EV charging station

The Difference Between EV Charging Levels

If you are shopping for an electric vehicle (EV), one important consideration is the different charging levels available. Charge levels, like gasoline grades, come in three different levels—Level 1, Level 2, and DC Fast Charger. The higher the level (or output) of a charger, the faster an EV’s battery will recharge (output is defined in kilowatt-hours). One kilowatt-hour equals about 4 miles of range for a standard-sized EV.

Level 1

Supported by a standard 110-volt AC wall outlet, an L1 charger gets you just 4 to 5 miles per charging hour. This is sufficient for people who do not drive that much every day. But it takes many hours to replenish the battery to support a day’s worth of driving.

Level 1 charging is most suited for hybrid vehicles with relatively small battery packs. For the most part, the electrical supply used in North America, Central America, and South America accommodates this level. In Europe and other parts of the world, a 220-volt supply is needed for plug-in EVs.

Level 1 chargers are rarely available publicly and most are emergency-type cables included when you buy an EV. However, if you’re using your EV for commuting, the 30-to-50-mile range you can get overnight may be enough (it can take over 24 hours to fully charge an empty battery). A full charge costs between $1.20 and $13.00 depending on electricity rates and battery size.

Level 2

An L2 charger requires 208 to 240 volts AC. With 3 to 19 kilowatts of AC power, you can get roughly 25 miles per charging hour; some vehicles can get to as high as 60 miles per each hour. It takes about 8 hours for an L2 charging system to fully charge your EV. This means you can fully charge it overnight or during the workday. There are different sub-types available including 80 amp and 19 kilowatt versions suited for buses, delivery vans, and semi-trucks.

Level 2 chargers are the most common EV charging systems in the U.S. They’re found in parking garages and at malls, grocery stores, and hotels as well as offices where employees can park their EVs for the day. Assuming the cost per kilowatt-hour, you may spend from $1.00 to $5.00 per hour for charging at a public L2 station or $6.00 to $10.00 for a full charge at home. You’ll need a 40-amp circuit for the charger but can fully charge your EV in 4 to 6 hours.

DC Fast Charger

A Level 3, or DC Fast Charger, can output up to 350 kilowatts and achieve an 80% battery charge in 20 to 40 minutes. You can fully charge an EV battery in 60 to 90 minutes. The maximum charging rate depends on the vehicle; most EVs currently charge at a maximum of 50 kilowatts. Public charging stations that support top-of-the-line models are hard to find.

DC Fast Chargers are mainly found at commercial and industrial facilities due to their high power draw and extremely high cost. Charging sessions may be billed by kilowatt-hour, in which you’re charged for energy delivered, or per minute. Being billed per minute can mean higher costs for lower-power rate EVs. Billing rates vary from $0.19 to $1.00 per kilowatt-hour, so a full charge can range from $10.00 to $30.00.

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