The U.S. currently boasts 46,000 EV (electric vehicle) charging stations, compared to about 145,000 gasoline, ethanol, and diesel fueling stations.
For the time being, it takes some planning to keep your EV charged on long trips. Unlike gas stations, you won’t find an EV charging point every few blocks. Still, there’s never been a better time to own an electric vehicle.
As a result of legislation passed in 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Energy are investing at least $5 billion over the next five years to create a national EV charging network along 75,000 miles of the national highway system.
The goal is to have a standardized nationwide network of 500,000 EV charging stations by 2030 that are agnostic to location, vehicle brands, and EV charging companies. Approval and funding for this legislation’s first EV infrastructure deployment projects began in late September 2022.
3 Charging Levels to Choose From
Electric car charging has three levels based on charging voltage. The higher the voltage, the faster the charge. Depending on battery size, charging your EV battery to 80-100% capacity can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours.
Level 1 EV Charging
Quick Summary: Level 1 (a/k/a “trickle”) charging provides 4 miles per hour and can prepare your EV battery for basic daily use.
Level 1 on the EV charging spectrum is a regular household outlet (120 volts) coupled with an Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) such as the MEGEAR Skysword. Level 1 charging uses AC power and is generally found only in homes.
Level 1 charging provides the typical EV with 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging. You can see why Level 1 is often called “trickle charging” due to the slow speed.
Although Level 1 is slow, it’s adequate for the intended purpose: to provide enough power overnight to allow limited commuting and local errands the next day.
A full night’s charge at Level 1 will provide the average EV with about 50 miles of range, far exceeding the average daily mileage driven by most Americans. To fully charge an EV to 100% using Level 1 can take more than 30 hours.
Image of MEGEAR Skysword EV Charger (Megear.com)
Level 2 EV Charging
Quick Summary: Level 2 can charge your EV at home or a commercial charging station, providing 2-30 miles of range per hour of charge. A specialized 240V splitter can save you hundreds of dollars on installing a Level 2 home charging solution.
Level 2 is available for residential use and at most commercial (public) charging stations. It uses the same 240V outlet and AC power necessary for your dryer or stove, plus a separately purchased charger. (Expect to pay roughly $300-$700 for the charger.)
Level 2 can provide between 12-80 miles of range per hour of charge. Level 2 is best used overnight at home when you don’t need to travel, and electricity rates may be lower. Charging an EV battery from 0 to 100% takes 6-12 hours, depending on battery size.
If you don’t have a 240V outlet in your garage that can be dedicated to charging your EV, there are a couple of options:
- Hire an electrician to add a new 240V outlet and upgrade your electrical panel, which can run about $2,500.
- Install a specialized splitter that effectively creates two 240V outlets out of one by switching power automatically to the device that needs it. Two popular models are the NeoCharge Smart Splitter and the Dryer Buddy™ Plus Auto by BSA Electronics. These run less than $500.
Image of NeoCharge Smart Splitter (GetNeoCharge.com)
Level 3 EV Charging
Quick Summary: Level 3 (aka DC Fast Charging) uses 480 volts of power to charge your EV to 80% in 30 minutes.
Talk about living in the fast lane! Level 3, also known as DC Fast Charging, uses a whopping 480 volts to charge your EV battery from empty to 80% in as little as 30 minutes, or between 3-15 miles per minute. There is no separate charger because the charging station serves as the charger.
Due to the charging speed, Level 3 charging stations will throttle the speed at 80% to avoid accidental overcharging.
Level 3 charging is provided by DC Fast Charging networks (similar to branded gas stations). Two of the best-known are Electrify America and EVgo.
Image snip from Electrify America “Locate a Charger” (ElectrifyAmerica.com)
Public Charging Stations and Networks
On its Alternative Fuels Data Center website, the U.S. Department of Energy provides an interactive map tool listing Level 2 and Level 3 public charging stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. EV owners can enter their location, charge level needed, and connector type; the tool maps it out for you. The tool is also available as an app for iPhone and Android.
You can also use the tool to map out a specific trip to locate public charging stations available along your route.
Here’s an example of the map tool’s output for someone in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that needs a Level 2 public charging station in the 19125 zip code:
Image snip from U.S. DOE Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC.Energy.gov)
According to DOE, there are over 51,000 public EV charging stations in the U.S., with over 136,000 individual (EVSE) charging ports. That number includes about 41,000 Level 2 stations with over 91,000 charging ports and about 6,000 DC Fast Charging stations with 23,000 ports.
Congratulations on being an EV owner! You are helping reduce total lifecycle emissions by up to 89% compared to internal combustion engine vehicles.
EVs still make up a small portion of the new car market, with about 413,000 units sold in the U.S. during the first half of 2022 alone, versus 630,000 units sold in all of 2021 and 320,000 units sold in all of 2020. Estimates are that by 2030, EVs will represent nearly half (47%) of all vehicles sold in the U.S. annually.
And that means that, before very long, EV charging points will be as easy to find on your travels as fossil-fuel filling stations are now.
Featured image by frimufilms on Freepik.