We have been fuelling cars for over a century now. While there are a few fuel variants to choose from, the process is pretty straightforward and everyone who has ever driven knows how to go about it. The process was standardised a long time ago, and it now takes about five minutes to fuel a car. Recharging an electric vehicle, the equivalent of fuelling it, is not that simple or quick. There are several reasons why this is so, but the main reason is the nuances found within the electric vehicle charging process. In this article, we will look at everything you need to know about electric vehicle charging so you understand what these nuances are.
Understanding AC And DC Power
Before we talk about chargers and charging times, it is important to take a detour and understand what DC and AC power are. AC stands for alternating current. Depending on where you live, the power cycles 50 or 60 times a second and this is its frequency.
This cycling sees one terminal switch from positive to negative 50 or 60 times a second, with the other terminal doing the exact opposite the same number of times in a second. The switching potential between the two terminals is expressed in volts.
DC stands for direct current, and this is a linear current that does not change polarity. If a terminal is negative or positive, it remains like that until the power source is depleted.
DC power is typically produced by and stored in a battery while AC is produced through induction where charged particles pass through a magnetic field. There is a lot that happens between when AC power is generated and when it reaches your home, but that is not important for this discussion.
Electric vehicle batteries store DC power that is converted into AC power depending on where and how it will be used within the car. Some components in an EV can use DC power, and in such cases, it does not need to be converted.
Levels Of Charging
There are three electric vehicle charging levels. These are Levels 1 through 3 – divided into Tesla Supercharging and DC Fast Charging – and each level has a different charging speed. A higher charging level has a higher charging speed due to the higher amount of power it can deliver to a car.
It is important to remember that two different EVs connected to the same charger might charge at different speeds. This is because each car has a set limit of how much power it can accept per unit time from the charger.
When you connect your vehicle to a charger, the vehicle communicates with the charger before the charging process starts. The car will ask the charger how much power it can deliver, and the car will tell it how much power it can accept. The charger will then deliver the maximum it can as long as that does not exceed what the car can accept.
Because the vehicle will always determine how much power it will accept, there is no need to worry about charging on a station that delivers more than your car is rated for. The car will not let the charger deliver too much, and the communication between the two will allow the charger to adjust accordingly.
Level 1 Charging
Level 1 charging uses a 120-volt Ac plug that you find in many homes. It uses a J1722 connector to connect to the vehicle. Level 1 charging is accepted by all vehicles, and they can be charged from a common wall outlet. The main downside of Level 1 charging is that it is very slow.
Charging can take anywhere from 8 to 18 hours depending on the car and battery capacity. Many people measure charging speeds in miles added per hour and this charging level adds five to eight kilometres for every hour of charge.
This level is best for vehicles with smaller batteries or ones that are only driven a few miles every day. Because of this, most electric vehicle owners have switched to Level 2 charging.
Level 2 Charging
Level 2 charging accepts 240 volts, but you will also find some chargers that accept 208 to 240 volts. This is the most common type of electric vehicle charger and is used mostly at home, at workplaces, and in public locations such as in front of shops and restaurants.
Level 2 charging adds 19 to 128 kilometres for every hour of charging, meaning you can charge a vehicle overnight without issues even when the battery is almost depleted. Because of these faster charging speeds, you will find Level 2 chargers in most homes with an electric vehicle.
While Level 2 chargers can deliver up to 80 amps of power, most homeowners choose those that deliver 40 or 48 amps. This is because as you increase the amount of power delivered, you need a different charger and a heavier, costlier wire. Additionally, the installation of a 48-amp electric vehicle charger must comply with NEC codes.
When talking about chargers you can install in your home, it is also important to talk about smart chargers. Smart chargers are designed to charge your car when the cost of energy is low and when it is most convenient for you.
For more information on how smart chargers work and additional information such as how long an electric vehicle takes to charge, you can check out the guides provided by ElectriX, a renowned electric vehicle information platform. ElectriX provides you with all the information you need about electric vehicles, whether you are thinking about switching to one or are wondering if one would be right for you.
Level 3 Charging (Supercharging And DC Fast Charging)
Level 3 charging is so fast, it can add 5 to 32 kilometres of range for every charging minute. Level 3 uses DC power. The reason it is so fast is that the power does not have to be converted into DC as electric cars have to do with AC power.
This means there is no intermediate step, and the power goes directly into the battery. Think of pouring water from a bigger bucket to a slightly smaller one without any restrictions.
This charging level typically uses 480 volts of power, but you will find chargers that go as high as 900 volts. Because this voltage is much higher than you get at home, only a few of these chargers are installed in homes. However, some residential buildings and locations might have the power required for this charging level.
Another reason why they are so uncommon is their cost. The cost of the chargers and their installation is very high. Even if you have 480-volt power, it is not feasible to install one.
About Charging Connectors
There are four types of charging connectors used right now. The J1772 is used with Level 1 and Level 2 charging, while the CHAdeMO used mainly by Nissan and Mitsubishi, the Combined Charging System (CCS) and Tesla’s charger are used for Level 3 charging. Some Tesla charging connectors also support Level 1 and 2 charging.
Every eclectic vehicle owner should understand how charging works, especially if they are considering buying a vehicle that accepts Level 2 or 3 charging. Understanding these nuances will help owners make the best decision when installing an EV charger in their homes.