Beginners guide to EV charging

Beginners Guide to EV Charging – How to Charge an Electric Car

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Electric vehicles have been widely touted as the future of the motor industry. However, if the current trends are anything to go by, then EVs are already “the present.” Apparently, the appeal of driving an electric car has gained traction than ever before, as more vehicle owners are now turning to EVs for all their transportation needs.

Notably, industry experts attribute the sudden interest in electric cars to the fact that they are cost effective. Moreover, EVs are environmentally friendly and energy efficient since they do not emit harmful gases, neither do they require gasoline or petroleum to operate.

Interestingly, all you need to do is to charge your car like any other rechargeable electrical appliance. The best part is that you can charge your EV at home or at a charging station near you.

Here is a comprehensive guide on how to charge an electric car. Using this guide, you will learn how and when to charge your car, and what it will cost you to charge it, among many other vital details.

Basics of an Electric Car

All electric vehicles consist of three vital components. These include the battery, an electric engine, and a motor controller.

Notably, the batteries store power used to propel the vehicle. However, they tend to lose power after continues use, hence they require a recharge at a special charging station.

Interestingly, electric vehicles use different types of batteries, depending on the make, model, or brand of the car. The most common types include lithium-ion batteries, lead-acid batteries and nickel metal hydride batteries. All these have varying range, performance and pricing.

When it comes to the engine, electric vehicles come with a motor that has only one moving part, unlike gasoline engines that consist of several moving parts. This technology makes EVs reliable in terms of motive power. In addition, they tend to go through less mechanical wear.

On the other hand, the function of the motor controller is to distribute electric energy to all the components of the car. As the name implies, the controller regulates vital performance indications and monitors the overall operation of the car.

All the three aforementioned components operate using electricity. For this reason, you must charge your car regularly by plugging in an electrical nozzle from a charger station or wall charger into the designated charging port.

Steps to charging an electric vehicle

Charging an electric car is very simple. All you have to do is to plug in the charger into your car’s charging inlet. However, you have to confirm whether the available charger is compatible with your car’s charging inlet.

Notably, the charger consists of a box and a cable that connect your EV to an electrical grid. It works by pumping electrons into your car, once it’s plugged into the charging inlet. Essentially, when you connect the plug into your vehicle’s charging port, it will electronically handshake with the charger, allowing electrons to flow to the car until you disconnect the plug.

The process of charging an EV might seem complex at first, but once you get a grip of how it works, then it becomes very easy. Here are simple steps on how to charge your electric car at a public charging station

  • Download a relevant EV charging smartphone app to locate nearby charging stations
  • Drive to a nearby charging station and turn off your engine
  • Unlock the charging connector using the app
  • Lift charging connector from the holster by pressing the designated button next to it
  • Plug in the connector into your electric car. Make sure the inlet is compatible with the charging connector by checking your EV manual
  • Allow your vehicle to charge
  • End the charging session and pay via the app

Where to charge an electric car

One significant benefit of owning an electric car is that you have multiple options as far charging the vehicle is concerned. Essentially, you do not have to fill up at a gasoline station only. You may conveniently charge your electric vehicle at home, at a public charging station or at work.

Charging at home

Charging your electric vehicle at home is not only cheap but also convenient. Amazingly, it is as simple as charging a mobile phone. All you need is access to a garage with an electric/power outlet.

Distinctly, all electric cars come with charging units that are compatible with standard 120-Volt and 240-Volt sockets. This means that you can charge your car by plugging it into a standard 120-Volt wall socket at home.

The only concern is that home charging is essentially slow, and it might take more than eight hours to charge your electric car fully depending on its power ratings. To reduce charging times, most EV owners resort to upgrading their home sockets to 240 volts.

Read our in-depth guide on how to charge an electric car at home for more information on this topic.

Charging at a public station

As more motorists acquire electric cars, the number of public charging stations is increasing by the day. The U.S. is home to over 20,000 public charging stations, with this number set to increase in the coming months.

Notably, public stations offer multiple charging units where motorists can recharge their vehicles simultaneously. However, the main reason why public sites remain popular with vehicle owners is that they offer fast charging services. This makes them ideal for charging your car while you are out shopping, running errands or dining.

What is more surprising is that charging your car at most of these stations is free. Those that impose a levy only require a small fee to cover the maintenance and operation costs. Some public charging networks also require a membership fee for you to access their units. With this in mind, it is advisable that you download relevant smartphone apps to locate nearby public stations that offer free and chargeable charging services. Additionally, make sure that your car is compatible with available connector types before driving to a particular station.

Charging at work

Workplace charging is now a reality. With more workers acquiring electric cars, companies have no choice but to install electric chargers in their premises, parking lots and garages.

The best part is that installing electric chargers at the workplace promotes productivity, as employees do not have to leave work early to charge their vehicles elsewhere. It also encourages workers to come to work early so that they may charge their cars optimally.

Interestingly, some states are offering incentives to encourage more companies to install electric chargers at the workplace as a way of cutting down on carbon emissions. It also helps improve energy independence as the world moves towards alternative energy solutions.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

The time it takes to recharge an electric vehicle ranges anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours. This may seem like a long and tedious wait, but with new solutions coming up every day, charging your electric car may take less than a minute in the future.

Here are some of the factors that determine the amount of time taken to charge an electric car:

Level of charging

There are three levels of EV charging, ranging from Level 1 to Level 3. The level that you use will determine charging speeds and/or time taken to charge your EV fully.

The three types of EV charging include:

  • Level 1
    Level 1 charging involves plugging in your vehicle into a standard 120-Volt socket. Typically, all electric cars come with an AC adapter that can plug into a traditional household outlet. This allows you to charge your car conveniently from the comfort of your home without investing in additional charging units or equipment.

    The only downside associated with Level 1 charging is that they tend to be slow. Essentially, it might take anywhere between 8 and 10 hours to charge your car fully when using a domestic plug, delivering 2-5 miles of range per hour of uninterrupted charging. This makes it ideal for electric vehicles that only travel short distances. Furthermore, experts recommend this mode for overnight charging.
  • Level 2
    Level 1 charging is painstakingly slow. For this reason, most vehicle owners upgrade to Level 2 charging. This type of charging involves plugging your vehicle into a higher-output 240-Volt socket.

    Unlike Level 1 charging, Level 2 charging faster and more convenient. It can charge up to 70 miles of range per hour of charging. However, they are seemingly more complicated and they require the expertise of a professional electrician to set up the charger.

    Moreover, Level 2 charging is comparatively more costly than its predecessor is. This is because you may have to modify your vehicle’s charging inlet and alter your home’s power system to support this charging regime. With this in mind, it is not surprising that Level 2 chargers are more common in public stations and workplace charging points.
  • Level 3
    Level 3 charging, also known as DC fast charging, is the most powerful and advanced charger for electric cars. It is undoubtedly the fastest mode of EV charging available today, as it can add up to 80% capacity in less than 10 minutes. This translates to about 50 miles of range within just 10 minutes.

    Level 3 chargers use very high voltage ranging from 600 Volts to 1000 volts. For this reason, it is not surprising that they are the fastest mode of EV charging. However, level 3 chargers are expensive, making them ideal for service stations only. Moreover, reports suggest that frequent use of these chargers tends to lower battery life. Using them frequently will ultimately degrade your battery.

Charging rate

The maximum charging rate of your car will determine the time it will take to charge. If the charge rate is low, then you should expect slow charging speeds. For instance, if the maximum charge rate of your vehicle is 3.3 kW, it will not charge any faster even if you use a chargepoint with a 19.2 kW power rating. With this in mind, it is imperative that you check on the maximum charging rate when investing in an EV.

Seemingly, the maximum charge rate of the charging station determines the time taken to recharge your vehicle. This also plays a significant role in enhancing the lifespan of your battery. For instance, if a public station is using Level 1 chargers, you should expect prolonged charging rates, and it might take close to 12 hours to charge your car full. If the station can only deliver 3 kW of power, your vehicle will charge at a rate of 3 kW as well.

The capacity of the battery

The capacity of the battery significantly affects the time taken to charge your vehicle. In essence, high capacity batteries take a slightly longer time to charge regardless of the level of charging.

Moreover, the battery technology also affects charging speeds. For instance, lithium-ion batteries charge relatively faster in comparison to lead acid and nickel metal batteries. They are also lighter in terms of capacity and they deliver a splendid performance.

Calculating Charging Time

Knowing how to calculate the charging time of your electric vehicle is crucial, as it will help you avoid running out of charge during your travels. It will also help you to plan your travel schedules efficiently since you will be able to know how much time you need to recharge your car. Here is a simple way of calculating the charging time.

  1. Calculate Load Power
    Calculate the load power by multiplying the output voltage in volts by the current in amps. For instance, a standard household outlet has an output voltage of 120v and a current of 16A. To get the load power of the charging station, you only need to multiply 120V by 16A = 1920 Watts.
  2. Convert the load power into kilowatts
    To convert the load power of your charging unit, divide the value by 1,000. In the above example, the load power is 1920 Watts. To get it in kilowatts, you have to divide this value by 1,000. This translates to 1.92 kW.
  3. Determine the charging time
    To get the average charging time, you have to divide the capacity of your battery in kilowatts by the value of the load power. For instance, if you have a 24kW battery, the average charging time would be 24kW/1.92 kW = 12.5 hrs

How long does an electric car charge last?

It is normal for first-time EV owners to be anxious about how far they can drive on electric power. Moreover, the scarcity of charging stations along the way further compounds the problem. With slightly over 20,000 electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S. finding a spot to charge your car may be a tough call depending on your location.

The good news is that an electric car charge can last for a long time before the next recharge. Nevertheless, how long a charge lasts is not based on time, but rather on the mileage covered. This means that you can drive your car for a specific range before requiring a recharge. The range of an electric car is essentially the distance you can travel on full battery capacity or in between battery charges.

Notably, it is important to know your car’s range to avoid any inconveniences or unplanned stops. Depending on the model, you should expect the charge of your car to last for a specific distance or range before requiring a recharge. For instance, the Hyundai Kona allegedly has the longest range of 292 miles while the Volkswagen Golf can travel up to 144 miles before requiring a recharge.

However, it is advisable that you take the car for a test drive to verify the real range of the vehicle, before making a purchase. Alternatively, you may ask for a money-back guarantee to protect you from any loss if the claimed range is not accurate. This is because most manufacturers give dubious figures just to market their vehicles and increase sales.

Conversely, the type and capacity of the battery in your EV play a significant role in determining the range of your car. Comparatively, lithium-ion batteries last longer, and they provide a much higher performance than lead-acid or nickel metal hydride batteries do. Furthermore, they are far much lighter making them ideal for fast charging. The only downside you may encounter with lithium-ion batteries is that they are relatively expensive. However, their high performance and long-lasting capacity make up for the costs.

The battery life is another factor to consider when assessing the range of an electric car. Like any other dry cell, the battery of an EV has a lifespan. This means that the cells inside the battery are bound to degrade and wear over time due to various factors such as overcharging, overheating, exposure to extreme cold, deep discharge, and high discharge.

How many times should I charge an electric car?

The number of times you need to charge your electric vehicle depends on the distance you intend to drive the car. As mentioned earlier, EVs have a range that defines the distance the car can travel on a full-battery or in between charges. With this in mind, it is advisable that you confirm the range of your car to establish how often you would need to charge it to avoid any inconveniences on your travels.

For regular commuting within the vicinity of your home, workplace or other favorite spots, you will almost certainly need to recharge your car daily, preferably in the evenings during off-peak hours. You will also need to recharge if you have to drive your car to work within a radius of 40 miles daily.

In contrast, long-distance travels do not require regular charging. All you need to do is to charge your EV overnight until the battery is full, before the day of travel. Depending on the range of your car, the battery might last for 144 to 292 miles before requiring a recharge.

The good news is that you may always recharge your car at any of the available EV charging stations along the way. Nevertheless, it is advisable that you mark a few stations on a map, or download a reliable EV app to locate charging spots along your route of travel.

How to extend the battery life of an electric car

The performance of an electric car revolves around the lifespan of the battery. With proper care and management, the batteries in your EV can last for decades without replacement. Here are a few hacks on how to extend the battery life of an electric car.

  • Avoid charging to the maximum
    According to motor experts, charging your battery to its maximum capacity (regularly) may do more harm than good. Apparently, charging to 100% strains the electrons in the battery, subsequently reducing its overall lifespan. It is advisable that you charge to 80% at most to allow for regenerative braking.
  • Utilize timers to minimize charging times
    Timing your charging schedule not only prolongs the life of the battery, but also helps reduce energy bills. Thankfully, most electric cars come with timers that help motorists plan on charging schedules. You can set the timer to charge the battery for a specific period, subsequently minimizing the time spent at a relatively high state of charge.
  • Search your route in advance
    This might seem unrelated to battery life, but allowing your EV to run out of charge may harm it. Essentially, leaving the battery to drain to less than 10% may reduce its lifespan by a couple of years. With this in mind, searching your route in advance can help you map out available charging stations, allowing you to charge your EV whenever the battery runs low.
  • Protect your vehicle against extreme conditions
    Sometimes, the weather can be so unforgiving, not only to humans, but also to the state of your vehicle. In essence, too much heat or extremely low temperatures can harm and damage your battery. Fortunately, most electric cars have a thermal management system that protects the batteries against extreme temperature conditions. However, this is not enough. You should park in the shade to avoid the hot sun or store your car in a garage during winter to keep the batteries warm.
  • Plan for vacation storage
    If you are planning for a vacation or an extended period away, it is vital to keep your batteries charged to at least 50%. Fortunately, most EVs have a “storage mode” that takes care of the car and batteries while you are away. All you have to do is to plug in your vehicle and set it to storage mode.
  • Minimize use of fast charging stations (Level 3 chargers)
    Level 3 chargers (DC quick chargers) are not only fast but also convenient. However, these chargers release too much voltage that might affect the lifespan of your batteries in the long term. For this reason, it is advisable that you minimize on the number of times you use quick chargers.
  • Mountain mode
    The main benefit of driving hybrid electric vehicles is that they offer motorists the option of switching between gas and batteries as a source of power. If you own a hybrid vehicle, and your route consists of hilly terrain, then switching to mountain mode will conserve battery power by triggering on the gas engine. Essentially, the vehicle will draw power from the gas engine rather than the batteries, subsequently avoiding deep cycling.
  • Avoid deep discharging
    Never allow your EV battery to discharge to 0% before attempting to recharge it. This can significantly affect its lifespan or even brick the cells, rendering the battery useless. With this in mind, it is prudent that you keep an eye on the state of charge by always topping up whenever the battery drops down to the 30% mark.
  • Watch your speed
    Unbelievably, the speed at which you drive your car affects the battery’s lifespan. Driving at a fast rate draws out more power subsequently draining the battery. This will force you to recharge your battery more often, effectively lowering its lifespan. To avoid harming the battery, it is advisable that you drive slowly to conserve energy.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

The main reason why more motorists are turning to electric cars is that charging the vehicle does not cost as much as filling up with gas.

Notably, the average cost of gas in the U.S. is about $2.35 per gallon. If your gasoline car has a fuel economy of 25.3 mpg, you are likely to spend about $1,400, covering 15,000 miles annually.

Comparatively, the cost of electricity in America is about 12 cents per kilowatt. With most electric cars requiring 30 kilowatts per 100 miles, you will only spend $540 to travel 15,000 miles annually. This amount applies to home charging only.

Still on home charging, Level 1 charging does not require any additional equipment. This means that you stand to benefit from very low charging costs, as the charger only requires a 120V socket.

Upgrading to level 2 might be a preferred option, but you need to set up your charging unit by replacing the standard 120V outlet with a level 2 240-V outlet. This might be costly at first, but the fact that the charger is faster makes up for this shortcoming.

Amazingly, some public charging stations offer free services while others may require you to pay a small fee. Essentially, the costs vary from station to station. However, most charging points charge a flat connection fee and an additional rate billed per hour.

Charging your car at work is also free, as most employers deem this service as a benefit (perk) to their employees. However, some property owners might require the employer to pay additional charges for setting up a charging station in their premises.

Charging an electric car while it rains

Contrary to popular belief, charging an electric car in the rain is 100% safe. Moreover, you can go ahead and drive your car in the rain without worrying about your safety.

It is true that water is a good conductor of electricity. However, this does not mean that you risk experiencing an electric shock or starting a fire when charging an EV in the rain. Auto manufacturers certainly had this in mind when designing electric vehicles. Hence, all electric cars are waterproof and shockproof.

EVs go through stringent testing processes to ascertain that they are safe for use under extreme conditions ranging from heavy rains to snowstorms. The cars are specifically designed to protect motorists from harm whenever you are driving or charging.

Moreover, the chargers undergo rigorous testing at OSHA-certified labs to check for defects and ensure that they meet the highest possible safety standards. The electrical connectors are also waterproof while the charging cable comes in a rubber insulation to prevent electrocution in bad weather.

With all these safety features at your disposal, there is no chance in the world that your EV may cause electric shock when charging in wet conditions. Nevertheless, you should not allow the wall outlet to get too wet, just as a precautionary measure.

Charging an electric car during a thunderstorm

While it is safe to charge your car in the rain, charging an EV during a thunderstorm requires extra precautions.

Typically, lightning strikes are very common during a thunderstorm. Even though electric cars come with fuses and breakers to protect the vehicle from damage, lightning strikes might lead to power surges. The fluctuations in power might damage the charger, forcing you to invest in a new charging unit.

Unless you have a very powerful surge suppressor, charging an electric car during a thunderstorm is not advisable, especially if you are doing it outdoors. Nevertheless, with new technology coming up every day, the possibility of charging during a thunderstorm without fearing about the safety of your charger or vehicle will soon become a reality.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to charge an electric car is not as complex as most people want to believe. All you have to do is to weigh available options and opt for the one that best suits your needs. The good news is that nearly all charging options are affordable, convenient, and easy to set up. You can easily charge your car without needing any professional assistance.

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