Charging an Electric Car is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Charging an electric car is easy. We break down charge levels, time to charge and average pricing by level. Now it's even easier!

Car Charging At Electrify America Station. Photo: Electrify America
Car Charging at Electrify America Station. Photo: Electrify America

Literally, charging an electric car comes in 3 Levels.

With all this talk about climate change and major automakers committing to full electric lineups in the near future, it’s hard to miss the buzz and excitement about electric cars. That being said, what’s less clear is how to gas ‘em up! Charging an electric car can be both easier and cheaper than gassing up an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, but the information surrounding this can be technical and daunting.

Not to worry! Today we’re going to lay it all out so simply that you’ll be dropping EV (Electric Vehicle) jargon before you know it. In fact, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Related: How to Decide if an Electric Car Is Right for Your Lifestyle

With More Electric Cars On The Road, Ford Needs Service Technicians Qualified To Work On Them. ? Scotty Reiss

With more electric cars on the road, Ford needs service technicians qualified to work on them. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Level 1 Charging

Level 1 charging is like the charging cable that comes with your new phone. Almost all electric cars come with their own charging cable (Except currently the Kia EV6 and Teslas). Like your phone, this charger can be plugged directly into any normal wall outlet, also known as a 120V (Volt) standard wall outlet. This kind of outlet can’t handle too much, so it charges really slowly.

How slowly? About 3 to 5 miles an hour. If your commute is 20 to 30 miles a day, this might suit you perfectly. You can plug your car in at night, and it will likely be charged enough to accomplish your commute by the morning. However, according to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute is 54 miles a day. This means that getting a full charge on a Level 1 could take anywhere from 11 to 18 hours. This just wouldn’t be feasible for most people, but that’s why EV owners typically elect to install a Level 2 charger.

Level 1 Stats:

  • Charging Speed: 3 to 5 miles an hour
  • Average Duration: 11 to 45 hours
  • Cost to fill up: $3 to $20

Related: Why You Need to Go to Electrify Expo (When It Comes to Your Town): To Shop for an Electric Car

Charging An Electric Car With Electrify America. Photo: Electrify America

Electrify America Website. Photo: Electrify America

Level 2 Charging

Whilst you can just plug a Level 1 charger into an outlet yourself, a Level 2 charger is a slightly different story. It requires a 240V outlet, which is commonly used to power dryers. If you have a garage and are really lucky, then you might already have a 240V outlet accessible. If not, then you’ll need one installed by an experienced electrician.

On top of that, you’ll need to purchase a Level 2 charger. These can range anywhere from $200 to $700 for the device alone and vary in features from nothing but a power button to a full energy consumption display and an app.

Some common Level 2 chargers are the ChargePoint HomeFlex, the Juicebox 40, and the Grizzl-E. Be sure to check with your energy provider, as they may be able to provide some incentives and assistance with selecting a charger. If you already have a 240V outlet that is being used, perhaps by your dryer, you can snag a plug splitter like the Neocharge Smart Splitter, so you can have access to charging and drying when you need it!

Level 2 chargers can charge at a speed of anywhere around 12 to 75 miles an hour! This is the ideal home charging setup. You can plug your car in when you get home, and it will charge overnight. In the morning, it will be full and ready to go! Often, EV owners will use their Level 2 charger at home and keep their Level 1 in their vehicle in case of emergencies.

Now, if your commute exceeds the range of your vehicle or you’d like to go on a road trip, then you’ll need to take advantage of Level 3 or DC Fast Charging, as you will commonly hear it referred to.

Level 2 Stats:

  • Charging Speed: 12 to 75 miles an hour
  • Average Duration: 4.5 to 10 hours
  • Cost to fill up: $3 to $20

Related: Grab A Coffee With Friends While Charging Your Electric Vehicle

Electric Cars Get Premium Parking!

Electric cars get premium parking! Photo: Scotty Reiss

Level 3 Charging

Typically available at commercial establishments, Level 3 charging is the pinnacle of charging speed. Depending on your vehicle, a level 3 charger could get you to 80% in anywhere from 18 to 45 minutes.

Similar to how 7-Eleven and Shell both provide gas stations, there are multiple companies dedicated to providing these charging stations. They generally feature numerous stalls at which you can charge and have various payment systems and rates. At the moment, Level 3 chargers lean on existing infrastructure and are often found in grocery store parking lots and in other areas where services like restrooms and food are already supplied. This can come in handy on road trips because you’ll be able to plug in and grab lunch or go to the restroom while your car charges up.

Additionally, many automakers have deals with charging companies to provide a period of free Level 3 charging with your vehicle purchase. So, if you don’t have access to a level 2 charger at home, if you road trip often, or if you just want to cash in on the free electricity, you could combine your weekly grocery haul with a charging session, or juice up while grabbing lunch with a friend. With the push for mass electric vehicle adoption, charging companies are dashing to create better facilities in the near future.

Level 3 Stats:

  • Charging Speed: 180 to 1000 miles an hour
  • Average Duration: 18 to 45 minutes
  • Cost to fill up: $10 to $35
Most Electric Car Charging Is Done At Home With A Level 2 Unit Like This Autel Home Charger. Photo: Autel

Most electric car charging is done at home with a level 2 unit like this Autel Home Charger. Photo: Autel

Why Not Just Get a Level 3 Charger Installed?

You may be wondering, why not get a Level 3 charger installed in your home? Shouldn’t you want the best speed available for charging an electric car? Firstly, it can cost up to $50,000 to install a Level 3 charger, versus a few hundred to a couple thousand for a Level 2. Additionally, batteries degrade over time. Constant fast charging may make them degrade faster, so charging at a Level 2 charger to 80% can be a great way to maintain your battery long-term.

Keep in mind that charging an electric car has varying costs depending on your location. Charging times can vary based on your vehicle. Some electric cars, like the Mini Cooper SE, have small batteries. The Mini Cooper has only 32 kWh and is only capable of a range of 145. That also means there is less battery to fill up than, say, the Mustang Mach-E that has up to 91 kWh of usable battery. However, typically cars with bigger batteries are also capable of charging faster than cars with little ones.

All this charging stuff can get really complicated really fast, so we’ll tackle more another day. But just remember that charging an electric car is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

An enthusiastic supporter of everything she’s passionate about, Liv got her first Electric Car and immediately made a YouTube... More about Liv Leigh