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Learn the Basics About Charging Stations

Growing as rapidly alongside the Electric Vehicle market is the Electric Vehicle Charging Station industry. Other common names you may hear are Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) or Car Charging Stations. Whichever name you use, here are some basic things for you to know.

Charging Stations come in two classes: residential or commercial.  Residential charging stations are built for single-family homes. They don’t have much technology, but they do provide the electricity that is needed to recharge your vehicle.  Residential charging stations can easily be purchased at big retail locations.  When you purchase an Electric Vehicle, the dealership may even help you decide on where to purchase a residential station.

Commercial stations are more sophisticated, both in terms of hardware and software. They are built for commercial applications such as at the mall, at your office, at the grocery store, in a public parking garage, etc. Commercial stations go through intense laboratory testing to ensure that they meet all electrical codes and guidelines. In addition, commercial stations usually come equipped with smart software that will allow the station owner to manage usage. Through this software, station owners can run sustainability reports, bill their EV drivers, monitor electricity usage, and more.

Levels of Charging

There are three main levels of charging an electric vehicle.

Level I – Level I refers to the standard 110VAC outlets that you have in your home.  This is a very basic charge for an electric vehicle and will take much longer to recharge.  For example, recharging a 100% Nissan Leaf with a Level I EV charger will take approximately 20 hours from empty to full.  Recharging a Chevy Volt, which goes 40 miles on electricity and then switches to a small gas engine, will take approximately 5 – 6 hours to recharge from empty to full.

Level II (Residential) – Level II residential charging stations push energy at 240Volts and 30Amps.  This is equivalent to a typical home washer or dryer.  Level II residential stations are typically built for single-family home garages where there is one dedicated user.  You can even easily purchase a Level II residential charging station at large hardware stores for around $500 – $1,000.

*Level II (Commercial) – Level II Commercial stations have really emerged as the industry standard for charging vehicles when not at home. They deliver the same 240Volts and 30Amps as the residential stations, however, the real value comes in when the commercial stations are smart-networked.  This means that the station is connected to software that makes it easy for a building owner to manage their stations, see how many EV drivers have used the stations, run sustainability reports, bill for electricity usage and more.  To recharge a 100% Nissan Leaf with a Level II commercial charging station would take approximately 5-6 hours from empty to full and a Chevy Volt approximately 3 – 4 hours.  For this reason, Level II commercial stations are an ideal fit, both in charging time and affordability for commercial applications.

Level III, or DC Fast Charging – Level III, sometimes referred to as DC Fast Charging, ranges from 200 to 600 VDC and can recharge an electric vehicle in as little as 30 minutes. This is a fantastic solution for charging on the go. However, the major setback for Level III EV charging is that there is not one standard plug for all EVs. In the US, there are two competing standards, CHAdeMO and SAE.  Additionally, Level III charging port is not offered on any plug-in EV, like the Chevy Volt or Ford Fusion. In addition, owning and managing a Level III station is incredibly expensive, sometimes upwards of $50,000 or more. Your building also has to be well equipped to handle such an electric load capacity. You will typically find Level III or DC Fast Charging stations purchased by your state government along interstate highways.