How long does it REALLY take to fully charge an EV? The answer can range anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 days, but many things affect the speed of charging. For example, the Type and power level of the charging station, the size of your battery pack or how full or depleted is the battery already. We discuss all those factors and more right here.
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In 2011 I bought a Nissan Leaf, since then I have owned many different EVs such as the Chevy Volt, BMW i3, and now I even have a Tesla model-3. And, I get a lot of questions from people who are curious about these cars, and some of them are pretty easy to answer.
Such as, “how fast is it?” That’s an easy one to answer. “How far can it go on a charge?” Also pretty easy to answer. “How much does it cost?” Is also pretty easy.
It’s important to understand that probably none of this matters if you’re like most EV drivers, which means you come home, you habitually plug your car in every night regardless of how empty or full it is. And you go to bed, knowing when you wake up the next morning, it will be full.
To put some perspective with that, I put a poll on a Tesla facebook group and found that 19% of respondents said they did ALL of their charging at home and never used public stations at all. 63% said that they did 90% of their charging at home. And so on.
Another way of looking at this is that with the average of all drivers, 86% of charging occurs at home, with 14% occurring on the go. And when it comes to home charging, the speed isn’t quite as important. That being said, let’s examine the first point, which is the type of charging station.
I think the most important thing I can start with is the relationship between the car and the charging station. This applies to home stations as well as public stations. Let’s take a look at the J1772 connector, which is the standard for all cars sold in North America.
These two top pins here deliver power. When connected to 120 volts, you have your hot wire, a neutral, and ground at the bottom. When connected to 240 volts, then both of these up here become hot.
Now, you also have proximity detection and control pilot. So, what do these do? Well, the proximity detection is what is used to detect if a car is plugged in.
The connectors are also designed so that when you press the release button, it breaks the connection on the proximity line, which in turn causes the charging station to shut off power immediately before you have a chance to pull the connector out.
This way, it prevents electricity from arcing when you pull out the connector. But more importantly, I wanted to talk about this control pilot. This is used to negotiate the highest common power standard between the car and the charging station.
Let me better illustrate how this works. Let’s say you plug your car into a station capable of delivering 3 KW of power. But your car is capable of charging at 6 KW. The vehicle will negotiate with the station and they will mutually agree to charge at 3 KW, which would be the highest power this station can safely deliver.
But, what if the reverse were true? What if the station can deliver 6 KW, but your car is only rated to accept 3 KW? Then you’ll have the same situation, where 3 KW will be the charging speed.
To use more power, both the station and the car will need to be rated at higher power.
Of course, that still doesn’t answer the question of how long it takes to charge. But don’t worry, I’m getting to that. There are essentially 3 categories of chargers to know about, Level 1, level 2, and DC fast chargers.
How Long Does It Take To Charge An Electric Car At Home
Every EV comes with a home charging cable, this is known as a level 1 charger. It’s a De facto standard way to make sure the customer has at least some way to charge the car when they get it home from the dealership. The problem with these are is they are super slow. And, it’s not the fault of the car or the charger.
Sometimes people say “that’s a design flaw and they should improve that!” But, it’s a physics problem, It’s like trying to fill up a swimming pool with a garden hose. You can do it, but it’s going to take a long time. Are you going to blame the pool for it taking so long? No, you’re going to blame the hose.
Likewise, the bottleneck here is the standard home 120V outlet which is designed to deliver 12 amps continuous current maximum. If you were to try to pull more power than that, the breaker will trip, which is designed to protect the wires from melting or fires from starting.
Some people do manage to get by using one of these as their primary method of charging, but those are typically going to be people that don’t drive a whole lot.
Because, realistically speaking, using one of these you’re not going to be able to recoup more than about 40 miles of range every night when you plug in.
And, while that may work for some people, most people are going to want something faster.
Most EV drivers will get a level-2 station installed in their garage. These will operate at 240V and come in setups designed for 16, 32, 48, or even 80 amps. Now remember, any station will work with any car, it’s just a matter of some will charge faster than others. This is called a level 2 charger
The higher amps means the cable has to be thicker, which means the charging station will cost more and the cable can sometimes be a little stiffer and harder to handle. 32 amps is probably the most common for home and public stations. So, how fast is that?
Well, to put things into perspective, a level 1 station like we talked about earlier can put about 5 miles of range into your EV every hour. Even an entry level 16 amp Level-2 station will give you about 12 miles of range per hour. A 32 amp station will be double that, around 25 miles per hour. And so on.
Of course, these estimates are based on decently efficient cars, and can certainly vary depending on the car. So, how long these standards would take to charge would depend on the size of the battery in your car.
A Toyota Prius Prime, for example, is a hybrid and so it only has a small battery capable of around 25 miles of range So, it takes about 5 hours on a level 1 or 2 hours on a level 2.
And it can only accept 16 amps maximum. Where, a Tesla Model 3 long range has a much larger battery, good for 320 miles. So it takes a ridiculous 64 hours for a full charge on a level 1, and while considerably faster on level 2 stations, you can see it would still take several hours for a full charge.
Sometimes I see people in car forums, bragging about their car that it charges faster than some other car. And, while it may be true, in many cases it’s only charging faster because their battery is smaller, which is not necessarily something to brag about. That’s why charging rate is far more important than charging time.
It would be like saying “My swimming pool is better than yours because I can fill it up twice as fast.” Even though the pool is half the size. However, there is another important consideration about these numbers. With a plug in hybrid like the Prius Prime, chances are you’re likely to deplete or at least mostly deplete the battery in the car every day, because it is so small.
So, you’ll likely experience these full charging times regularly. But a full EV with a larger battery like the Tesla, for example, you are virtually guaranteed never to come anywhere close to depleting the battery for daily usage. So these charging times are something you will rarely see.
The average person drives around 30 miles per day. Which means, these numbers here are more reflective of the actual amount of charging time you could expect on an average day.
I also need to mention that in North America there are at least two different standards for level-2 charging. You have the J-1772 plug, which is used by basically every EV manufacturer besides Tesla, and then of course you have Tesla, which has a proprietary plug.
The good news is, Tesla provides an adapter so that when you need to use public charger, you can just stick this on the end of the connector, and it will instantly turn it into a Tesla compatible charging station. And, believe it or not, the reverse is also true.
You can buy an adapter which will allow you to connect other cars to Tesla charging stations. For example, my brother has a Tesla model-X and when I drive my Chevy Volt over to his house, I can charge at full level-2 speeds using his Tesla charging station.
You can also use these at public stations like hotels where Tesla charging is provided. However, these adapters do not work on Superchargers, which we’ll talk more about in a moment.
Now, I said there were at least two standards. Because there are other places to charge that don’t necessarily fall into any category. For example, RV parks often have NEMA 14-50 electrical sockets, which are 240V and can carry up to 50 amps. You can also use these to charge an electric vehicle at a decent speed.
For example, Tesla cars actually come with a portable charger, which is pretty cool because you can unplug the standard household connection, and instead plug in a NEMA 14-50 and bam, you immediately have a level-2 charger assuming you have a NEMA 14-50 outlet.
Likewise, you can get units such as the portable Clipper Creek charger that will work with non-Tesla vehicles the same way.
And these places typically have swimming pools, picnic tables, and other amenities that can make your stay a little more comfortable while you wait for your car to charge, so it can be an interesting experience.
And since there are RV parks everywhere, these can often be used to charge your electric vehicle as a last resort when there are no public EV chargers available.
But even a decently fast level-2 station could still take potentially hours for a charge. This is not ideal when traveling long distances. So, if you’re going to take a road trip, you need something even faster! That’s where DC fast charging comes in.
How Long Does It Take To Charge At A Public Charging Station?
These stations are much bigger, and much more powerful and are known as level 3 chargers. They also work in a fundamentally different way. When you look at a something like the cable that comes with your car, a lot of people tend to refer to it as a charger. But it’s not. It’s just a sophisticated extension cord.
The actual thing that charges your battery is inside the car. It’s job is to convert AC power into DC power, since batteries are inherently DC by nature.
The charger itself is also one of those limiting factors we talked about earlier as to how much power your car can take from a charging station. But a DC fast charger bypasses the on-board charger in your car, and charges the battery directly, so in this case the station you plug into is the charger.
To give you an idea of the difference in power level between level 2 and a DC fast charger, you’re typical level 2 stations have power outputs of around 3, 6, or even 10 kilowatts. DC fast charge stations can be anywhere from 50 kilowatts up to 270 kilowatts. DC fast chargers usually look visually different from level 2 stations.
For one thing, they are usually much larger machines, and will have much larger and thicker cables on them. Unfortunately, there is one big problem with DC fast charging. There are 3 different competing standards. You have what we call CCS Combo, Chademo, and Tesla.
And unlike the level 2 standards, these are not easily interchangeable with an adapter. The CCS combo port is an extension of the J-1772 standard. It looks very similar, but it has two large extra pins at the bottom. These are what carry the heavy DC current for fast charging.
If your car supports this type of fast charger, you’ll see the two extra pins on the charging port. And if your charging port doesn’t have the two extra pins, it does not support CCS fast charging. So far, this standard has been adopted by the vast majority of manufacturers, including Ford, GM, Volkswagen, Porsche, Jaguar, etc.
Chademo is a Japanese standard and is an entirely different connector. Typically a car that supports Chademo will have two distinct charging ports, one for level 2, and one for fast charging via Chademo. Nissan uses this standard on the Leaf, but you’ll also find it on cars like the Mitsubishi Outlander.
And here’s a fun fact. The Toyota Prius Prime in the USA only has level 2 charging, but the Japanese version has a Chademo port for fast charging right next to it. Kia also used Chademo on their cars such as the Soul EV, but have since recently switched to CCS. And, of course, the last standard to talk about is Tesla.
Tesla Charging Connector
Tesla’s connector is unique in that the same connector works as a level-2 or DC fast charge. And visually there is no way to tell them apart, at least from the connector. But you can identify a fast charger because they have a very short and thick cable. And of course, Tesla calls them Superchargers.
One interesting thing to note about Superchargers is the power sharing. If you look at most Supercharging stations, you’ll see some of the bays are labelled with an A or a B. The way this works is A and B share a single power source. And so if two cars are charging next to each other, the charging power is cut in half for each car.
As such, you’ll see a pattern that at supercharging locations, people often park and charge at every other bay, at least until it fills up where there are no other choices. So, if you pulled into a location with just a single car charging, and you parked right next to them, it would be considered sort of rude.
However, Tesla has stated that they will be upgrading their stations over time so that every stall has its own power source, and thus in a few years this predicament could be a thing of the past.
Now, it might be tempting to think you could take an adapter and plug it into a Tesla supercharger and then fast charge some other brand of car. And, it will technically fit. But, it will not work!
For one thing, the regular J1772 port doesn’t support DC fast charging, so if such a thing did exist, which it doesn’t, it would need to connect to the larger pins on your charging port anyway.
That being said, Tesla does sell an adapter that will allow a Tesla to charge from a Chademo station, although they are quite expensive.
I also think it is important to mention that not all electric cars can even use DC fast charging. Lots of plug-in hybrids only support level-2. Usually the line of thinking with hybrids is that you don’t need fast charging since you have a gasoline engine to fall back on.
And while the general rule is that hybrids don’t support fast charging, and all electric cars do, there are exceptions to both. For example, the Mitsubishi Outlander which is a hybrid, as mentioned earlier, has a chademo fast charge port.
And the all electric Fiat 500e, for example, only supports level-2. And on some cars, like the Chevrolet Bolt EV, for example, fast charging is optional.
So, some have it and some don’t. This is particularly frustrating when shopping for a used electric car because the dealerships rarely have any idea what the difference is, and thus it is not advertised as to whether a car has this feature or not. Usually the only way to know for sure is to open the charge door and see if it has the extra port or not.
So, you might be thinking, “wow this sounds complicated, how would I know where to charge my car with all of these different standards?” Well, that’s were something like Plugshare comes in handy. They have a nice website, and a phone app.
Using the app let’s say I only wanted to see Chademo stations, I could filter for that, and I would see all of the Chademo compatible stations in the area. Or, let’s say I wanted to only see Tesla superchargers. I can do that too. And while there doesn’t appear to be that many of these stations,
Tesla places most of their fast chargers out along the highways so that you can use them for long distance travel, so zooming out here, you can see there are quite a few. They are usually spaced about a hundred miles apart. But, let’s say you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a low charge and there aren’t any fast chargers available.
If you want to know more about Tesla superchargers and the new Tesla destination chargers then check out our short video that goes into more detail.
You could search for Nema 14-50 sockets, which like I mentioned before tend to be located at RV parks. And you can see there are quite a few of these available as well. So these are always a last ditch option.
Plugshare is useful for more than just finding stations, though. Let me show you what else you can do. When you click on on the icon to see that particular station , one thing you’ll notice is that users can upload photos of the stations so that people know more or less what they are looking for when they arrive.
Also, a lot of locations have multiple types of plugs available, so you can see there is level-2 charging along with 2 types of fast charging. And on top of that, it will tell you the maximum power level of each one. As an example the level 2 station might be 7.2 Kw, and the fast charging stations are only 50 KW, which is on the low side.
Also, there are user submitted comments. So people can tell you what they thought about charging here. The stations gets pretty positive reviews. And this is reflected in the overall station rating numbere. That means it’s pretty good and reliable.
And even though I said RV parks were a last ditch option, that isn’t entirely true. Plugshare got its name from the fact that people can add their home stations to the map. When people do this, what that means is they are inviting you to come charge at their home if you need a charge for whatever reason.
Maybe you can’t make it to the nearest public charger, or who knows. But, as you can see, this adds even a ton more places you can charge your car, if it comes down to it. My home is on the map as well, and I’ve had people come by to charge in my garage over the years.
But, going back to our “how long to charge” question. Here’s something a lot of people ask about. Let’s take a look at the Jaguar i-Pace. When I look at the specifications for this car, you’ll notice on the charging speed, they list DC charging 0-80%. Now, why would they only quote it to 80%. It’s not just jaguar, either. Every manufacturer quotes it like this.
Well, the reason is because, with all lithium batteries, charging levels start to drop as they get closer to full. And so, it can take almost as long to charge the last 20% as it takes to charge the first 80%. So, if you are in a hurry, you will probably only charge to 80%.
So, there’s a few more things I want to say about the road trip situation. Now, a few years ago a lot of detractors used to say that EV’s can’t do long distance driving because there’s not enough charging infrastructure.
And there was a certain element of truth to that back then, but these days there is enough charging infrastructure you can travel pretty much anywhere you want to go.
I mean, granted some rural areas would probably be pretty challenging to get to, but as long as you stay along the major interstates, you can travel between any major city in North America.
I mean, there’s many YouTube videos you can watch out there of people doing the cannonball run, where they go from like New York to Los Angeles or vice-versa, and all in an electric car.
And, It’s not that difficult. Now, a lot of people will say, well it takes too long because you have to stop and charge. And there’s a couple of things I want to say about that. First of all, even if you look at an 80% charging time of like, I don’t know, 45 minutes is quoted on a lot of EVs.
You’re still never going to see that because you’re going to stop and your battery is not going to be empty. So, you’re usually going to charge from like 30 to 80 percent, so you’re usually looking at like 25, 30 minutes tops for your typical fast charge stop.
And, even if you drive a gas car, I mean, you’re going to have to stop to go to the bathroom and eat at some point. So, as long as you plan out your route so that all of your eating and bathroom stops coincide with your charging stops, then it doesn’t take all that much longer to drive a long distance trip in an EV than it does in a gas car.
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