A Simple Guide to the Basics of Electric Car Charging

BMW i3 1 photo
Photo: Catalin Garmacea
Switching from an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car to an electric of plug-in hybrid vehicle requires adapting and learning new things, but don't worry. We've come up with a guide that will introduce you to the basics of electric car charging.
It doesn't even matter if you're a cultured EV owner or a newbie in green cars, we hope you will enjoy the read and find this simple guide valuable. Here goes:

1. Charging places

So, let's say you just bought your first EV and can't wait to plug it in, get the battery to a full charge and enjoy zero-emissions driving. Nothing wrong here, but you might need to understand a few aspects. Also, you might want to know where to charge, right?

Let's see what are your options here:

- Charging at home: every driver who owns an electric car does most of the charging at home, especially overnight. The car stays in the garage while the battery receives the much-needed juice to take the EV owner through the urban jungle the next day. It's like leaving your tablet or smartphone plugged in while you're asleep. You can do that using the dedicated standard 120 V cords, or you can buy and install a charging station.

- Charging at work: although not the most popular choice, charging at work has been promoted by carmakers like Nissan for the Leaf EV. It is also a kind thing to set up for your employees, but that will differ from company to company.

- Charging at public sites: the charging network has reached decent coverage, and the number of new charging stations is getting bigger from one week to another. Some are available for free, but some might require a fee for their services. Most of these charging areas provide level 2 charging, which takes us to the second mini-chapter in this guide.

2. Types of charging

Gamers will love this, as the types of charging are divided into levels, except there's no final boss to fight and defeat.

- Level 1: Better known as 120 V charging, is the slowest type of charging, allowing EVs and PHEVs like the Chevrolet Volt to charge to 100 percent capacity in a few hours or during the entire night.

EVs and PHEVs are plugged to a power source via a cord wearing a three-prong plug. Such cords will test the circuit to ensure proper grounding is available. The user gets info on whether the car's charging or not through a simplistic system that uses colored lights.

- Level 2: This is the solution adopted for most home and charging public stations operating at 240 V. In normal conditions, level 2 charging is twice as fast as level 1 and is needed for those wanting to recharge the battery of a Nissan Leaf, for example.

- DC fast charging: This method uses direct current - hence the DC abbreviation in the name - to quickly replenish the battery. While charging at home or at work is done through alternating current (AC), DC charging is more suitable for public sites and locations found near roads and highways due to its higher costs.

There are also three different types of DC fast charging: CHAdeMO, CCS and Tesla's Supercharger. CHAdeMO stands for CHArge de MOve (translated as "move using charge" or "move by charge") and is used by Mitsubishi's i-MIEV and Kia's Soul EV.

CCS comes from Combined Charging Standard, and this is what you'll see on cars built by Chevrolet, BMW or Mercedes.

As you all know, the Tesla Supercharger is available only to Tesla customers and their Model S EVs.
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