EV Charging Levels Explained

In the past several years, electric vehicles have exploded in popularity. More and more manufacturers have begun ramping up the production of EVs in order to get them into the hands of more drivers.

But with that said, regular consumers and business owners may still be confused about how they can charge their EVs, and how all those charging levels work. In this guide from Electrly, we’ll be going over the different EV chargers and EV charging levels, how quickly each type will charge your electric vehicle, as well as their technical details.

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Level 1 Charging

Level 1 chargers are the most common type of charger, as they come included with most electric vehicles. These 120v chargers plug into standard wall outlets, making them the most accessible charger to use but they are also the slowest, delivering just around 3.5kW and charging only 4-7 miles per hour to vehicles with a 75kWh EV battery – that means it will take 1-2 days to charge a Tesla Model 3.

Connector Type Typical Output Power Charge Time Charge Range Per Hour Voltage Use Case
J1772 (Type 1), Mennekes(Type 2 EU), Tesla 3.5kW 2-3 Days 4-7 Miles 120v Home, portable

Level 1 charger generally have two different connector types: Tesla connectors, and J1772 (or “J” plugs) for all vehicles other than Teslas. For most Tesla owners in the US, that one connector port on your vehicle will support all Tesla charging protocols from Level 1 up to Level 3.

Level 1 EV charging may be a good fit for drivers who don’t drive a lot on a daily basis, are able to charge their EVs at home, or happen to drive a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that features batteries with relatively smaller capacities that are easier to fully charge.

The Level 1 charging solution is great for commuters who rarely drive longer distances, as being able to recharge quickly may not be all that necessary. Due to the simplicity of plugging it into a standard wall outlet, it can also be used as a portable charging solution during road trips since charging stations may not be available at all overnight stays.

Level 2 Charging

Level 2 EV charging is a significant upgrade over Level 1 EV charging, as this charging utilizes a 208-volt to 240-volt AC outlet in North America, or a 230-volt (single phrase) or 400-volt (three phrases) outlet in Europe. In North America, Level 2 charging will charge your EV up to 19.2 kW, and 22 kW in Europe which ranges anywhere from 10 to 75 miles per hour (or 16-120 kilometers per hour) depending on the vehicle’s maximum acceptable charge rate.

Connector Type Typical Output Power Charge Time Charge Range Per Hour Voltage Use Case
J1772 (Type 1), Mennekes(Type 2 EU), Tesla 7-22kW 2-3 Hours 10-75 Miles (16-120 kilometers) 208v-240v Work, Hotels, Public Charging Station

Similar to Level 1 EV charging, the connectors used for Level 2 charging are either Tesla connectors or J1772 connectors. Almost all of the EV charging stations outside of Tesla brands in the US are now equipped with the J1772 standard charging connector.

Level 2 charging is the most commonly used charger type for daily EV charging, as it’s a perfect middle-ground charging solution for most drivers. Level 2 chargers can be easily installed at one’s home, but are also found in shopping areas, workplaces, universities, and various public places.

Even if the car battery is near-empty, charging it with a Level 2 charger overnight usually allows the vehicle to be ready to drive the next morning. The Level 2 charger is arguably the best value for money choice for EV owners who drive longer distances regularly and need a more reliable and faster EV charger.

Level 3 Charging

Also known as DC fast charging, Level 3 charging is by far the fastest charging speed. Compared to Level 2 EV charging, a Level 3 charging station can deliver up to 360 kW of power, through the utilization of 480-volt or 400-volt chargers in North America and Europe, respectively.

Connector Type Typical Output Power Charge Time Charge Range Per Hour Voltage Use Case
CCS1/2, CHAdeMO, Tesla 30kW-360kW 0.5-1 Hour 120-1400 Miles 400v-480v Fleets, Dealerships, Distribution Centers

Level 3 EV charging utilizes different connectors than Level 1 and Level 2 chargers – the majority of EVs in the US market are using Combined Charging System (CCS) standard plug for DC fast charging, while most Japan-made EVs use CHAdeMO standard connectors. Additionally, vehicles manufactured by Tesla utilize the company’s proprietary charger connectors, which they call Superchargers.

Most Level 3 DC charging is done at paid public charging stations, car dealerships, highway charging stations, or the Tesla Supercharger network. Other places available for DC fast charging will be large-scale and highly centralized charging stations that serve logistic hubs, distribution centers, or public transportation fleets.

Because of the ridiculously high cost of installing a Level 3 charging station along with the required high voltage and potential safety issues for residential uses, homeowners will typically not install DC fast charging in their own homes.

How to Choose Between These Charging Levels?

Choosing between EV charging levels involves the consideration of how frequently you drive your EV, how quickly you’ll need to charge it up all the way, and whether you’re willing to spend additional cash for faster charging. For commercial purposes and property owners, setting up the appropriate charging facility can also bring success to your businesses in the long run.

For regular EV owners

The Level 1 charger will charge your vehicle incredibly slowly, which is not a good idea in the case of daily long-distance driving. The Level 1 charging may only work for plug-in hybrids with a smaller battery that can be fully charged for around 6-8 hours, with no costly equipment or unique electrical setup required.

Level 2 chargers – with much faster charging speed – while requiring additional cost, appears to be the most popular solution among most homeowners considering the long-term EV usage and overall charging efficiency.

Level 3 charging may be more suitable for occasional uses during situations when your EV battery is almost empty, where it only takes less than half an hour to get your EV on the road again. Of course, you will expect to pay more for using DC fast charging considering the overall charging efficiency.

You can also check out the comparison between entry-level AC Level 1 charging and Level 2 charging, as well as high-speed AC Level 2 and Level 3 DC charging to better understand the differences between these charging levels and to determine which one is the best fit for your situation.

For Tesla owners

The latest announcement by Tesla stated that Tesla vehicles delivered after April 28, 2022, will no longer come with a portable charger, which means that Tesla owners have to spend either $230 for a Level 1 mobile charger or $425 for a Level 2 wall connector if they want to charge their Tesla at home.

Since you need to pay the price for both home charging solutions for Tesla owners now, the decision will finally come down to whether you need faster charging with OEM Tesla charging connectivity, or whether you are comfortable with an upfront cheaper portable wall plug solution that may take days to charge your vehicle.

If necessary, Tesla owners can always take advantage of the Tesla exclusive Level 3 charging stations, the Supercharger network, for fast DC charging with power output up to 250kW. Designed specifically for Tesla models, the Supercharger stations can provide you with a simple, dedicated, and streamlined “plug-and-go” experience that no others can compete with.

For business owners

Since Level 1 charging is relatively slow and more time-consuming, this type of charging is no longer a practical solution for business purposes, and there is only 2% of the public charging station in the US are Level 1 charging according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

As one of the most common charging solutions in the market, the Level 2 AC charging is a perfect option for business owners to level up their enterprises and reach their sustainability goals. Level 2 charging stations can be installed at various locations without complicated electrical setups and expensive equipment.

If you are looking for an even more efficient and powerful charging type for large-scale uses, a Level 3 DC charging system is the solution to your needs. This high-speed charging is perfect for charging commercial fleets, logistics, or public transportation, where these industries will require timely services that couldn’t afford long charging times.

You can also visit Eletrly’s home page to check out how we provide dedicated commercial and enterprise-level EV charging solutions for our potential business partners.

What Is the General Cost of Different Charging Levels?

The cost of charging an electric car may differ depending on various factors, and different EV owners will have different charging experiences in terms of the overall cost. Below we rounded up some of the common charging scenarios that you may encounter as an electric vehicle owner.

Charging at Home

The costs of EV charging at home will vary depending on your EV’s battery size as well as the local cost of electricity. Most electric utilities have special time-to-use rates that can help reduce costs by using electricity during off-peak hours.

Using a come-with-the-car Level 1 charger at home is the cheapest solution, as it only requires a standard wall plug to function properly. Using a Level 2 charger at home is relatively the same, as the charges will go on your electric bills after all. The difference is that you may need to pay for materials, equipment, and labor upfront that come with a Level 2 charger installation.

The average price of electricity in California for example is around 18 cents per kWh, so it will cost around $15 to fully charge the 82 kWh battery of a 2023 Tesla Model 3 Long Range, which has a rated range of 334 miles.

Charging in Public

Drivers can also use public charging stations to “refuel” their electric vehicles. There are currently a huge number of public charging stations available in public areas, especially those at the parking area in shopping centers. These free-to-use public charging stations are mainly Level 2 with slightly smaller power output compared to pay-to-use ones.

There are also public stations that offer charging services via pay-as-you-go or subscription-based pricing structures. The Pass+ membership services at Electrify America, for instance, allow their subscribers to use Level 3 charging at $0.36 per kWh with an additional $4 monthly member fee, while in California, the average cost of charging stations is 30 cents per kWh for Level 2 charging and 48 cents per kWh for Level 3 charging.

How Do Other Factors Affect the Charging Speed Under Different Charging Levels?

Electrical Hardware: An EV’s electrical hardware, mainly the EV battery and the Battery Management System, can have a significant impact on the charging speed. Firstly, a larger battery will take longer to fully charge. Furthermore, the BMS may adjust the charging power delivery accordingly while charging based on the battery state to ensure proper battery charging.

Charging Stations: Some charging stations feature “balanced charging,” which essentially means that even with a Level 3 station, the charging power may still be split if multiple vehicles are using the same power supply unit, resulting in a slower charging speed. The same issues also appear on Tesla’s Supercharger stations due to the similar “balanced charging” setup.

Environment Temperature: The ambient temperature also factors into charging speed, regardless of the charging level. An EV battery’s ideal operating temperature is around 20-40 degrees C (68-104 F), therefore EV batteries will take significantly longer to charge when the weather gets too cold or too hot.

Do All Electric Vehicles Support Level 3 Charging?

No, not all electric vehicles support Level 3 charging. Different vehicles have different battery capacities and different power chains, in which some EVs are capable of accepting higher power delivery than others, while some plug-in hybrid electric vehicles aren’t compatible with Level 3 charging stations at all due to the small battery equipped.

To find out if your vehicle support Level 3 DC charging, simply take a look at the charging port on your vehicle and check out additional details regarding charging cables and plugs.

Will Level 3 Charging Affect My Vehicle Battery Life?

It has been found that frequently using Level 3 charging does negatively impact EV batteries in the long term due to the high voltage and power flow. Level 3 charging in general, if only used occasionally for charging, should have very minimal effects on an EV’s battery life.

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