How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Car?

Rebecca Lindland | Mar 26, 2020

Electric vehicles (EV) are gaining in popularity. More EVs offer hundreds of miles of driving range at lower prices than ever before. They are considered to be among the most reliable cars because they have fewer moving parts than a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle. Consumers also better understand the environmental benefits of driving an EV.

how long to charge an electric vehicle

Still, there are plenty of questions about living with an EV. For instance, how long does it take to charge an electric car? What kind of range do you get once you charge these types of cars? In an electric car comparison, is one type better than another when it comes to charging?

What determines how long it takes to charge an electric car?

EVs come in different shapes and sizes with types of charging systems based on charging power measured in kilowatts (kW). AC charging at 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) ranges from 1.8 to 10 kW. DC fast charging (Level 3) ranges from 50 to 350kW.

Level 1 is the slowest but most readily available, because it describes a standard 120-volt three-prong plug common in modern American homes. Yes, that’s right. You can charge an EV using the same plug with which you charge your phone or laptop. In fact, most EVs come with a standard 120-volt outlet charger.

But slow charging, sometimes called “trickle charging,” using a Level 1 outlet provides only a few miles per hour of charging. It takes 10 hours of charging to get 20-50 miles of range or 40 hours of charging for up to 200 miles. Trickle charging isn’t a barrier to ownership since it’s suitable for top-ups overnight or at work, but it isn’t efficient and is not the preferred method unless you own a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

If you rely on Level 1 charging, you may have to charge nightly or throughout the day at work, depending on your daily driving. It’s like getting gas every day, twice. It can be done, it’s just not convenient. It’s especially difficult if you’re in a multi-family unit like an apartment building or don’t have a dedicated parking spot.

Faster charging comes via a 240-volt Level 2 system. This is typically done at home utilizing the same plug as a clothes dryer or refrigerator requires. Many EV makers provide a portable 240-volt charger with an electric vehicle.

Level 2 charging is exponentially faster than Level 1 charging, providing upwards of 25-30 miles of driving range per hour. That means an 8-hour overnight charge reaps 200 miles or more of driving range.

Level 2 chargers are available for the home or public places. Prices for home charging stations have come down dramatically in the last few years, and now cost only a few hundred dollars plus installation. Before investing in an at-home charger it’s imperative to check with a qualified electrician and your utility company to determine whether your electrical panel can support a charging station. Also look for rebates and incentives for installing a Level 2 charger from local utilities and state governments.

The third type of charging is high-speed or Level 3 charging, which is available in public and commercial spaces including rest stops, shopping malls, and office buildings. Level 3 charging is also called DC Fast Charging (DCFC). This is ultra-rapid charging, with rates of 125 miles of added range in about thirty minutes, or 250 miles in about an hour.

Not all EVs can use Level 3 charging, so research is necessary to find the best EV and the best way to charge it before you make a purchase. Complicating matters, there are three types of DCFC connectors. Nissan and Mitsubishi use CHAdeMO, Tesla has a proprietary connector, and all other car companies use a Combined Charging System (CCS).

How to find a charging station away from home

Finding a charging station while traveling was a barrier to EV ownership in the past, but now plenty of smartphone apps easily locate any of the over 36,000 public charging stations. Most EVs with built-in navigation also offer charging station information, and user groups like Google Maps can also help find chargers.

There are almost twenty different charging networks including ChargePoint, Electrify America, Blink, Tesla, and EVgo. Each has its own app to find chargers and facilitate payment. The U.S. Department of Energy, various manufacturers, and sites such as PlugShare aggregate this information for ease in finding and paying for charging on the road. For example, the FordPass app standard on the upcoming Ford Mustang Mach-E is an aggregating app providing access to a wide range of charging stations.

When shopping for an EV, understanding when and where you can recharge is key to a successful ownership experience. Research home and work charging and your proximity to Level 3 fast chargers for the full scope of charging options.

Tips to extend the life of your electric car’s battery

Batteries have a finite lifespan, so understanding battery health may extend battery life. Level 2 and Level 3 chargers are considered heavy duty, so to ensure battery health they will fast-charge a battery to 80% capacity and slow down for the remaining 20% of charge capacity, taking advantage of the “grace capacity” built into the battery.

Over time, as the battery is charged, depleted, and recharged, grace capacity and driving range can dwindle over time. Charging station speed, frequency of recharging, the age of the battery, load levels, and temperature also factor into battery performance over time. Most EV batteries have an 8-year, 100,000-mile manufacturer warranty, but some loss of capacity and driving range over time is to be expected.

Driving style also matters when it comes to preserving driving range. A fast, aggressive driver depletes the battery quicker, while a gentler foot maximizes regenerative braking to extend range. Judicious use of the climate control system also preserves range. For example, using the heated seats instead of blasting hot air through the vents can help to increase distance.

Ready to buy an EV? Use our car loan calculator to see what you’ll pay

Electric cars are better than ever. They’re more affordable. They travel farther on a single charge. It’s easier to install a home charging station or find a Level 2 or Level 3 charging station while away from home. And while they’re still not as easy to “fuel” as a gasoline vehicle, recharging times continue to come down as charger technology improves.

If you think the time is right to get into an EV, be sure to use our car loan calculator to find out what you might pay to go electric. And don’t forget to factor in national, state, and local tax benefits and cash incentives.

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