Electric Car Charging

One of the biggest shifts from driving a gas car to an electric car is how the vehicle is refueled through electric car charging.  It’s a new way of driving. However, it’s actually not that complicated. Think about charging an electric car as similar to charging your smartphone, which like an electric car, is powered by lithium ion batteries.  You give it a full charge overnight at home and top it up during the day as needed.

Here’s a simplified guide to everything you need to know about the shift to electric car charging.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

Electric car charging can take as little as 30 mins or more than 12 hours.  Charging time depends on the speed of the charger and the size of the electric car battery.

Types of Chargers

Level 1: 110-Volt AC Wall Plug

Most electric cars come with an electric car charging cable that can be plugged into any standard electric wall outlet that one would use to charge a smartphone at a home or work.  No special equipment or connectors are required.

From a standard electric plug, batteries recharge at a speed of 2 to 5 miles per hour of charging.  Depending on battery size, it could take 8-12 hours to recharge an electric car from empty to full.

If your driving habits resemble the average American, who drives about 32 miles per day, then charging for 8 hours on a Level 1 charger each night might be all the electric car charging that you need.

Level 2: 240-Volt AC Charger

The Level 2 Electric Charger can recharge 10-20 miles of range per hour.  Level 2 chargers are the most common forms of public charging stations offered in retail locations and workspaces. 

Popular Level 2 chargers can cost as little as $500 to $800 at stores like Amazon and Walmart and can be installed at home with the help of an electrician. 

At a minimum, Level 2 chargers should be installed on a dedicated 40-amp circuit.  If you want to future proof your investment, a 50 or 60 amp circuit would be better.

Utility Incentives

Some electric utilities offer rebates for installing electric car charging in your home as well as special electric rates for electric car customers.  Use our free Incentive Finder to see what you qualify for.

DC Fast Charge

Often misnamed a “Level 3” charger, the DC Fast Charge uses special high-powered equipment to deliver up to 60-80 miles of driving range in 20 minutes of charging.  Because installing this equipment is expensive, home installations are rare. These chargers are most common in high traffic commercial centers or popular highway routes.  Because of their high speed, DC Fast Chargers make refueling on longer road trips bearable. You can recharge in the time it takes for you to take a lunch break.

Future Chargers Will Be Faster

Researchers at Penn State recently discovered a new lithium-ion battery design that could enable drivers to recharge electric cars at a rate of 200 miles in ten minutes.  IBM recently announced a cobalt-free EV battery made from materials in seawater that will reach an 80 percent charge in less than 5 minutes.  As demand for electric vehicles continues to scale, expect scientific breakthroughs to find ways to make charging ever faster and more convenient. 

Types of Plugs

Most electric cars and chargers have a standard connector, called the SAE J1772, which can be used with any Level 1 or Level 2 charger.

DC Fast Charging does not yet have a universal standard connector.  SAE International has passed a standard that allows for DC fast charging on the SAE J1772.  However, some vehicles, such as the Nissan and Mitsubishi electric vehicles, use the CHAdeMO fast charge connector.

Finally, Tesla’s Supercharger is only able to recharge Tesla vehicles and not EVs from any other car maker.  Historically, Tesla drivers have also not been able to re-charge at non-Tesla charging stations. However, Tesla and EVgo recently announced a partnership to install Tesla charger adapters at EV electric charging stations, giving Tesla drivers even more charging options.

Where To Charge

Google Maps

Google recently updated Maps to include charging station location and plug type.

Free electric car charging

Volta Charging offers a network of free Level 2 and DC Fast Charging (paid for by digital billboards on charging stations).  Download the Volta app to locate a free charger.

Save with Electric Car Charging

Save Money

One of the biggest reasons drivers switch to electric cars is to save on fuel.  According to a recent study, the average American spends $1,117 per year for a gas powered vehicle.  The average electric vehicle costs only $485 per year to power through electric car charging, saving  $632 (or 54%) per year on fuel costs vs. a gas-powered vehicle.

Save Time

At first glance, one might think about electric charging as more time consuming than refueling at a gas station.  However, assuming one spends 15 minutes getting gas per week for 52 weeks a year, that adds up to 13 hours a year spent at the pump.  

If you’re charging while you’re at home, work, or running errands, electric car charging can become a time saver because you’ll never have to waste time making a separate trip to the gas station.

Save the Environment

Switching from a gas-powered car to an electric vehicle will decrease your carbon emissions up to 81% per year.  It’s one of the most significant climate actions you can take as an individual. If everyone drove your electric vehicle, we could help reverse climate change by reducing the U.S. carbon footprint by 17%.

Source: US DOE

Any questions about electric car charging?

We’d love to use your questions to keep improving this guide over time.  Add your questions in the comments below and we’ll respond to each comment.👇