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How does electric car charging work? Electric Vehicle Charging Explained: From Stations to Equipment, Here’s Your 101

How does electric car charging work?

As an electric vehicle (EV) owner — or soon-to-be owner — you already know that fueling your EV will save you money and save the environment. But “fueling” your EV will be different than filling your old fossil fuel-powered car. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on everything you need to know on how electric car charging actually works .

Where Can You Charge an EV and how does it work?

Electric vehicle owners can charge their vehicles at home or at a public charging station. When you buy an electric vehicle, it’ll come with a home charger that you can plug into a standard wall socket, and many EV owners charge their cars in the garage each night.

Public charging stations include dedicated parking spaces in parking garages and shopping centers, as well as large, multi-unit facilities that look more like a typical gas station. Some charging stations allow you to top up your EV for free, while most will charge a fee (more on that below).

Does Charging an EV Take a Long Time?

It depends on how full your battery is and what kind of charger you use.

Batteries don’t charge at the same rate the entire time. After the battery reaches 80% capacity, the charge rate will drop significantly. In fact, it can take just as long to get from 80% to 100% as getting to 80% from empty. So, if you’re in a hurry to charge your EV, the best strategy is to stop at 80% unless you really need the full range.

Another factor is the type of charger you use. There are three types, or levels, of EV chargers:

Level 1 chargers are included with most EVs and can plug into a standard wall outlet. They’re simple to set up but are slow — about 5 miles of range per hour. Use a Level 1 charger for overnight charging, though fully charging a battery from empty will take a full day or more.

Level 2 chargers are much faster and can add 25 miles per hour on average. These chargers are common at “parking” charging stations at offices and shopping centers. You can install a Level 2 charger at home, but it’ll need a 240-volt plug (the same kind your dryer needs) or professional installation. On the upside, you’ll be able to fully charge your EV overnight. For the cost and installation complexity involved, Level 2 chargers are the most feasible and accessible options.

DC fast chargers are only available at commercial charging stations. They’re able to charge an EV from empty to 80% in about half an hour. At that speed, the only limitation is the battery itself — older batteries weren’t designed to accept a charge at such a high rate. Before you pay more at a Level 3 charging station, make sure that your battery can take advantage of the time savings.

how does electric car charging work

Can You Plug in Any Electric Car / EV at Any Station?

It depends. For Level 2 charging, almost every charging station uses the same plug, known as a J1772 plug (or J-plug). For Level 3 charging, almost every EV uses either a CCS plug or a CHAdeMO plug.

The big exception is Tesla, whose cars all use a proprietary adapter for all levels of charging, though Tesla cars do come with J-plug adapters. Tesla’s proprietary charge plug also means that other EVs can’t top up at a Tesla Supercharger station, though that might change in the near future.

How Much Does EV Charging an Electric Car Cost?

Electric vehicle owners spend much less to fuel their cars — but, as the power company reminds you each month, electricity isn’t free.

Public charging stations will publish their charging rate, which could be around $0.45 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). The exact price will depend on the time of day (peak hours will always cost more), the source of power (hydroelectric power is cheaper than oil or gas), and the type of charger (Level 3 charges will be the priciest).

To find the cost of charging your EV, you’ll need to find your car’s energy consumption, which is displayed on the window sticker in kWh/100 miles. Multiply that number by the electricity price to estimate the cost to charge your EV.

For example, if you pay $0.45/kWh at a charging station and your EV’s energy consumption is 34 kWh/100 miles, then it’ll cost you about $15 to drive your car 100 miles.

Charging at a public station is cheaper than filling up on gas, but you can save even more money by charging at home, where electricity rates average around $0.118/kWh. To charge that same EV from before (34 kWh/100 miles), you’ll only pay around $4 to drive 100 miles.

If you want to save even more on charging your EV at home, you should charge your car at night when electricity rates tend to drop.

Learn More About EV Charging and EV Ownership

Owning an electric car is more than a smart investment. It’s a smart lifestyle. Sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of the latest developments in EV technology and sustainable transportation.

By evee Life Contributor

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