Different electric vehicle charging stations

Fast read

With rates ranging from 4 to 8 kilometres of capacity added to the battery per hour, Level 1 charging is the slowest type and is best suited for people who do not need a lot of battery power and do not drive the car very far every day. Simple home charging stations frequently have these charging levels. 

With a travel capacity added of between 30 to 130 km in one hour of charging, level 2 charging stations are the most often used choice for everyday EV charging. 240V AC is used to give level 2 charging and can produce about 80 amps of power.

Level 3 charging stations, also referred to as DC fast chargers, are the swiftest type of charger and can add significant battery capacity in relatively short periods.  Due to the high initial expenses, including issues with the supply line capacity these stations are not frequently put in residential  homes of unit buildings.

What is the difference between a level 1, 2 and 3 charging station?

A frequently asked question regarding electric vehicles (EVs) is the different types of charging stations and what they mean. The three electric vehicle charging stations differentiate themselves based on the electricity they consume the amount they can discharge and therefore the charging speed. 

Level 1

This is the slowest form of electric vehicle charging available at a speed of roughly 4-8km travelling distance added to the battery per hour. Level 1 charging stations can be installed in homes and at some charging stations. The advantage of using a Level 1 charger is that it can charge any electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle from any standard 240 Volt AC power point. 

Level 1 charging is highly beneficial for plug-in hybrids. This is due to them having a smaller battery. Allowing even Type 1 charging to be sufficient enough to charge a plug-in hybrid battery fully.

For those EV owners who require large amounts of battery daily, you may need more than level 1 charging, as it can take up to 20 hours for a level 1 charger to fully charge an EV battery. However, if you do not require and optimise the entirety of the battery on a day-to-day basis, level 1 charging may be the option for you, as long as you do not want the battery full every morning and a range of 200 km or so is enough for that day. 

The benefit of a level 1 charging set-up is that it does not cost you too much.

ev charging station
Level 1 charging is ideal for home use, especially for EV owners who have access to off-peak electricity rates

Level 2

Like level 1 charging, level 2 charging can be installed at your home and is quite common in public charging stations, such as shopping centres. The charging speeds on a level 2 charging station are about 20 to as much as 130km per hour. This is a reasonably significant increase from level 1 charging. Level 2 chargers can fully charge an EV battery at this speed in 4 to 8 hours.

It’s the most popular choice

Level 2 charging is provided via 240V AC outlets, producing 7kW to 22kW per hour. The difference depends on the supplied power is single phase, in which case one can charge with 7kW/h or 3 phase, where one can extend the charge power to as much as 22kW/h, being 3 times the single phase amount.  

Level 2 charging is the most popular option for daily EV charging. The significant difference in charging speed between levels 1 and 2 means, that the homeowner has two clear options, depending on their daily commute needs. A simple city drive every day is easily undertaken with a Level 1 charger, while if someone would have to commute from Sydney to Wollongong, Melbourne to Bendigo to Perth to Bunbury, on a daily run, then Level 2 charging is really what one needs, and they can recharge the EV completely overnight. 

There is a trade-off for this additional power, though. Level 2 chargers deliver around 80 amps of power to provide this speed. You need a supply line from your breaker box and a 100 amp 2-8-240V circuit to supply this amount. This does create an extra cost, as part of the level 2 charger installation –  so you should weigh up if the extra power is worth it, in your specific situation.

electric vehicle charging station

Level 3

Also known as DC fast chargers, level 3 charges are the fastest and are mostly found at public charging stations. They can charge at 5-30km per minute, allowing a fully charged EV battery in as quick as 30 minutes. With a charging rate of 43kW to 100+kW an hour, this is the fastest available charger for an EV.

Unlike level 1 and 2 charging stations which use AC, level 3 uses DC. Level 3 charging stations use a very high voltage, emphasizing their inapplicability for residential use. In saying this, attaining one for a residential home is possible, if you got the money and the power supply to support it. If you consider getting one, you must ensure that your home has the appropriate high-voltage supply.

In reality, often installing one of these level 3 charging stations in a home, however big it is, is not a viable investment due to the initial costs of the charger often costing more than the EV itself. Before moving forward with the purchase of a Level 3 charging station, one must further note that not all electric vehicles can utilise a Level 3 charging station.

What the future may involve

As the technology involved in EVs advances, so does the potential for new ways to charge.

Battery swapping

Battery swapping is another charging alternative that involves automated equipment entirely swapping a depleted battery for a fully charged one at a charging station. The current batch of EVs lacks this feature in their design, but it’s becoming common in commercial vehicle fleet applications, such as electric delivery vehicles.

Wireless charging

Wireless charging is currently in an early development phase. The idea behind this development is to use inductive charging. Inductive charging involves the transfer of energy between a charging station and the vehicle through an electromagnetic field, removing the need for a plug.

Though not yet available, wireless charging will simplify and expedite the charging process. Imagine the convenience of driving to work, parking in a dedicated spot, and having your battery charge while you park over the “charging pad.”

Road charging

Road charging is the most complex development that would have the biggest impact. This development involves coils being put under the asphalt to transfer energy to your EV while driving. Currently, there are test projects in Italy and America to explore this technology.

Understanding the difference between the current three options of level 1, 2, and 3 charging stations will allow you to decide which option is best for you. Consider your driving habits and EV usage before installing one, and always overestimate your need by about 20%.

A last word

If you install a Level 2 charging station for one electric vehicle it would take you 6 hours to charge the battery fully,  should your household move to 2 EVs and a unit with 2 charging cables, then you need to double the time it will take you to charge each EV.

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