he rise of the electric vehicle (EV) means that charging time may soon be everyone's default pastime. While EV owners don't have to hang out at the pump, they do have to be diligent about making sure their rides are all juiced up. The ideal situation includes availability of both at-home and on-the-road charging mechanisms. In fact, the industry is already well on its way to making sure every neighborhood will soon have a charging station of the future. How long does it really take to charge an EV? Get a look at the basics.
EVs are charged using Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging. The good news is that owners can go on autopilot when charging. When EVs are plugged in, there's a "smart" communication process between the charger and car that actually prevents the car from accepting more power than it can handle. The car "asks" the charger what level of power it can deliver. Next, the car "requests" the maximum amount of power it can accept. Here's a look at how the capabilities of each charging level:
• Level 1 Charger (1 to 1.4 kW power delivery): Uses a 120-volt household outlet to add between 3 miles and 5 miles of range per hour. While Level 1 is the slowest charging method, it's capable of charging every type of electric or hybrid plug-in vehicle. However, most daily drivers of EVs will find that Level 1 charging is too slow to be practical.
• Level 2 Charger (3.9 to 19.2 kW power deliver): Uses a 208-volt to 240-volt current to add between 12 miles and 80 miles of range per hour. In addition to being a speedier option than Level 1 for home charging, Level 2 EV charging is also commonly used at public locations.
• Level 3 Charger (24 to 300 kW power delivery): Uses a 400-volt to 900-volet alternating current (AC) to recharge an EV at a rate of 3 miles to 20 miles of range per minute. The cost and high voltage make this an option that's usually only reserved for public charging stations.
Aside from Tesla cars, all EVs use the J-Plug (J1772) for Level 1 and Level 2 charging. It gets changed up for Level 3 charging. While Nissan and Mitsubishi use an Asian-based standard called CHAdeMO, Tesla uses a proprietary plug. Every other EV manufacturer uses the default Combined Charging System (combo) plug for now. However, the expectation is that manufacturers will begin branching out to adopt proprietary plugs as the industry heats up.
Battery size can influence recharging times the same way that the size of a car's gas tank can influence fill-up times. Energy capacity for EVs is measured by kilowatt hour (kWh). There's essentially a one-to-one ratio of kWh energy to a gallon of gas. It should come as no surprise that bigger batteries take longer to charge.
The starting point also influences charging time. EVs actually charge in a way that's similar to how a laptop charges. When starting from empty, charging to "full" takes comparatively longer than charging from a half-full or partially full point. Battery capacity also plays a role in determining charging times. In the EV world, battery size doesn't necessarily determine charging time. Bigger doesn't always mean faster. While a bigger battery does mean that an EV can store more power, only a vehicle's input capability determines charging speed.
Even the weather can influence an EV's charging time. Batteries work at peak condition when temperatures range from 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures that deviate in either direction can result in longer charging times simply because car battery management systems are designed to reduce power output as a protective measure in extreme temperatures. Finally, a charging station's capacity influences how quickly an EV powers up. This gets back to the Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 charging options.
"Most EV batteries have an 8-year, 100,000-mile manufacturer warranty, but some loss of capacity and driving range over time is to be expected," according to JD Power.
Every EV battery has a finite lifespan. Most batteries sold today come with warranties covering several years, 100,000 miles, or some combination of both. Driving style can actually influence battery life. For instance, it's known that fast, aggressive driving kills a battery faster. Using a car's climate-control features efficiently can also help to preserve battery life. This gets back to the Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 charging options.
According to Kelly Blue Book, the EV with the fastest charging time is the Lucid Air (20 miles per minute). The Porsche Taycan (15.5 miles per minute), the Tesla Model 3 (15 miles per minute), the Kia EV6 (14.5 miles per minute), and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 (13.4 miles per minute) all round out some of the most popular models on the road. Of course, the charging times offered by manufacturers represent peak charging conditions.
"General Motors has outlined plans for eventually fitting 200kWh batteries to future vehicles, and Tesla says its Semi, an articulated lorry, will have a massive 500kWh pack," according to TechRadar.com. Expect manufactures to continually try to improve density to store more electricity in EV batteries. The other piece of big news is that manufacturers are expected to pivot to solid-state cells offering increased density and safety. However, solid-state production isn't expected to trickle in for a small amount of high-end models until at least 2025. That means that the lithium-ion cells used today will stay in favor until at least the end of the 2020s.
EV drivers experience big fluctuations in charging times based on how they drive, where they drive, and when they charge. However, the big takeaway is that nobody should get overly comfortable with today's charging times. Manufacturers are in the process of tweaking batteries to speed up charging times, extend battery life, and turn EVs mainstream by making charging even simpler than pumping gas.