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How Do Electric Car Charging Stations Work?

by Antonio Chau on January 16, 2017

With electric cars becoming more and more popular, the need for charging stations is also increasing. You may have noticed electric car charging stations popping up on the side of the road, at malls, and at workplaces near you. However, although you might not see them, home electric car charging stations are being used by 85% of electric car owners. Here we take a closer look at how electric car charging stations work and how to determine whether a home electric car charging station is right for you.

The Need To Charge

need to charge electric vehiclesWhile cars have traditionally been powered by gasoline, electric cars rely on electricity stored in a battery for power. Electric car batteries are high tech and expensive, and for most electric vehicles these are usually lithium ion or nickel-metal hydride batteries designed to power an electric motor. When charging the batteries in an electric vehicle there are two goals. These goals are to charge the batteries as quickly as possible, while simultaneously monitoring the batteries to avoid damage.

Most electric cars nowadays have a range of about 100 miles on a single charge. That might not seem like a lot, but when you consider that the average American drives less than 30 miles a day, an electric vehicle makes a lot of sense. However, it also means that electric cars need to be recharged more often than regular cars need gas. That’s why 85% of electric car owners have an electric car charging option at home. If you’re thinking of buying an electric car and plugging it in at home, it’s a good idea to talk to a local licensed electrician about your electricity and wiring needs, to ensure your current electrical infrastructure can support electric vehicle charging.

How Electric Car Chargers Work

how electric car chargers workJust like you plug in your cell phone to charge the battery at home, plugging in your electric vehicle to charge works in most the same way. In fact, rechargeable electronic devices and electric vehicles both use similar kinds of batteries, usually either lithium ion batteries or nickel-metal hydride batteries. These batteries have high energy storage density and are rechargeable, making them ideal for electric vehicles. However, to charge these batteries requires special chargers to boost the battery charge level while balancing safety and efficiency.

ESVE Charger

For electric vehicle owners plugging their car in at home, an ESVE charger is what is required. An ESVE charger is any device that brings AC electricity from your mains source to be converted to DC electricity in your electric vehicle battery. There are a number of different types of EVSE chargers, and it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. A certified electrician can help advise you which EVSE charger will charge your car most efficiently while being safe and effective for your home.

level one charging - esveLevel 1 Charging

Level 1 charging is the technical name for simply plugging your electric vehicle charger into an outlet in your home. This means level 1 charging uses your 120-volt power supply to charge your electric vehicle. Level 1 charging is the slowest, and cheapest form of charging for electric vehicles. It’s easy to get 40 miles of charge from a level 1 charger overnight, which is generally enough for most commutes and daily use. Of course, specific charging rates and vehicle range depend on your vehicle model and ESVE charger type.

For most vehicles, level 1 charging equals about 4.5 miles of charge per hour. It sounds unimpressive, but level 1 charging is the most basic level of charging you can choose. Talk to your local electrician about installing a level 1 EVSE charger, or to discuss whether upgrading to a higher efficiency charger would be better for you.

DC Fast Charging

DC fast charging is the standard for public electric car charging stations. Pumping 40 miles worth of charge into an electric vehicle every 10 minutes, DC fast charging is the most efficient and rapid form of charging. However, these stations are very expensive with a price tag of around $100,000, and use more power than your house, so chances are you’ll never have one at home. This charging technology is used in commercial charging stations and is a great way to top up the charge on your electric vehicle while on the go.

Level 2 Charging

Level 2 charging is the middle ground between Level 1 charging and DC fast charging. This form of charging uses higher power 240-volt electricity to charge your electric vehicle more quickly. The electricity passes through the charging box and a cord to improve safety, and a level 2 EVSE charger can offer a range of charging powers.

esve charging stationThe maximum charging rate of most EVSE level 2 chargers is around 19.2 kilowatts (kW), or about 70 miles of range per hour. Because these specialty level 2 EVSE chargers use more electricity, they require expert installation by a licensed electrician. In some cases, new wiring and electrical infrastructure may also need to be installed by your electrician. Level 2 EVSE charging stations are the preferable electric car charging option for those who want to fully charge their electric vehicle at home. Some grants are available for new EVSE charger installation, so talk to your licensed electrician about your options to secure the right electric car charging station for the right investment.

How To Choose the Right Charging Station

Choosing the right charging station depends on how much you use your electric vehicle, how you use it, and where and when you want to charge it. If you have a charging station nearby or at your workplace, it may make sense to use a public charging station to charge up for short trips. Likewise, for longer journeys, finding public charging stations along your travel route is essential. However, research has shown that 85% of electric vehicle owners charge at home, and Level 2 charging stations provide the best home electric car charging solution.

To learn more about how to install an electric vehicle charging station in your home and to conduct an electrical check up to ensure your electrical infrastructure is ready for an electric vehicle, contact your local licensed electrician for a knowledgeable and professional opinion on home electric car charging options.