Learn More About Electric Vehicle Chargers
The benefits of an electric vehicle are clear and compelling, but those benefits do depend upon a way to keep your vehicle charged and ready—a way that suits your driving patterns and those of your family and is as safe and as cost-efficient as possible. Electric vehicle (EV) chargers are of three types, each suited to different requirements, patterns of use, and preferences. For ease of reference, these categories of EV chargers are designated Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
Level 1 Chargers
The Level 1 EV charger usually comes with your vehicle as part of its standard equipment. It plugs into any standard electrical outlet (120 volts) in your home—for many drivers, in their garage—and generally is used to charge the vehicle overnight because it can require up to 20 hours to fully charge your vehicle. The level 1 EV charger requires no professional installation of any kind and is the default choice if your vehicle use is moderate and very regular.
Level 2 Chargers
The Level 2 EV charger, as compared with Level 1, does the job substantially faster, usually in approximately three hours for a full charge. The charger, like most of the appliances in your home, runs on 240 volts. That requires a different connection with your circuit box, different wiring at the box, and a different type of wire running to the location of your EV charger.
Here, in brief, are the steps in Level II installation. A special circuit breaker ("double-pole") is attached to two 120 volt "hot" wires, providing the 240 volt current your EV charger (or any major appliance) requires. For this current strength, a properly insulated and secured 4-strand cable is used. For safety, a ground wire always is connected with this set-up. The 4-strand cable connects the circuit breaker box with your EV charger, located in a place convenient for you, carrying to it the required 240-volt current.
The 240 cable is attached to your charging unit, which stops the flow of current until the charger senses that it has been connected with your EV charging port.
Among possible complications, here, are that your breaker box may lack the necessary type of interface for this hookup. In that case, if you want to install a Level II EV charger, you will need a new circuit box.
Installation of a Level 2 EV charger involves steps that for a homeowner are complex and high-risk. You will require the services of a professional electrician who inspects and certifies all equipment used, does a safe professional installation, and verifies that your EV charger system is working safely and efficiently. In fact, even if a nonprofessional undertakes the electrical work, in most locales it will have to have to pass the inspection of an electric professional to ensure against fire hazards, damage to your home's electrical system, or other unsafe conditions.
Level 3 Chargers
The Level 3 charging station ("DC Fast Charger") is installed in commercial and industrial settings. Both their considerable expense and their specialized and powerful equipment rule out Level 3 chargers for home installation. Most Level 3 chargers can deliver about 80 percent of the charge that a compatible vehicle needs in half an hour. This makes them the choice of charging stations. By the way, since not all public charging stations have equipment compatible with all EVs, you should know which public charging stations your EV can use.