Differences Between AC and DC Car Chargers

Introduction

In today’s world, having a reliable car charger is essential for many drivers. An effective EV charger can literally save your life whether you’re driving around town or on an unavoidable long journey. However, when it comes to choosing a car charger, you may be faced with two options: AC or DC. What’s the difference between these two types of car chargers, and which one is right for you? This article will explore the differences between AC and DC car chargers, including their advantages and disadvantages, so you can make an informed decision when selecting a charger for your vehicle. Whether you’re a first-time electric vehicle owner or an experienced EV driver, this article will provide valuable information on AC and DC car chargers.

So, let’s get started!

I. The Differences Between AC and DC Car Chargers?

You only have two options of either a DC or an AC charger when it comes to choosing a reliable charger for your electric vehicle. Understanding the differences between these two types of chargers can help you choose the best option for your electric vehicle. Let’s take a closer look at these two chargers, including their usage and pros and cons.

1. What are AC Car Chargers?

  • Definition – AC chargers sometimes fall under level 1 EV chargers, and at other times they are categorized as level 2 EV chargers. However, what is unmistakable in their charging mode is the use of Alternating Current for charging EVs. Another distinctive feature of AC chargers is their power supply requirement which often corresponds with the requirements of residential buildings. Hence, the reason they are found in residences and apartment blocks for charging EVs.
  • Usage – It is very common to find EV owners using AC chargers in residential areas, homes, and apartment buildings where the power supply is generally reliable. They are convenient and easy to use, but they may not be the best choice for those who need to charge their electric vehicle quickly or who frequently drive long distances.
  • Pros & Cons – (Refer to the table below)

2. What are DC Car Chargers?

  • Definition – DC car chargers, also known as Level 3 EV chargers, is a device that uses direct current (DC) to charge electric vehicles. Charging facilities in remote locations and public spaces are often fitted with DC chargers, as these areas are often off-grid.
  • Usage – DC car chargers are typically used to charge electric vehicles at dedicated charging stations or locations where a high-power charging solution is needed. They are generally unsuitable for home use, as they require a dedicated charging station and may not be compatible with standard household outlets.
  • Pros & Cons – (Refer to the table below)
FACTORS AC CHARGERS DC CHARGERS
Charging Speeds Charging an EV often takes longer when using AC chargers, as they often charge very slowly. It takes less time to charge EVs with DC chargers. They may be able to charge an electric vehicle to 80% in as little as 30 minutes.
Long-distance Travel AC car chargers may not be suitable for long-distance travel, as they may not provide enough charging power to cover long distances between charging stations. Long-distance drivers like inter-city or inter-state drivers will prefer DC car chargers since it charges faster than AC chargers.
Compatibility AC car chargers are often compatible with a wider range of electric vehicles, making them a good choice for those with older or less common electric cars. Some electric vehicles may not be compatible with DC car chargers. Others may require additional equipment or adapters to use them.
Convenience and ease of use AC car chargers can be plugged into any standard household outlet, making them convenient and easy to use. They are also small and portable. DC chargers are often built as stationary units outside residential locations as they are often bigger and consume plenty of energy beyond the limits of residential power supply.
Energy Consumption Most AC car chargers are designed to be energy efficient and consume less energy which can help reduce energy costs. DC car chargers are more powerful than AC chargers, which means they consume more energy.
Safety AC car chargers are safer because they operate at a lower voltage and do not require specialized installation or handling. DC car chargers operate at a higher voltage and can pose a safety risk if not handled properly.
Limited availability AC car chargers are available to all vehicles as they only require a power supply available to homes and residences. DC car chargers may only be available at some locations, limiting your charging options when you are on the road.
Cost AC car chargers are typically less expensive and easier to install than DC chargers, which makes them a more budget-friendly option. DC car chargers are generally more expensive and require specialized installation and handling, which can make them a costlier option compared to AC chargers.

II. EV Charging Levels and Power Current

What often determines the power current and the charging level requirement for an EV is often the EV capacity and the charging facility employed. We have outlined the different charging levels you will encounter when charging your EV.

Level 1: Often the most uncomplicated charging level seeing that it utilizes a home charging socket that requires no extra installation. However, it is very. Level 1 charging typically delivers a current of around 1-2 amps, and it can take several hours to charge an EV fully.

Level 2: Though faster than level 1 chargers, level 2 may require installing some extra electrical devices as it often uses a 240-volt charging point dedicated to EVs the same way stoves and electric dryers connect to a power source. Level 2 charging stations can deliver a current of up to 80 amps and can charge an EV in a few hours, depending on the battery’s size and the vehicle’s charging rate.

Level 3: While it is by far the fastest charger of all the chargers, level 3 chargers often require a colossal amount of energy, delivering as much as 400A of current and up to 80% battery capacity in half an hour. However, not all EVs are compatible with Level 3 charging, and using these stations can be more expensive.

Also, never forget that your EV’s charging rate and battery size will significantly contribute to your EV’s charging speed. Some EVs have larger batteries that can hold more charge, and they may be able to charge more quickly than vehicles with smaller batteries. Again, certain EV manufacturers employ some sophisticated charging technologies in their EV designs, which often increases the charging efficiency and reduces the time it takes to charge their batteries.

III. Can I Convert Power from DC to AC for My EV Charger?

differences-car-chargers

source: @hyundaiusa

If you can do it accurately, charging an EV by converting DC to AC is quite an efficient way of charging. While most charging stations are designed to utilize AC, the majority of EVs have the capacity to charge their batteries using DC. Hence, you will need to convert the AC from the charging station to DC if you must use the charging station.

Several factors can affect the efficiency of this process, including the quality of the charger and the conversion equipment, the battery’s age and condition, and the vehicle’s charging rate. In general, newer and higher-quality chargers and conversion equipment tend to be more efficient than older or lower-quality ones. Additionally, charging an EV at a slower rate can be more efficient, as it can help to reduce the amount of heat generated during the charging process.

One exception to this rule is those EVs that are equipped with onboard converters that can automatically convert AC to DC power. These EVs can plug their connectors directly into AC charging stations without worrying about negative consequences. However, this type of charging may not be as efficient as charging from a DC fast charger, as there is typically some energy loss during the conversion process.

IV. AC or DC Car Chargers: Which is Better for Me?

AC charging refers to charging an electric vehicle (EV) using alternating current (AC), the type of electricity typically used in homes and businesses. This is often the cheapest form of charging, considering that it dissipates about 80A from 240V charging mains for charging EVs and, therefore, has a very slow charging rate when compared with a DC charger. Again, the majority of AC chargers are level 2.

DC chargers are no doubt the fastest means of charging EVs. This is due to their use of direct current (DC), which delivers more power to EVs in less time. Also, they are classified as level 3 with their ability to deliver up to 400A using high-voltage power sources. DC fast charging is a much faster process than AC charging, but it is also more expensive and less widely available.

With all of this information available at your disposal, choosing the best charger for your EV should be very easy. However, reality shows the reverse. Nevertheless, determining your charging needs based on your battery capacity and driving patterns will help you choose the best charger for your EV.

So, if you drive short distances and are not pressed for time while charging, an AC charger should serve your EV charging needs well. But if you drive inter-city or inter-state regularly, you will mostly require fast charging stations like DC fast chargers. It’s also worth noting that not all EVs are compatible with DC fast charging, so it’s important to check the charging capabilities of your vehicle before deciding which type of charger is best for you.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, a good comprehension of the pros and cons of the two types of chargers will help you identify and select the best one for your EV. Where AC chargers are generally slower, require less power, and are less expensive, DC chargers can often be very expensive but delivers faster charging.

On the other hand, DC fast charging uses high-voltage Direct Current (DC) to charge the vehicle’s battery more quickly, but it is also more expensive and less widely available. The charging capabilities, battery size, and EV usage pattern will often determine your charging preferences. But also, the available charging stations in your location may inform your decision on the right charging station to utilize.

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