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EV charging levels and plugs explained

By David Bonnici, 19 Oct 2020 Car Advice

Electric vehicles have three levels of charging that offer slow to ultra-rapid speeds. Let's have a look at each one

ev charging

One of the challenges of electrification will be the breaking of old habits.

We're all so used to visiting a service station to fill up our ICE cars, it will take time to adjust to the new normal of topping up our EVs.

While charging an electric vehicle is simple, there are several ways to do it that involve different charging times and cost.

One of the first things you’ll hear about when it comes to plugging in an EV is the different levels of charging. This can be broken down into three categories – Levels 1, 2 and 3. 

Level 1 - AC trickle charging

This is basic home charging where you plug the car into a standard 240-volt AC (alternating current) socket. While it's convenient, it is the slowest method of charging, offering about 2.0kW of charging power through a normal 10-amp socket.

2019 Hyundai Ioniq EV charge port

This means it can take from four to 48 hours to charge your car, depending on the battery size.

How to work out EV charging time for battery capacity

Calculating this quite simple – just divide the battery capacity by two to gain an approximate time. For example:

Using a 15-amp 3.6kW socket will reduce these times to about 4, 11 and 22 hours respectively.

MORE How much does it cost to charge an EV?

Of course, these times will be less if there is charge in your car's battery – 50 percent charge will require half the time, which is why it’s a good idea to top up whenever you can.

How to work out EV charging times for distance

If you want to know how long you’ll need to charge your car to travel a certain distance, the charging capacity in kW is the same value as the kilometres you’ll get from 10 minutes of charging.

For example, if you are using a 2.0kW Level 1 charger you will get around two kilometres for every 10 minutes of charging.

Level 2 - AC fast charging

While Level 1 charging will usually be convenient for plug-in-hybrids that can be fully topped up overnight, you might need something faster for a full battery electric vehicle (BEV) like the Nissan Leaf or Mercedes-Benz EQC.

 ev charger level 2 wallbox

The good news is there is a quicker home option by installing a Level 2, or wall box, charger, which increases the power coming out of a wall socket to 7.2kW with 240-volt AC single-phase power, which is the standard in Australian homes.

This brings charging times down considerably, with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV gaining a full charge from empty in two hours, and the Nissan Leaf and Mercedes-Benz ECQ 5.5 and 11 hours respectively.

MORE: Is it time to switch to an electric car?

And you’ll get 7.2km travel range for every 10 minutes, meaning about 43km in after an hour's charging, which is enough for the average Aussie commute.

A 7.2kW Level 2 charger costs around $1000 to $1500 dollars, which is pretty good value considering what you pay for a full set of tyres or new car options such as a sunroof.

22kW charger

Level 2 charging can also increase to 22kW capacity if you have 415-volt three-phase power available - however, it's worth noting that some EVs will only charge at a maximum of 7.6kW even with a 22kW AC charger.

With 22kW get 22km for every 10 minutes of charging, so just an hour of plug time will get you about 130km. 

The 22kW Level 2 chargers are priced in the region of $1000 to $3000 with the 22kW versions at the higher end of the bracket.

Getting three-phase power installed if you don’t have it will probably cost considerably more.

You’ll also find many public charging points are Level 2 (7.2kW or 22kW) so be sure you know what capacity they are before you drive to them if time is important.

It's worth noting that most PHEV models, because of their smaller battery capacity, will only charge at a maximum rate of 7.6kW even when using a 22kW AC charger. 

Level 3 - DC rapid charging

These are the public DC chargers (480-volt/direct current) including Tesla Superchargers that are crucial in making EVs viable for driving long distances with little downtime for charging.

Rapid charging capacity ranges from 50kW and ultra-rapid chargers with up to 350kW capacity.

It’s worth noting that lower capacity EVs, such as plug-in hybrids and the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq and Renault Zoe, are unable to use ultra-rapid charging, but are okay with up to 50kW charging. PHEV models can only connect to AC chargers.

MORE Here are the fastest charging EVs

Even the higher-capacity models such as Tesla Model S, Mercedes-Benz EQC and Audi e-tron will have a maximum charging capacity of around 110-150kW.

The good news is the car and charger speak to each other via the cable to only draw the maximum charge capacity.

What are there different EV charging plugs and ports?

ev charging plug types

As we’ve seen with mobile phones, there are different kinds of EV plugs and sockets, which threatened to make the rolling out of charging networks quite complicated. 

The good news for Australian drivers is there is now a standard for AC charging... but it's a different matter when it comes to DC rapid charging.

Type 1 AC 

Also referred to as J1772 or SAE J1772, this is the standard plug in North America and Japan, and is found in Australia in pre-2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs.

It has a five-pin design. The two small pins connect data between the car and charger to determine the maximum current available to the vehicle to prevent the car from moving while still connected.

type 1

The three larger pins are for the 110/240-volt AC power connection including the earth. Because there are few public chargers with Type 1 plugs, Outlander can use Type 2 adaptor.

Type 2 AC 

Also referred to as the IEC 62196 or Mennekes plug, this is the standard plug in Australia and Europe for AC charging and is used by all EV manufacturers, including Tesla.

Type 2 EV SOCKET PLUG

The Type 2 plug has a seven-pin design, with five power pins to support three-phase charging.

It’s worth noting that while Teslas use a Type 2 plug, Tesla Chargers will only charge Tesla vehicles, thanks to an electronic 'lock' that prevents other EV owners from charging on Tesla's network.

All plug-in hybrid models in Australia except the Outlander are equipped with a Type 2 charging ports. EVs with CCS2 ports (see below) can accept Type 2 plugs.

CHAdeMO

This is an abbreviation for Charge de Move, which is French for 'move using charge'. 

The Nissan Leaf has both Type 2 and CHAdeMO sockets and the Tesla Model S and Model X can use a CHAdeMO via an adaptor.

CHAdeMO ev plug

 

EVs in Australia with CHAdeMO sockets include:

  1. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (from 2019)
  2. Nissan Leaf (Gen 1 and 2)

CCS Combo

Short for combined charging system, CCS can be used for AC and DC chargers. There are two kinds CCS sockets CCS1 and CCS2. Cars with the CCS2 socket are ideal for Australia as they can connect to CCS DC rapid chargers and Type 2 AC chargers.

These are becoming more and more popular and can be retrofitted to existing models with only Type 2 sockets.

CCS ev charging plug

 

EVs with CCS2/Type 2 ports include:

 

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