There are 3 EV charging station types commonly used. Each has pros and cons when it comes to charging electric vehicles.
These charging station types go by the following names:
- Level 1 charging
- Level 2 charging
- DC fast charging (Level 3 charging)
We’ll discuss each in detail. First, though, the following is a summary of the key basic information you need to know:
|Level 1 Charger||Level 2 Charger||Level 3 Charger|
|Cost per charge||$||$$||$$$|
|Primary location||Residential||Residential, Public||Public|
|Sample power rating||120V, 15A, 1.4kW||240V, 40A, 7.7kW||480V, 100A, 48kW|
Level 1 charging
Level 1 chargers use the same single-phase 120-volt power found in your everyday home. Think of regular wall outlets, fed from 20 Amp circuit breakers.
You can plug your EV’s power cord with accompanying equipment, into your standard outlet to charge. You don’t need to install anything further. However, you can install a dedicated 120V outlet for charging EVs only, but it won’t increase your power output.
It’s important to note, Level 1 charging is the slowest among all charger options. It’ll test your patience, so it’s not an ideal option if you need to fully charge your car daily. But, it’s an underrated option in many use cases. Particularly, if you don’t want to install additional electrical equipment in your home.
In short, it’s best to use Level 1 chargers at home, only if you meet the following conditions:
- Your daily commute is short and you don’t frequently travel long distances
- You have access to a Level 2 charger at your workplace, allowing for minimal charging at home
- You have a garage with a standard outlet, as you can’t run an extension cord to your parking spot if you live in an apartment
- Minimal impact on your electric utility peak demand charges
- Doesn’t require the installation of extra electrical equipment
- No additional costs required
- The ability to charge almost anywhere, as all you need is access to a standard electrical outlet
- Slow charging time
Important Note: Level 1 charging, trickle charges your battery. It’ll typically provide around 30 miles of charge per night for a Tesla Model 3. However, if you have a high-capacity Tesla battery, it may take up to 3 days to fully charge an empty battery.
Level 2 charging
Level 2 chargers use 240-volt single-phase power. This is the same voltage your clothes dryer uses.
This higher voltage allows for faster charging. But you can no longer just use a typical 120-volt outlet, like Level 1 chargers. Instead, you need to purchase and install a separate Level 2 charger, along with the necessary electrical infrastructure.
The average cost of installation is $750 to $3,000, for both the materials and labor. The cost variance is from the complexity of your installation job. If you install the equipment right next to your electrical panel, the cost will be cheap. But, if your installation is 50 feet from your electrical panel, the cost will rise. Because you need to pay for added wiring, conduits, and possibly trenching.
Level 2 chargers are most commonly found in homes and around town. You can compare their output to a Level 1 charger below, using ChargePoint’s data.
|Level 1 Charging||Level 2 Charging|
|Electric and Power Specs||120-volt, 20 Amp circuit, 1.4 kW||208 to 240-volt, 40 to 50 Amp circuit, 6.2 to 7.6 kW|
|Time to fully charge an EV with a 100-mile battery||17 to 25 hours||4 to 5 hours|
|Drivers served per station per day||1||3 to 4 or more|
- Greater energy efficiency compared to Level 1 chargers
- More of the power you pay for goes into your battery versus ending up as heat in the battery and charger equipment
- Faster charging times, typically 5 to 7 times faster than using a Level 1 charger
- Compatible with all electric vehicles
- Initial installation cost
- Greater impact on electric utility peak demand charges than Level 1 chargers
- Less flexibility in charging location, as the charger mounts to a single spot in your home
DC fast charging (Level 3 charging)
DC fast chargers, also known as Level 3 chargers, charge fast as their name implies. They use 480-volt three-phase power to provide this added charge speed.
To point out, not every EV can charge with DC fast chargers. Also, they’re not meant for residential use, but rather for industrial use.
At your home, you typically have a 120/240-volt single-phase 100 Amp electrical service. So it’s much easier to upsize your service to 200A, versus applying for a new 480-volt three-phase power service. Most electric utilities don’t even provide 480-volt power to residential users, even if you hand them a blank check.
If you own a Tesla though, you’re more than likely familiar with Tesla’s supercharger network. Superchargers are DC fast chargers with industrial-rated AC to DC converters inside. The converter bypasses the limits of EV onboard chargers, leading to faster charging.
To accommodate all drivers, Tesla also has destination chargers at various public locations. These are Level 2 chargers. You can learn more about the cost to charge varying Tesla model vehicles here.
- Faster charging time than Level 2 chargers
- Closest to the fuel-up time of a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle
- Suitable for long-distance trips
- Higher charging cost than Level 1 and Level 2 chargers
- Repeated use of Level 3 chargers can lead to increased battery degradation, due to increased heat generated in the battery
Important Note: DC fast chargers can charge your battery to 80% in about 30 to 60 minutes. But after reaching 80% charge, switch to a Level 2 charger if possible. The last 20% of charging with a Level 3 charger is not significantly faster than using a Level 2 charger, but it’s more expensive.
To learn more about the charging time of EVs, read here.
Each type of EV charging station has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. You need to find what works best for you and your needs.
In my experience, the best approach is to use a combination of different types of charging stations. For many commercial projects I design, I typically include a mix of Level 2 and 3 chargers. This caters to all different needs and situations.
On one day you may be content with slow charging for a short commute. But the next day, you may need a quick full charge for a long-distance trip.
Which of the EV charging station types do you use at home and/or at your workplace? Do you have any complaints about the EV charging station types you use?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.