Charging your electric car (or "EV") is simpler and more convenient than most people think. Most electric car drivers charge at home or at work, but public charging is becoming increasingly available as well. No matter how you charge, there's never been a better time to drive electric.
There are five things you should know about range and charging: three that impact how far you can go in your electric car and two that impact how quickly you can charge.
Electric car battery sizes are measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). The more kWh capacity your car’s battery has, the farther you can go between charges.
Different electric models drive a different number of miles for every kWh of battery capacity. The vehicle’s battery size and efficiency together determine its range, along with driving conditions.
The temperature and weather conditions will impact your car's range (the colder it gets, the shorter the range), but electric cars can handle whatever winter can throw at them. The rating on miles per charge is a good number for a year-round basis. Most of the year, you will get more than the rating.
Your car will have an onboard charger. Its capacity, measured in kilowatts (kW), affects your charging speed. The more kW, the faster the charge!
There are three levels of EV charging. In increasing level of speed, they are: Level I, Level II, and DC Fast Charging.
There are three levels of charging available for EVs today: Level I, Level II, and DC Fast Charging.
Level I charging simply requires a 110 volt outlet. All electric cars come equipped with a cord that you can plug into a common outlet. A Level I charge uses the J1772 charging port and will typically add 2 to 6 miles of range for every hour spent charging (the actual speed depends upon the capacity of the charger built into your car).
Level II charging requires a 240 volt outlet. You can purchase a Level II unit online and install it in your home with the help of a licensed electrician. There are also many publicly available Level II units. A Level II charge uses the J1772 charging port and will typically add 10 to 25 miles of range for every hour spent charging (the actual speed depends upon the capacity of the charger built into your car).
DC (Direct Current) Fast Charging is the fastest charging available for passenger cars (other than Tesla). It is increasingly available along major highways and intended for longer trips. American and European manufacturers use the J1772 combo (otherwise known as CCS DCFC or SAE Combo) and Asian manufacturers use the CHAdeMO. Not all DC Fast Charging stations will have plugs for each type of charging port. As a result, you must make sure the DC Fast Charging station you visit has the correct plug to match up with the charging port on your vehicle.
Here's a summary of the important things to know about each charging level.
|Level I||Level II||DC Fast Charging|
|Voltage||120||240||208/480 three-phase input|
|Charging speed||~2-6 miles/hr*||~10-25 miles/hr*||60-90 miles/30 min*|
|Charging port||J1772||J1772||J1772 combo (also known as CCS DCFC or SAE Combo) or CHAdeMO|
|Can I install one in my home?||You don’t need to! Just use a normal 120V outlet and the charging cord that comes with your EV.||Yes (may require adding a 240 volt line if your home does not already have one)||No|
|Are there units publicly available?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Is an additional charging port required on the car?||No||No||Yes (standard on some cars, additional package on others )|
|*Depending on your onboard charger capacity, battery size, and current battery charge level.|
The charger: The charger is built into the electric car. The charging port accepts electricity from an outside source and stores it in the vehicle's battery. There are different types of charging ports, which becomes very important when we talk about DC Fast Charging. Here are four of the more common options:
Built into all non-Tesla electric vehicles, suitable for Level I or Level II charging. All electric cars come with a cord that plugs into the J1772 port in the vehicle on one end and a 110V outlet on the other end.
Built into American and European-made electric cars (like the Chevrolet Bolt, Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3, etc.) for DC Fast Charging. The J1772 combo is also known as the CCS DCFC or SAE Combo.
Built into most Asian-made electric cars (like the Nissan LEAF or Mitsubishi Outlander) for DC Fast Charging. That means Asian electric cars that can fast charge have two separate ports (J1772 and CHAdeMO).
Teslas have a unique charge ports and connectors that match Tesla’s proprietary charging network.
Electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE): The EVSE is the machine with the cord that you plug into your onboard charger. The plug on the EVSE must match up with the charging port on the vehicle. All vehicles come equipped with a cord that will plug into a normal wall outlet for a "trickle charge". More on this below!
Generally, electric car drivers charge their vehicle at home. For most people, this is very easy. The cars in our program come with a charging unit that you can plug into a 120 volt outlet (common in every home). Hopefully, you have such an outdoor outlet in your garage or on the side of your house next to the driveway.
Together, your 120 volt outlet and the car’s standard charging unit will make your home a “Level I Charging Station.”
We recommend that you consider purchasing a 240 volt charging unit if you would like to speed up the charging rate at your home and if you already have a 240 volt service (or it can be added at low cost). They are installed by licensed electricians and they cost a few hundred dollars plus the cost of installation. However, many drivers are satisfied with Level I (110 volt) service. It all depends on how depleted your car's battery will be when you plug it in for a recharge and how much time you have for recharging.
Here are three resources that can help get you started on the process of installing a home charger.
When you're away from home, you can access an increasing number of public charging stations. It’s easy to find these stations with cell phone apps and some new EVs come with these apps right on the dashboard display.
Plus, there are several websites to help you find charging stations near your home or workplace:
This charging option is capable of adding significant range to an electric vehicle in not much longer than the time it takes to fill a gas tank: you can expect to add 60 to 90 miles per 30 minutes of charging.
Most modern electric cars can be equipped with DC quick charge capability via an additional charging port on your onboard charger. Some come with a DC Fast Charging port automatically and some require you to purchase a special package.
Find a DC Fast Charging unit near you. Remember, DC Fast Charging stations have different plugs. Make sure the station you're visiting corresponds to your car (see above).
We know drivers are concerned about where electric vehicles can charge other than at home. Virginia has more public stations than most people realize, and more are getting built all the time. Here’s a snapshot of what’s available today, according to PlugShare.