Hybrid petrol-electric vehicles have been on the market for some time but they didn’t quite take off the way fully electric vehicles have. Electric vehicles (EV) haven’t been around for long but demand is already outstripping supply and with the rising costs of petrol, EVs are an even more attractive option to new car buyers.
EVs rely solely on power from the electric grid to run, which begs the question, where to fill up? A regular petrol station is out, but there are plenty of other power sources you can plug into, with powerful public charging stations cropping up as more local councils and large supermarket chains and shopping centres look to find ways to offer greener energy solutions.
EV chargers aren’t limited to public charging stations. While they are quick and easy if you are travelling long distances or if you are shopping for 30 minutes or so, it’s far more convenient to have a dedicated charging station installed at your home or office. That way you can plug in and charge your EV while your car is resting in the garage. You’ll feel more secure and can charge when you need to, not when you are out and about or when a charging station is available.
How to Charge an Electric Vehicle
To get your head around EV charging it’s easier to liken the process to mobile phone charging rather than what you are used to at a petrol bowser. It really is as easy as plugging your EV into a power source and, like a mobile charger, you can do this from just about any power point or charge station (as long as your cord is long enough).
Much like your mobile phone charging, each car make and model has its own specific charger fit, so you will need to top up your EV at the right station for your car type, or have an adapter on hand to fit your battery.
While station chargers are designed to look and handle in a way that is similar to petrol pumps, it’s not the straightforward fill-and-go process you get from liquid fuels. Rather you will need to give your battery adequate charge time which will depend on a variety of factors like:
- How much charge your battery already has
- How far you will be travelling next
- How much time you have
- Your EV battery size
- Your charger type and connection
Just like petrol you can choose to splash and dash, top up, or fill up from empty to max to suit your driving needs.
Free charge stations and home wall chargers will start pumping electricity as soon as you achieve a safe lock with the EV battery. Most EVs provide heads-up displays or dash lights to indicate how your charge is progressing.
It’s best to check out public charging stations before you need to use them so you know what to expect in terms of payment as well as the type of charge point needed for your car. In some cases, you may have to provide a charging cable or adapter.
It’s important to disconnect as soon as you have reached maximum charge from the power source – this might not be 100% capacity from public charge stations. It’s safest for your battery to be undercharged rather than overcharged to give you better durability and reliability.
While commonly referred to as EV charging stations the true term is Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). This refers to all of the hardware needed to deliver energy to charge your EV battery.
If you are using home electricity via a standard power point you’ll be connecting AC power, which stands for Alternating Current. Your EV battery is DC (Direct Current). While there is an onboard converter to change this over, it does slow the amount of power available. Some Level 2 and all Level 3 EVSEs supply DC straight to the battery for faster charging.
Standard charging plugs for Australian EVs are Type 2 Mennekes plug (using AC) and CCS and CHAdeMO for DC charging.
Types of EV Chargers
Charging station types fall into three categories, each level up increases the size of the charging unit and provides more power to your EV battery at greater speeds.
The type of charger you select will depend on where you are and your power supply needs. All EVs are capable of plugging into all three charge types- as long as the charge point is the right size and shape for the battery insert point.
Level 1 – Portable EVSE
Portable EVSE is the slowest power-up choice using a standard 10-Amp plug, which is your standard AC plug used in everyday household power points for charging at 120 volts.
Most car companies provide this plug as a minimum charging option in their EVs. If you don’t have off-street parking you will need to run an extension cord to your property to gain access to power.
One thing to keep in mind is there is a limited amount of electricity available in your home at any given time, meaning that if other appliances are needed your charging power will be reduced to handle the demand. With a strong supply from a level one portable charger you can expect to get between eight to ten kilometres for every hour on charge.
The pros are that you have access to power as long as you have a standard powerpoint, without any additional installations or expense so they are a popular choice for easy and cheap home charging.
Level 2 – Wall Chargers
Level 2 charging stations are dedicated fast chargers suitable for private homes and garages.
Wall chargers need to be installed by a professional electrician. The complex set-up is designed to deliver DC power to your EV battery that is safe for your home, yourself and your electric vehicle. Wall chargers are also compatible with solar charging so you can take advantage of free energy from the sun.
This purchase and installation will come at an extra expense but you get incredible convenience and your car is safely locked in your garage while you charge up.
This is the most convenient charging option for homes and offices as you get a dedicated power supply that won’t affect your home’s electricity use. You will also be able to find Level 2 charging stations in public car parks, especially supermarkets and shopping centres.
Using a 240-volt outlet you can expect to get between 30 and 45km of driving range per hour on charge. Regardless of what type of EV you have, the power from level two charge stations comes at rapid enough speeds that you can get a full charge to your EV in a few hours or overnight.
Level 3 – DC Fast Chargers
Level 3 (also known as DC Fast Chargers, rapid chargers and Tesla Superchargers) are superfast public charging stations. DC Fast Chargers are specialised equipment so purchase installation and maintenance is expensive, putting them out of reach for most Australian homes, although many governments are adding them to help encourage and support consumers towards greener driving.
Because Level 3 charging electricity is delivered in high volumes the maximum charge available is 80% of your battery capacity. You can expect to gain 250- 300 kilometres of driving range per hour on charge with most charges taking between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on your battery size and EV charge allowance.
Most Level 3 stations allow you to plug in using a standard Level 2 or 3 charger although some are restricted to only provide power to one EV type (i.e Tesla Supercharger is only available to Tesla EVs). Others may require an adapter so it’s best to check this before you start out, especially if you are planning a road trip.
Conclusion: Is It Worth Installing a Charging Station?
How you charge your EV will depend on how often you use your car and where you park it for charging. The most convenient and safest way to charge is by installing a dedicated wall charger in your home garage or place of work to provide efficient and reliable DC charging when you need it.
While Level 2 charging stations are available in public spaces (usually for free) you’ll need to leave home to plug in and hope that the station is available when you get there. You also need to consider that you might not be parked long enough to get a large amount of charge, meaning you’ll need to revisit and top up more often.
For more information on the best EV Charger Installation for you, get in touch with the team at Complete Electrical Service.