Electric Vehicle Charging 101: Let's Learn All The Basics

If you’re the owner of an electric car, the first question you probably get is … how do you charge it?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX, which makes and sells aftermarket Tesla accessories. The opinions expressed therein are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs, nor have we been paid by EVANNEX to publish these articles. We find the company’s perspective as an aftermarket supplier of Tesla accessories interesting and are happy to share its content free of charge. Enjoy!

Posted EVANNEX on March 20, 2020 by Denis Gurskiy

I know. You probably want to say, “Just plug it in!” However, it gets a bit more complicated when you dive (a bit deeper) into the answer. Hopefully, this short article can serve as a quick tutorial for those interested — in fact, forward this along to anyone interested in learning the basics of EV charging. 

Above: A look at a Tesla Supercharger station (Source: EVANNEX; Photo by: Casey Murphy)

HOW DO YOU CHARGE AN ELECTRIC CAR?

Charging your electric car is even more convenient than refueling a traditional ICE car (except for time, but we’ll get to that later). Your primary option would be to have an electric car charger at your residence which would allow you to charge the car overnight. This means that you wake up every morning with an almost full battery.

For those who live in multi-unit dwellings (apartments, condos, etc.), charging is definitely doable. And there are new initiatives making it easier than ever before.

Also, when you’re away from home, there’s a multitude of electric car charging stations currently being built to further expand worldwide charging infrastructure. Tesla’s Supercharger network is a great example of what the future holds for the industry.  Who knows, perhaps your daily route won’t have to change in order to charge your electric car. 

WHERE DO YOU CHARGE AN ELECTRIC CAR?

While currently there are not as many electric car charging station companies as there are petroleum companies (at least not in the United States), more and more are popping up to provide energy for electric cars as time goes on. Just to name a few (non-Tesla) networks that are already around and expanding rapidly: EVgo, Chargepoint, Greenlots, IONITY, e.on, and Electrify America.

To make navigating all of the different electric car charging stations easier, we recommend that you look into PlugShare which lists every company’s charging stations in one convenient map. If you have a Tesla, it’s even easier. Tesla’s navigation will also point the driver to the company’s Superchargers and Destination Chargers along any given route.

HOW FAST DOES AN ELECTRIC CAR CHARGE?

The answer to this question is highly dependent on both what you are using to charge your electric car and what kind of charger you are using.

To start off, we have a Level 1 charger, which is essentially just plugging in your car into your standard wall outlet. This presents the slowest charging speed as it only provides around 1 kW of power (meaning if you wanted to fill up a 50 kWh battery, it would take you at least 50 hours). Although, this can still be helpful if you own a plug-in hybrid with a very small battery (less than 8 kWh).

Next up, we have Level 2 chargers which are commonly found on the side of city streets, businesses, and homes. This is the type of charger you should be installing if you plan on charging your electric car at home. These provide anywhere from 3-20 kW of power. Meaning that if your charger is anywhere on the higher end of the range, your electric car can be charged to 100% overnight.

Then, we have Level 3/DC chargers, these are the chargers that you might find on the side of highways and highly-populated electric car areas. These provide anywhere from 50 kW of power to 350 kW of power on some of the newest stations being built, such as Tesla’s Superchargers (especially V3), Electrify America, and IONITY. When charging at a 350 kW station, you would be able to go from 0-80% charge in a matter of 15 minutes.

But hold up, not every car is capable of charging at these maximum speeds. A BMW i3 or Nissan LEAF, for instance, will not be able to charge over 50 kW, meaning that you cannot reap the benefits of ultra-fast 350 kW charging.

In fact, there’s no car currently on the market that can take advantage of that max charging speed. Currently, the only vehicles that can charge over or around 100 kW is the Jaguar iPace, Audi e-tron, and Tesla Model S/X/3/Y. However, the Model Y and Model 3 hold the record for the fastest charging rate of 250 kW — you’ll just need to find one of Tesla’s new Supercharger V3 stations that can deliver such power. The Porsche Taycan was initially supposed to come with 350 kW charging, but as production drew closer, Porsche adjusted the charging rate down to 250 kW and announced that 350 kW will not be available until 2021.

As you can see, charging speeds have progressed drastically over the past decade and it might only be a matter of time before charging your electric car will be faster than refueling a gas-powered one.

WHERE DO YOU CHARGE A TESLA?

Charging a Tesla is not too different from any other electric car. However, while most North American and European electric cars use a CCS Combo plug and Japanese electric cars use a CHAdeMO plug, Tesla uses a proprietary plug for their cars. As such, only Tesla owners can use the company’s massive Supercharger Network. Meanwhile, Tesla owners can also use an adapter if they prefer (note: newer Tesla’s have built-in hardware already) to use a charger with a CCS Combo and/or CHAdeMO plug.

Keep in mind, Tesla’s Supercharger Network is the most extensive in the country (and the world). However, there’s been a bit of a shift (for increased versatility) in the Tesla charging hardware over the years. After the release of the Model 3 on European shores, Tesla opted to equip the Model 3 with a CCS plug too. Tesla is also retrofitting European Superchargers to have a CCS plug too in order to provide more optionality.

HOW FAST DOES A TESLA CHARGE?

Tesla has been enjoying a long lead in regards to charge rate with a rate of 120 kW for its Model S and Model X which allowed an 80% charge in about 30 minutes. There was a short period where the Audi e-tron took the crown with a charge rate of 150 kW. It was not long, however, before Tesla introduced Supercharger V3 which allows for 250 kW charging on Model 3/Y and 200 kW charging on Raven powertrain Model S/X. Supercharger V3 charges at rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour.

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An earlier version of this article appeared on EVBite. EVBite is an electric vehicle specific news site dedicated to keeping consumers up-to-date on any developments in the ever-expanding EV landscape.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX, which makes and sells aftermarket Tesla accessories. The opinions expressed therein are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs, nor have we been paid by EVANNEX to publish these articles. We find the company’s perspective as an aftermarket supplier of Tesla accessories interesting and are happy to share its content free of charge. Enjoy!

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