Vehicle Charging

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The standard J1772 electric power receptacle (right) can receive power from Level 1 or Level 2 charging equipment. The CHAdeMO DC fast charge receptacle (left) uses a different type of connector.

The standard J1772 electric power receptacle (right) can receive power from Level 1 or Level 2 charging equipment. The CHAdeMO DC fast charge receptacle (left) uses a different type of connector.

To get the most out of your plug-in electric vehicle (also known as an electric car or EV), you must charge it on a regular basis.  Charging frequently maximizes the range of all-electric vehicles and the electric-only miles of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Drivers can charge at home, at work, or in public places.  While most drivers do more than 80% of their charging at home and it is often the least expensive option, workplace and public charging can complement residential charging. 

Types of Chargers

Charging your EV requires plugging into a charger connected to the electric grid, also called electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). There are three major categories of chargers, based on the maximum amount of power the charger provides to the battery from the grid:

  • Level 1: Provides charging through a 120 V AC plug and does not require installation of additional charging equipment.  Can deliver 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging. Most often used in homes, but sometimes used at workplaces.
  • Level 2: Provides charging through a 240 V (for residential) or 208 V (for commercial) plug and requires installation of additional charging equipment.  Can deliver 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging. Used in homes, workplaces, and for public charging.
  • DC Fast Charge: Provides charging through 480 V AC input and requires highly specialized, high-powered equipment as well as special equipment in the vehicle itself.  (Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles typically do not have fast charging capabilities.) Can deliver 60 to 80 miles of range in 20 minutes of charging. Used most often in public charging stations, especially along heavy traffic corridors.

Charging times range from less than 30 minutes to 20 hours or more based on the type of EVSE, as well as the type of battery, how depleted it is, and its capacity. All-electric vehicles typically have more battery capacity than plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, so charging a fully depleted all-electric vehicle takes longer.

In addition to the three types above, wireless charging uses an electro-magnetic field to transfer electricity to an EV without a cord.  The Department of Energy is supporting research to develop and improve wireless charging technology.  Wireless chargers are currently available for use with certain vehicle models.

Types of Plugs

Most modern chargers and vehicles have a standard connector and receptacle, called the SAE J1772. Any vehicle with this plug receptacle can use any Level 1 or Level 2 EVSE. All major vehicle and charging system manufacturers support this standard, so your vehicle should be compatible with nearly all non-fast charging workplace and public chargers. 

Fast charging currently does not have a consistent standard connector.  SAE International, an engineering standards-setting organization, has passed a standard for fast charging that adds high-voltage DC power contact pins to the SAE J1772 connector currently used for Level 1 and Level 2. This connector enables use of the same receptacle for all levels of charging, and is available on certain models like the Chevrolet Spark EV. However, other EVs (the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV in particular) use a different type of fast-charge connector called CHAdeMO. Fortunately, an increasing number of fast chargers have outlets for both SAE and CHAdeMO fast charging. Lastly, Tesla’s Supercharger system can only be used by Tesla vehicles and is not compatible with vehicles from any other manufacturer.  Tesla vehicles can use CHAdeMO connectors through a vehicle adapter.