Wait, EV Chargers Come in Different Levels?
Unless you are already the owner of an electric vehicle (EV) it might come as a surprise to learn that the chargers necessary to power EVs are available in different levels. As it stands today, EV charging is divided into 3 levels—level 1, level 2, and level 3. Pretty straightforward. But each of these levels can provide EV owners with a drastically different charging experience. The easy rule of thumb to remember is the higher the charging level, the higher the power output capacity and the faster it can replenish an electric vehicle’s driving range.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at each EV charger level to better understand its prevalence and availability, specs and features, charging speed capacity, as well as some pros and cons of each type, all in an effort to help you determine which type you should consider installing on your property. (For those short on time, level 2 chargers are the way to go—see more below.)
How Are EV Charging Stations Powered?
Generally speaking, there are two types of electrical currents that power EV charging stations: Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC).
Alternating current vs. direct current
Alternating Current (AC)
Whether you realize it or not, you are already familiar with alternating current because this is the type of electricity used when plugging into domestic wall sockets in your home or office. The name “alternating current,” or AC for short, describes how this type of electricity periodically alternates or reverses its direction.
Direct Current (DC)
By contrast, direct current, or DC for short, only flows in a single direction and does not change. DC electricity moves in a straight line and supplies power directly to devices. Electricity stored in batteries and used up to power electric devices is an example of direct current.
Which Type Do Electric Vehicles Use?
When an electric device is plugged into a typical socket it will always receive electricity in the form of alternating current. If there is a battery present, the device will convert and store power in direct current inside the battery. The same process applies to electric vehicles. While charging, they will generally draw AC power from the grid which is then converted to DC power for storage in the vehicle's battery cells, which it draws upon while you drive around town. However, there is an exception. While Level 1 and Level 2 EV chargers supply AC power to the vehicle, Level 3 chargers handle the conversion at the charger and then send already converted DC power straight to the battery, allowing for significantly faster charging. We’ll look at these three levels in more detail below.
What Are the Different Levels of EV Charging?
Level 1 Charging: 120-Volt
Where They Are Found
Level 1 charging is the most commonly available charging format because anyone can charge this way from their home. It works by plugging the vehicle’s included car charger into a regular 120-volt wall outlet, or a separate, wall-mounted level 1 charger.
Though one of the most prevalent and affordable charging methods, level 1 charging is also the absolute slowest way to replenish an EV’s battery
While charging times vary by vehicle and are also dependent on factors such as weather conditions, driving style, and the onboard battery converter, a Level 1 charger will replenish your EV’s battery with about 4 to 5 miles range per hour. So if you’ve driven 100 miles, this means it will take you between 20 to 25 hours to fully recharge your vehicle.
Level 2 Charging: 208-Volt to 240-Volt
Where They Are Found
Level 2 charging stations are the type often found in public or commercial parking spaces, as well as some residential areas, making them the most commonly used level for daily EV charging.
Level 2 chargers are usually separate stations that provide faster-charging speeds (though power outputs do vary by charger) and sometimes offer a variety of additional smart functionalities. Their implementation on a property will require professional installation.
Level 2 chargers are a definite step up in power delivery which allows for faster “fill ups”.
Compared to Level 1 chargers, Level 2 chargers replenish an EV battery up to 10 times faster. This results in regaining 12 to 80 miles of range per hour. At their peak, Level 2 Chargers can deliver up to 80 amps of power but they require a 100-amp 208-240V dedicated circuit and an expensive supply line from the breaker box to achieve this. Most individual owners would be better served by a 40-amp charger that can deliver 9.6 kW to charging vehicles. 48-amp chargers also exist but the juice is not typically worth the squeeze, as these chargers cost significantly more than 40-amp chargers but offer only marginally faster charging.
Level 3 Charging: 400-volt to 900-Volt (DC Fast Charge & Tesla Superchargers)
Where They Are Found
While you will find Level 3 chargers in public, due to their incredibly high-voltage supply requirements, it is unlikely that you’ll see one of these chargers at someone’s home. Very few residential locations have an adequate voltage supply to support level 3 charging. EV manufacturer Tesla has invested in developing a network of “superchargers” to serve their customers, but their proprietary technology makes the Tesla level 3 chargers exclusive to Tesla drivers. Non-Tesla level 3 chargers are known more generally as DC Fast Chargers.
Level 3 charging is the fastest type available. Level 3 is different from EV charger levels 1 and 2 in that only level 3 charging stations supply direct current (DC) to EVs. DC Fast Chargers cost tens of thousands of dollars, which makes having these chargers at home a non-option for most EV owners.
Level 3 electric charging units have the distinct advantage of being able to recharge an EV at a rate of 3 to 20 miles of range per minute, significantly faster than is possible with either level 1 or level 2 chargers.
The Best Way to Bring EV Charging to Your Property
Now that you’ve gained a better understanding of the types of chargers available to EV owners, you may be wondering how to go about selecting, planning, and installing the best EV charging solution for your multifamily property. That’s where Oodles Energy shines. Oodles specializes in guiding multifamily properties and recreational clubs through the often daunting process of electrifying their communities and fulfilling their residents' EV charging needs. By providing convenient, semi-private access to a reliable charging amenity, you have the opportunity to boost resident satisfaction and retention, increase property value and appeal, and attract new desirable residents.
Oodles is the ideal charging partner and makes understanding EV charging easy.
Get in touch with our team and schedule your free consultation today.