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How do I charge my EV? (EV Charging Basics)

Electric cars haven’t taken over yet. The majority of vehicles sold today continue to use a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE), And though hybrids have been around for much longer, you are still refueling an empty tank with gasoline in just a few minutes then back on your way.

Now, During the last few years, EVs have become a major disrupter to the ICE way of life.

These vehicles require a different kind of fill-up. Electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)  use the electric grid for power, and a simple plug is all you need to recharge (or “refuel”) the vehicle.

Full EVs rely solely on this electricity as a power source. The PHEVs also have an engine that can provide power, either to power the electric motors or to help propel the car.

Three Categories of Charging Stations

A Level 1 charging source is a standard 120-volt outlet that you find in your home and garage. All PHEV and EV vehicles are equipped to plug into these basic wall outlets,  The downside to this is speed. Level 1 charging will recharge a battery at a rate of 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging based on the 3 to 6 kW of electricity the average wall socket supplies. Meaning your car might need more time to charge than the car has time to sit.

Level 2 chargers are the most common type found at public charging stations you would find out front of office malls and stores. They are also recommended for installation at home if you buy an EV. Using a 240-volt outlet, charging times vary based on the kW of your battery, but Level 2 is far quicker compared to the wall outlet. Using a level 2 charger, EVs and Phi’s can charge at about 24 miles of range per hour. At this rate, charging your car overnight should give you plenty of range if not a full “tank” every morning.

Level 3 chargers or Rapid chargers are DC fast chargers, such as Tesla Superchargers. When using a Level 3 charger, you can recharge an EV to 80% of battery capacity anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. If you are on a road trip, this is what you are looking for. A quick charge, then back on the road.

How do I charge my EV?

1) There are three ways to charge an EV. You can plug the vehicle into a standard Level 1 household outlet.

2) You can plug it into a Level 2 home charging station that uses a 240-volt outlet like the one that runs your stove or dryer.

3) You can use a public Level 2 or Level 3 charging station.

Keep in mind, that your car doesn’t come with a plug like your living room lamp.  When you use a public charging station, you need to know what kind of charger is compatible with your vehicle before you plug in.

For 240-volt AC home or public charging, the SAE J1772 connector type is the most common. For Level 3 DC fast charging, vehicles typically use a Combined Charging System (CCS) connector or, less commonly, a CHAdeMO connector.

Tesla have their own design that is compatible with the company’s public Supercharger network and its proprietary home charging stations. Though Tesla has recently said it may open up its superchargers to other vehicles as well.

Pull up to one of the charging bays and prepare to charge. The charging station might be free to use, or it might require payment via credit card or a smartphone app through which you’ve set up an account such as Chargepoint, one of the largest charging networks in North America.  I suggest signing up for a few different services so that you can take advantage of any charger you come across.

Be sure you have the right connector and follow the instructions.

Level 1 & 2 J1772 Charge Port

DC Fast-Charging SAE/CCS Combo

DC Fast-Charging CHAdeMO

DC Fast-Charging Tesla

Which EV charger should I use?

Level 1 charging is easy and won’t cost anything extra aside from the electricity but is so slow to recharge a battery and really should only be used for PHEVs. Or if you rarely drive more than 15-20 miles a day.

Level 2 charging stations can often be used for free at various locations, such as shopping malls, airports, and public buildings. These are not ideal though as you need to leave home to use them, and you will not want to be waiting around for hours to get some usable range. That said, if your office building has them installed, this is ideal, you can top up your car while working and keep your car fully charged at all times.

Level 3 chargers are publicly available but almost always require payment which, can be expensive, more so if you haven’t signed up for the service and simply swipe your credit card for single use.

That said the added cost is likely worth it, as Level 3 is the quickest way to recharge an EV and it is still cheaper than filling up at the gas pump!