- Charging an electric car isn’t quite as straightforward as filling a gas tank.
- Recharging times can vary drastically depending on your vehicle and power source.
- It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to multiple days to replenish an electric car’s battery.
Filling up a conventional car takes just a few minutes regardless of make, model, or whether you pull into a Citgo, Shell, or Sunoco.
Charging an electric vehicle is a bit more complicated.
There’s a laundry list of factors that can affect the time required to replenishing a car’s battery pack. At the moment, it’ll take a good deal longer than five minutes no matter what.
A larger battery will generally take more time to fill up than a smaller one, all things being equal. Consider filling up a bucket versus a bathtub. Extra hot or cold temperatures can also draw out charging times. So can the battery’s current state of charge.
But, broadly speaking, the biggest determinant of charging speed is your power source: where the energy destined for a vehicle’s battery pack is coming from. There are three categories of charging potential EV owners should know.
Level 1 charging: The slowest option
In a pinch, you can charge an electric car using a standard household outlet. This is called Level 1 charging, and EVs typically come with a cord to make it happen.
But, as you might imagine, it’s painfully slow. It’s kind of like filling a car’s gas tank with an eyedropper.
Plugged into a 120-volt outlet for an hour, an EV will gain around 3-5 miles of range. Completely topping up a car’s battery, which is typically good for anywhere between 150 and 300 miles of range, can take days.
Level 2 charging: A good deal faster
The next tier of charging speeds things up quite a bit.
Level 2 chargers utilize a 240-volt connection like you’d use for a high-powered appliance or power tool, and lots of EV owners get one installed in their garage. Level 2 plugs are also what’s offered at the vast majority of public charging stations. Power ratings range from 6 kilowatts to around 20 kilowatts, many multiples of the 1.4 kilowatts generated by a household outlet.
The speed you get varies by vehicle and by charger, but Level 2 charging can deliver some 20-30 miles of range per hour. It takes roughly 6-12 hours to fully charge an EV using a Level 2 charger. Note also that charging gets considerably slower once you hit 80% battery.
Level 3 charging: Recharge at lightning speed
Level 3 charging, widely known as DC fast-charging, is the next level up. It’s the closest you can get to gas-station-like refueling times.
DC fast-charging dumps substantial amounts of energy into a car’s battery in a matter of minutes, rather than hours or days. When connected to one of these plugs, some electric cars can replenish 80% battery in half an hour or 45 minutes. Tesla claims the Model S Plaid can add 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes using one of the company’s most powerful Superchargers.
Your mileage will ultimately vary depending on the power of the station (which ranges from 50 kilowatts to 350 kilowatts) and the amount of power a vehicle is designed to accept.
This charging method is ideal for long trips, when you want to quickly plug in and get back on the road. It can put undue stress on a vehicle’s battery pack, though, so it may be advisable to lean on Level 2 charging if you can.
This all may sound daunting, but remember that most cars are parked most of the time. Can your gas-powered vehicle sip fuel while you’re at work or at dinner? Nope.