Clean Energy

The Very Basics of Electric Vehicle Charging

Get current on the state of EV charging

By: | August 21, 2017

We’ve all become familiar with the idea of filling up our cars or trucks with fuel, be it gasoline or diesel. Usually, there’s a choice between regular or premium gasoline and more recently E85 which is a fuel blend that includes an ethanol content of up to 85 percent. This can be used in flexible fuel vehicles also known as FFVs.

For electric vehicles needing to be charged while on the road, the reality is not much different. Most charger ports on EVs have connection compatibility with the various styles of charging units. However, the charger types differ. These are based on the electric power capacity. Simply put, the greater the power of the charger, the faster the recharge.

Let’s break this down:

Level 1

Charging a vehicle with a “Level 1” charger is basically the same as plugging it into a standard 120-volt outlet. Depending on the EV model, a typical EV can get fully charged within 8-12 hours. This outlet typically has a 15-amp circuit breaker, meaning that the maximum amount of energy that the vehicle can consume is approximately 1,500 watts or 1.5 kilowatt-hours per hour.

Drivers can charge their EV at a Level 1 charger, and this requires no extra equipment or installation.

Level 2

This is the most common charger being installed and available at public charging stations. A typical EV can get fully charged within 2 to 6 hours, but charge times can vary by model.

Charging a vehicle at a “Level 2” charger is the equivalent of plugging into a 240-volt outlet. Home owners may decide to install a charging station – also known as Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) – in their home. This usually requires professional installation by a licensed electrician and a 240-volt outlet, commonly utilized by home appliances like refrigerators and dryers. At 30 amps this provides 6.6 kilowatt-hours per hour.

Direct Current (DC) Fast Charging

The most convenient, user-friendly option for consumers on the run is a DC fast charger that can charge an EV about in about 20 minutes. This type of charging is mostly available as an option at public charging facilities. These are often installed along major transportation corridors. This is a similar technology as a Tesla supercharger. Remember, Tesla superchargers are not compatible with all other EV brands and models, although adapters are coming into the market. Again, conditions such as extreme temperatures and the type of EVs will affect your results.

EV charging etiquette

Now that we have an understanding of the technology of charging let’s have a look at the social aspect of EV charging. Yes, there is actually some decorum around this process. Here are five good points to consider:

  1. Respect the EV spot – Remember this is not a parking spot for EVs it’s a recharging spot.
  2. Charge when needed – Don’t top off because others may require a charge to return home.
  3. Move on when done – Once you are charged up, make room for others.
  4. Don’t unplug others – It’s dangerous and often impossible due to locking plugs with newer EVs
  5. Always put safety first – These are high-voltage facilities so be extra cautious. Carefully wind up the cord to avoid tripping and EVs driving over it.

There you have it, a simple overview of recharging technology and some of the social standards around it. As EVs grow in popularity, these tidbits can come in handy.

Peer-to-peer marketplace being tested

Residential electric-car chargers spend most of the time unused, so a California company is leveraging that opportunity to explore the idea of EV drivers using each other’s chargers when on the road. Like an Airbnb service for EVs, this exchange network is being tested and uses a mobile app with blockchain technology to let drivers pay for private charger use. The hope is this will help reduce range anxiety, promote more EV ownership and potentially generate a virtuous cycle of charger access.

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A self-professed energy nerd, Paul loves to explore how technology trends are bringing convenience and surprising benefits to our lives.