty battery)|| |
40 miles/10 minutes (15-45 minutes to charge a low or empty battery)
|Comments||Best used for home charging|| |
Most common type. Best used at work, home, or multifamily residences
Least common type. Not compatible with all EVs
When they charge on level 1 or 2, EVs transform AC power to DC power to recharge their battery. Level 3 DC chargers perform the transformation internally, using a much larger grid connection. They deliver DC power directly to the vehicle which results in a much faster and more powerful charge. Only high-capacity users like rest areas, commercial charging stations, and car dealerships usually benefit from having level 3 charging stations. For commercial applications level 2 is the ideal charging method in the USA.
Tesla EVs have proprietary charging ports in the United States. The Tesla SuperCharger is a 480V DC fast-charging station. Tesla owners will need to have an adapter to charge their cars at non-Tesla charging stations.
Are EV charging Stations Universal?
EV connectors are the end of the cable that plugs into the EV. They have different designs depending on the region. For example, you will find different types of connectors in Japan, China, North America, and Europe. This is usually not a problem for EVs as standard charging stations will let you use your own charging cable. With DC fast-charging stations, cables are normally fixed because of the power, cable price, weight, and security reasons. Tesla EVs have proprietary charging ports in the USA. The Tesla SuperCharger is a 480V DC fast-charging station.
The J1772 is the most common connector. Every EV in the US and in Canada can charge using it. It’s only available for level 1 and 2 charging. Tesla cars come with an adapter for the J1772. The Tesla HPWC connector is used for level 2 charging at Tesla-only charging stations (without an adapter).
There are three types of connectors that are available for level 3 charging:
The CHAdeMO connectors are mainly used by EVs manufactured in Japan.
The SAE Combo CCS connectors are mainly used by EVs manufactured in North America and Europe.
The Tesla Supercharger connectors are only used for Tesla charging stations.
What types of EVs use charging stations?
There are two types of EVs that use charging stations. There is one type of EV that does not use them.
BEVs do not have a gas engine. All of a BEVs’ energy comes from the battery which powers an electric motor.
Examples include the Chevy Bolt, the Tesla Model 3, and the Nissan LEAF.
Plug-in Hybrid EV
PHEVs have both a gas engine and a gas tank. They also have a charging port to recharge an electric battery. When its electric range is exhausted, the PHEV returns to hybrid form and uses its gas engine.
Examples include the Toyota Prius Plug-in, the Chevrolet Volt, and the Kia Optima Plug-in.
HEVs do not use charging stations. Their gas engines charge their battery.
Examples include the Honda Insight, the Toyota Prius, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
What do I need to know before installing a charging station at home?
Most of the time, you’ll charge your EV at home. In fact, home charging accounts for 80% of all charging performed by EV drivers.
You can install a Level 1 or 2 charging station at home. Level 1 charging happens when you use the charger that came with the car. They can be connected to any standard 120V outlet. It is able to charge 124 miles (200 kilometers) in about 20 hours. This is the optimal choice for people who drive their EV less than 30 miles per day. The drawback is that it will take longer to fully charge your EV.
The benefit to having a level 2 charging setup at home is that you will be able to charge your car battery much faster than level 1. Level 2 Chargers are commercially available in the USA. But they do require a 240V outlet to be installed in the garage by a licensed electrician. This is the same outlet that you would use for major appliances such as a clothes dryer.
Another consideration is if you have control of your power supply. If not, you may need to get permission from a landlord or homeowners’ association to install a level 2 charging station. Either way, it’s best to consult an electrician to see if you have the capacity for a dedicated circuit.
In the USA and Canada, home chargers have a J1772 connector and are commercially available. It will need to be installed near where you normally park your car so that the cable can reach it. You can also purchase a longer cable if needed.
But the main benefit of a Level 2 charger in your home is the reduced time required to charge over Level 1 solutions. Many Level 2 charges come with software that will run on your computer or cell phone and you can schedule charging times to happen at night when the cost of electricity could be lower.
About the Author
Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.