The popularity of electric cars keeps growing as more people open up to the idea that electric vehicles will be an integral part of the future. If you are thinking of buying one, you already know you need to charge the vehicle for it to run. It might seem straightforward enough – connect the charger to the car and wait for it to “fill up” – but there are a lot of nuances that every electric vehicle owner should know about this process. We discuss this below.
An electric vehicle is powered by batteries that hold charge and provide power to electric motors. The electric motors then transfer driving motion to the wheels to get the vehicle to move. Charging the key is akin to filling up a combustion engine car at a petrol station.
Charging happens when you connect the vehicle to a charging station that acts as the power source. Once you connect both, a handshake occurs where the power station tells the car how much power it can provide, and the car tells the station how much power it can take. Once this process finishes, the car starts charging at the highest charging rate compatible with both it and the station.
All-electric cars like Tesla cars must be recharged at a charging station while hybrid cars can either be charged at such a station or refuelled at a petrol station.
Electric vehicles charge at three different power levels. These different power levels determine the equipment you need to charge the vehicle, how fast the vehicle chargers, and where you can charge your electric vehicle.
Level 1 charging allows you to charge your electric vehicle using a standard household outlet. It remains the most straightforward way to charge an EV at home. It uses a standard 120-volt charging cord and is generally very slow. This charging option can take up to 24 hours to fully charge a car which is why it is relegated to top-ups, emergencies, and roadside troubleshooting.
Note that you cannot use the same socket for anything else or charge anything else while your electric vehicle is charging.
Level 2 charging uses a 240-volt power source and chargers a vehicle much faster due to the higher power delivery speed. Many people who charge using a Level 2 charger at home use a dedicated charger. These charging units are installed in garages or on the die of houses and are fitted by a qualified and experienced electrician.
Some homes also have smart chargers that give you control over when to charge the car and how much charge to add. They can also let you schedule charging at night when the cost of power could be lower in your home.
If you cannot charge at home for some reason, you can always charge at a public charging station. How fast the car charges depends on how much power the station can deliver as well as how much power your vehicle can receive.
Standard charging stations are typically installed at transit points such as supermarkets, offices, or somewhere else where you do not stay for long. They typically deliver 7KW (7 units of power per hour).
Rapid chargers deliver a lot more power and are especially useful for topping up quickly before heading elsewhere. You can also fully charge your car as quickly as it takes you to eat lunch, so they are well-suited for those taking longer trips.
Now, you might be wondering how fast your car will charge. That depends on several factors, and you can refer to this LV Electrix charging times guide to know how to calculate how long it would take.
Traditional braking is a highly wasteful process because the friction that disk and drum brakes rely on to stop a car wastes a lot of energy. The kinetic energy lost as the vehicle slows down is converted to heat and sometimes sound at the braking mechanism level.
Regenerative brakes use an electric motor to slow down the car. They recapture energy that would be lost in non-electric cars and use an inverter to charge the batteries using this energy. Regenerative braking can improve both battery charge and mileage, but it is not the primary way of charging a battery.
The charge is little compared to what you would get from a charging station in a few minutes. This is why you should always charge your vehicle at a charging station when it reaches about 10% charge.
Considering the fact that many electric vehicle owners charge their vehicles at home, what are the upsides and downsides of doing so?
At-home charging is more dependable and convenient. Having a charger at home means you never have to wait in queues for a charger, which happens in areas where many people own electric vehicles. Also, you can charge your vehicle whenever you are at home, and you never have to wonder if the charger is working or not as you would at a public charging station.
Charging an electric vehicle at home is cheaper. This depends on the make and model of the car as well as when you charge it but doing so at home is generally cheaper. It is even cheaper for those who have solar panels because they can charge their cars when the sun is high or even use their vehicles as a store of power.
EV chargers add value to properties. As electric vehicles have become more popular, houses with in-built chargers have become more desirable which increased their value
The main downside of charging at home is possible long charge times. Unless you install a level 2 charger, your vehicle will take too long to charge. Even when you do, it will still be slower than a dedicated charging station.
Second, doing so increases your power bills. Although charging an electric vehicle is cheaper than filling a tank with petrol or diesel, you still need to factor in their cost when you own one.
Lastly, you need to invest in a charger at home. Apart from this installation, you also need somewhere to park the car as it charges.
The main benefit of charging in public is that you can top up while out. Many establishments now provide charging stations for their customers, which means you can top up your vehicle while you are out doing other things. These stations charge faster than your charger at home. Many can add 80% charge in about 20 minutes, but this will depend on the make and model of the car.
The biggest drawback of charging in public is range anxiety. Many people get anxious trying to find a charging station before they run out of charge. That said, things have got much better in recent years as some apps now show you charger locations.
Even when you find a charging station, you might find only one or two chargers available, and they may already be in use.
Electric vehicle batteries have become much better in recent years. Many electric vehicle owners do not have to worry about having enough charge if they charge their vehicles regularly. However, you still have to charge it, and there are things you need to understand about these processes as explained above.