EV Charger Types
EV chargers are classified into three categories: Level 1, Level 2 and direct current (DC) fast chargers.
EV chargers are classified into three categories: Level 1, Level 2 and direct current (DC) fast chargers.
Important differences include:
- Input voltage. This is how much power a charger requires to operate and is expressed in volts.
- Power output. This is how much power a charger can generate and is expressed in kilowatts (kW).
- Charging speed. This is the number of miles added to the EV’s battery per hour of charging and depends on the charger’s power output.
- Equipment and installation cost. While basic EV chargers are inexpensive and can be plugged into a standard outlet, others have higher upfront equipment and must be installed professionally by an electric vehicle service provider (EVSP).
- EV power intake. Depending on your EV, the power output pulled from a charger (in kW) may be limited by how much the EV’s battery can withstand. Check your vehicle’s specifications to know which charging level your vehicle can use.
Numerous manufacturers produce EV chargers, with a variety of products, price points, applications and functionality. Because of these differences, it is important to choose an EV charger that fits your intended use and budget.
Direct Current Fast Charging
How fast is DC fast charging?
Depending on the EV, DC fast chargers can currently produce a 10-80% charge for a 300-mile range battery in approximately 20 minutes (~540 miles of electric drive per hour of charging).
What is the input voltage for a DC fast charger?
Currently available DC fast chargers require inputs of at least 480 volts and 100 amps, but newer chargers are capable of up to 1000 volt and 500 amps (up to 360 kW).
How much do DC fast chargers cost?
A CALeVIP Cost Data analysis found that the unit cost per charger for rebate recipients ranged from a minimum of 18,000 to a maximum of 72,500. The mean and median unit cost per charger was 29,135 and 23,000, respectively.
In addition to higher equipment costs, DC fast charger installations require a commercial electrician from the initial planning phase due to the electrical load and wiring requirements.
Is a DC fast charger the right EV charger for me?
DC fast chargers are the highest-powered EV chargers on the market. They often are used as range extenders along major travel corridors for long-distance trips and in urban environments to support drivers without home charging or very high mileage drivers. At current charging speeds, they are ideal for places where a person would spend 30 minutes to an hour, such as restaurants, recreational areas and shopping centers.
It is important to note that not every EV model is capable of DC fast charging, and therefore, they cannot be used by every EV driver. Further, DC fast chargers have multiple standards for connectors, whereas there is only one common standard for Level 1 and 2 charging (SAE J1772). DC fast chargers have three types of connectors: CHAdeMO, CCS and Tesla, though CCS is increasingly becoming the industry standard.
Level 2 Chargers
How fast is Level 2 charging?
A Level 2 charger can currently produce a full charge for a 300-mile range battery in about 6-8 hours and is perfect for destination and overnight charging.
What is the input voltage of a Level 2 charger?
Level 2 chargers typically require 220V or 240V service.
What is the power output of a Level 2 charger?
Level 2 chargers are available with a variety of power outputs from 3 kW to 19 kW, which can sometimes be adjusted.
How much do Level 2 chargers cost?
CALeVIP Cost Data show that rebate recipients reported average L2 equipment costs ranging from 685 to 6,626 per connector. The mean and median were 5000,976 and 5000,884 per connector, respectively.
Is a Level 2 charger the right EV charger for me?
Level 2 chargers are typical solutions for residential and commercial/workplace settings. Most offer higher power output than Level 1 chargers and have additional functionality.
Non-networked vs. networked chargers
In general, Level 2 chargers are distinguished between non-networked chargers and networked chargers.
Networked chargers have advanced capabilities, such as charge scheduling, load management and demand response. They are more common in commercial/workplace settings where payments are required or at multiunit dwellings (MUDs) where the property’s electricity bill is shared by multiple residents.
They may be designed for indoor or outdoor use (e.g., NEMA 3R, NEMA 6P, NEMA 4x rated).
Some models of networked chargers also can limit charging to certain hours, which allows the operator to maximize a time-of-use (TOU) electricity rate structure and only allow charging when electricity is the cheapest (usually sometime between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.). This type of control also increases the likelihood of participating in utility demand response programs.
Some of the enhanced features of a networked Level 2 charger include remote access/control via Wi-Fi or cellular connection, access control/ability to accept multiple forms of payment, load balancing across multiple chargers and more. Additionally, California will soon begin allowing the use of submeters already embedded within networked chargers to bill electricity use. For more information on submetering, visit the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) website.
Non-networked Level 2 chargers are used both in single-family residences and MUDs. They may be designed for indoor or outdoor use (e.g., NEMA 3R, NEMA 6P, NEMA 4x rated). Non-networked Level 2 chargers are useful for installations at MUDs or commercial sites that are powered by the residents’ or tenants’ subpanels.
In this case, any electricity used by the chargers will be charged to the individual’s electricity bill, thus eliminating the need to separately meter the chargers. Further, when electrical capacity is available, non-networked Level 2 chargers are useful for site hosts that need higher power than Level 1 charging but do not have a large budget.
Installing a Level 1 electric vehicle charger
Level 1 EV chargers come with your electric vehicle and don’t require any special installation – simply plug your Level 1 charger into a standard 120 volt wall outlet and you’re ready to go. This is the biggest appeal of a Level 1 charging system: you don’t have to deal with any extra costs associated with an installation, and you can set the entire charging system up without a professional.
A level 2 EV charger uses 240 volts of electricity. This has the benefit of offering faster charging time, but it requires a special installation procedure as a standard wall outlet only provides 120 volts. Appliances like electric dryers or ovens use 240 volts as well, and the installation process is very similar.
Level 2 EV charger: the specifics
Level 2 installation requires running 240 volts from your breaker panel to your charging location. A “double-pole” circuit breaker needs to be attached to two 120 volt buses at once to double the circuit voltage to 240 volts, using a 4-strand cable. From a wiring perspective, this involves attaching a ground wire to the ground bus bar, a common wire to the wire bus bar, and two hot wires to the double-pole breaker. You may have to replace your breaker box entirely to have a compatible interface, or you may be able to simply install a double-pole breaker in your existing panel. It is essential to make sure that you shut off all power going into your breaker box by shutting off all breakers, followed by shutting off your main breaker.
Once you have the correct circuit breaker attached to your home wiring, you can run your newly installed 4-strand cable to your charging location. This 4-strand cable needs to be properly insulated and secured to prevent from damage to your electrical systems, especially if it is being installed outdoors at any point. The last step is to mount your charging unit where you will be charging your vehicle, and attach it to the 240 volt cable. The charging unit acts as a safe holding location for the charge current, and doesn’t let electricity flow through until it senses that your charger is connected to your car’s charging port.
Considering the technical nature and risk of a Level 2 EV charger DIY installation, it is always Smart to hire a professional electrician to install your charging station. Local building codes often require permits and inspections by a professional anyways, and making an error with an electrical installation can cause cause material damage to your home and electrical systems. Electric work is also a health hazard, and it is always safer to let an experienced professional handle electric work.
Professional installation can cost anywhere between 200 and 450,200 depending on the company or electrician you work with, and this cost can rise higher for more complicated installs.
Pairing your EV with rooftop solar is a great combined energy solution. Sometimes solar installers will even offer package purchase options involving a full EV charger installation with your solar installation. If you’re considering upgrading to an electric car sometime in the future, but want to go solar now, there are a few considerations that will make the process easier. For example, you can invest in microinverters for your PV system so that if your energy needs increase when you buy your EV, you can easily add extra panels after the initial install.
Installing a Level 3 electric vehicle charger
Level 3 charging stations, or DC Fast Chargers, are primarily used in commercial and industrial settings, as they are usually prohibitively expensive and require specialized and powerful equipment to operate. This means that DC Fast Chargers are not available for home installation.
Most Level 3 chargers will provide compatible vehicles with about 80 percent charge in 30 minutes, which makes them better suited for roadside charging stations. For Tesla Model S owners, the option of “supercharging” is available. Tesla’s Superchargers are capable of putting about 170 miles worth of range into the Model S in 30 minutes. An important note about level 3 chargers is that not all chargers are compatible with all vehicles. Make sure you understand which public charging stations can be used with your electric vehicle before relying on level 3 chargers for recharging on the road.
The cost for charging at a public EV charging station is also diverse. Depending on your provider, your charging rates may be highly variable. EV charging station fees can be structured as flat monthly fees, per-minute fees, or a combination of both. Research your local public charging plans to find one that fits your car and needs best.
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The best EV charger for Teslas
If you drive a Tesla, this is your best option for at-home charging. It’s rated for up to 48 A of current, suitable for indoor and outdoor use, and backed by a two-year warranty. It also has a super-streamlined look, and its built-in cable organizer keeps its 24-foot cord neatly stored.
Not surprisingly, our testing showed that the best charger for a Tesla EV is Tesla’s flagship charger, the Tesla Wall Connector. It’s not our top pick for all drivers, because connecting it to a non-Tesla EV requires a pricey third-party adapter that isn’t designed for everyday use. (Plus, since Tesla sells more EVs than the other car companies combined, its chargers are in high demand and often out of stock.) But if you drive a Tesla, it’s the best option available with the company’s proprietary connector. Its maximum current rating of 48 A is among the highest of those we tested, and at this writing its price is one of the lowest.
The Tesla Wall Connector is even slimmer and lighter than the Grizzl-E Classic, it has a super-sleek look, and it’s backed by Tesla’s two-year warranty. This charger has a 24-foot cord, just like the Grizzl-E Classic, and its built-in cable organizer is elegantly designed. It’s not quite as weatherized as our non-Tesla pick, but it’s still rated to provide ample protection against dirt, dust, and oils, splashes and sprays of water, and temperatures between.22° to 122° Fahrenheit.
The biggest downside to this charger is that it lacks plug-in options, so you have to hardwire it into your home’s electrical system. That’s less convenient if you want to be able to move your charger without calling an electrician. But since hardwiring is generally preferable to plug-in installation anyway, we don’t consider this a fatal flaw.
Max current rating: 48 AWeatherproof rating: IP55 (highly dustproof and waterproof)Installation options: one (hardwire)Warranty: two years
As the writer of this guide, I spent 28 hours researching and 85 hours testing EV chargers. I’ve been a science writer for more than nine years, covering a wide variety of topics, from particle physics to satellite remote sensing. Since joining Wirecutter, in 2017, I’ve reported on surge protectors, rechargeable batteries, power banks for phones and tablets, and more.
In preparation to write this guide, I interviewed Paul Vosper (CEO of JuiceBar, a manufacturer of commercial EV charging stations founded in 2009) about the history and current landscape of the EV charging industry. I discussed the ins and outs of installing an EV charger in a private home or an apartment building with Tracy Price (CEO of Qmerit, a network of certified electricians specializing in the installation of EV chargers) and Caradoc Ehrenhalt (CEO of EV Safe Charge, an EV charger installation and consulting firm). To better understand the needs and concerns of EV drivers, I interviewed Joe Flores, deputy director at San José Clean Energy, a nonprofit electricity provider; Suncheth Bhat, director of clean energy transportation for the Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE) utility company; and Aaron August, PGE’s vice president of utility partnerships and innovation.
Who this is for
If you’re in the process of buying an EV, and you want the fastest possible at-home charge right out of the gate, this is the guide for you. If you already own an EV, and you’re thinking about leveling up (literally) from a sluggish Level 1 charger to a speedier Level 2 charger, this guide is also for you. If you’re just here to learn, welcome! We hope you find what you’re looking for.
Gas-powered vehicles might still rule the road, but global EV sales doubled in 2021, and analysts expect there to be 26 million EVs worldwide by the end of 2022. We can safely assume that these millions of EV drivers, despite having at least one thing in common, have widely varying lifestyles, needs, and priorities: They could be homeowners in single-family houses or renters in multi-unit apartment buildings. Or they might be remote workers who rarely leave the house or ride-share drivers clocking hundreds of miles a day. Maybe they pass dozens of charging stations along their daily route, or perhaps they live 90 miles from the nearest public charger.
Regardless of your situation, though, having the most powerful EV charger possible at home will likely be a worthwhile investment. Per the U.S. Department of Transportation, a Level 1 charger can take days (40 to 50 hours) to charge an EV battery from empty to full, whereas a Level 2 charger can complete the same task in just four to 10 hours. Even if you don’t put many miles on your car, and topping off the battery overnight works for you most of the time, you still might want to have a charger at home that lets you juice up quickly in the event of a wildfire, flash flood, or other unforeseen disaster.
In addition to faster charging times, Level 2 chargers often come with features you might not get from the charger that came with your EV, such as:
- the option to hardwire the charger directly into your home’s electrical grid
- a long cord that can reach across a two-car garage or carport
- a smartphone app that supplements your EV’s app to track battery life, charge times, and more
- a weatherproof enclosure to add protection from elements
As is true of any home-improvement project, upgrading your EV charging setup will come at a cost. In addition to the sticker price of the charger, you’ll likely pay around 400 to 450,200 to have it professionally installed. You can circumvent some of these installation costs by buying a plug-in model, but if you don’t already have a 240 V outlet installed at your parking spot (they’re typically used for RVs or electric stovetops, among other things), you’ll still need to spend at least a few hundred dollars to take advantage of the Level 2 charger’s higher current. The silver lining here is that to help recoup the costs of going electric, many federal, state, and regional programs offer rebates and other incentives, including discounted rates for electricity usage during off-peak hours (which you can manage through your EV’s app or, if it has one, your EV charger’s app).
If you rent your home and you’re unsure whether your rental agreement allows you to install a Level 2 charger, check your state’s “right to charge” laws. Likewise, if you own a home or rental property, the U.S. Department of Energy has a trove of resources explaining the various rules, regulations, and rudiments of installing EV chargers.
How we picked
To find the most well-known and widely available makers of Level 2 EV chargers, we sniffed around the websites of major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart, as well as industry publications such as Car and Driver, CleanTechnica, Electrek, and InsideEVs. From there, we built a list of contenders based on the following features:
- Costs less than 5000,000: Most chargers we considered cost 450,000 or less, but we were open to pricier options that add an extra feature, such as the ability to charge two EVs at once. The annual savings from switching to electric will vary depending on your driving habits, the type of car you drive, fuel costs, and a variety of other factors. But whether you spend 500 or 5000,000, your EV is likely to pay for the cost of your charger in less than a year. In 2022, according to a AAA study, powering the average EV will cost 5000,100 less per year than fueling a traditional car, and that doesn’t even include the reduction in maintenancecosts. (You can see how your car stacks up using an online calculator from the U.S. Department of Energy.)
- Has at least a 32 A maximum current rating: To provide the fastest possible at-home charge, Level 2 chargers run off a 240 V circuit, passing between 16 to 80 A of current to your vehicle. Since most EVs come with a portable Level 1 charger capable of trickle charging up to 32 A from a standard 120 V outlet, we made that our minimum amperage requirement.
- Has at least a 20-foot cord: Longer cords tend to be thicker and more unwieldy than shorter ones, but a lengthy cord is critical for an EV charger to ensure that it can reach the car’s charging port. A typical two-car garage is 20 to 24 feet wide, so we struck any chargers with a cord shorter than 20 feet from our testing pool. We didn’t set an upper limit for cord length, though the National Electrical Code (NEC) set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) caps it at 25 feet, and we didn’t see any that were longer than that.
- Weighs 50 pounds or less: Even though most Level 2 chargers are intended for stationary use, you may occasionally need to lift your charger into a car trunk (to bring it on a road trip, say) or move it on and off a wall mount. As such, we set a weight limit of 50 pounds, since heavier loads have an increased risk of injury.
- Has a NEMA 14-50 plug and/or can be hardwired: Hardwiring is generally preferable to a plug-in installation, since it creates a more seamless (and, therefore, more energy-efficient) connection between your home’s wiring and the charger. Hardwiring also offers better protection against the elements (vital if you’re planning to install your charger outside) and can deliver between 15 A to 60 A to your vehicle, whereas a NEMA 14-50 (plug-in) connection can handle only 15 A to 50 A. On the downside, in order to hardwire your charger, you’ll need to have it installed (ideally by a certified electrician) and, if you ever want to move it, have it uninstalled. Since everyone’s living situations and needs are different, we can’t say that one method or the other is better across the board; in the end, we preferred each model in our testing pool to have at least one of these installation options, and we gave bonus points to those that offered both. We considered additional plug configurations (such as the less-versatile NEMA 6-50 plug, which lacks a neutral wire and is most commonly used for welding equipment) to be nonessential bonuses.
- Certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL): A seal of approval from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek’s Electrical Testing Labs (ETL), or any of the other testing facilities recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates that a product meets rigorous safety and compliance standards. We required that each charger have a certification from one or more of these organizations.
- Has at least a one-year warranty: We think a year is ample time to use your charger on a regular basis and ensure that it’s not a dud. Still, a longer warranty period is nice, since it gives you more wiggle room in case a part breaks or your charger conks out unexpectedly.
- Can be used safely outdoors: If you typically park in a carport or other outdoor parking space, you’ll want to make sure your charger is protected from blowing dust, rain, and other inclement conditions. Even if you plan to keep your charger in an enclosed garage, it’ll still be exposed to the elements to a lesser extent when the door is open. We gave preference to chargers with more robust Ingress Protection (IP) or National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) ratings (two common grading scales for weatherproofing) and to those rated to withstand more extreme temperatures, so you can juice up in a variety of environments.
- Has a cord organizer: We preferred that each model in our testing pool include some type of cord organization system, whether it be a simple wall-mounted hook or an elaborate retraction system. Not only does this keep your garage looking tidy, but it prevents someone from tripping over the cord or running it over and damaging it.
- Has a history of positive : We ran some of our top contenders through FindOurView, a program that analyzes online user ratings and reviews to highlight common patterns. Although some models had an insufficient number of reviews for the software to analyze, this allowed us to identify a few models with consistently reported problems, which we then cut from our list.
The Difference Between Level 1 2 EV Chargers
Whether you already own an electric vehicle (EV) or are looking to purchase one in the near future, the biggest topic of concern for most drivers comes down to where charging will occur and how much it will cost.
Despite having an environmentally friendly vehicle that cuts reliance on gasoline, using a Level 1 home charger is not reliable or convenient for most EV drivers. Instead, having a faster, Level 2 charging station can reduce range anxiety and calm logistical fears, as you become less reliant on charging on the go.
But what exactly is a Level 2 car charger and why does it present better value than its Level 1 counterpart?
Types of EV Charging Connectors: What is Level 2 Charging?
Vehicle owners are often supplied with Level 1 chargers from automobile manufacturers at the time of purchase to use at home with 120v standard outlets. However, upgrading to a Level 2 EV charger is a good and practical investment. A Level 2 charger is like having your own gas pump in your garage, but it is a Smart appliance that charges your vehicle. An added convenience: not only is a Level 2 car charger ready when you need it to be, you can save on electricity by charging during lower rate times.
A Level 2 EV charging station delivers an electrical current from an outlet or hardwired unit to the vehicle via the connector, similar to a standard-issue charger. Level 2 car chargers use a 208-240v power source and a dedicated circuit — potentially up to 60 amps. However, 32 amp charging stations like the EvoCharge EVSE or iEVSE Home Smart EV Charger offer more flexibility and potential costs saving by requiring a lower 40 amp circuit.A Level 1 will deliver around 1.2 kW to the vehicle, while a Level 2 charger ranges from 6.2 to 19.2 kW, with most chargers around 7.6 kW.
How Fast is a Level 2 EV Charger?
While a Level 1 charger will typically get 4 miles of driving range per hour of charge, a Level 2 charger will get an average of 32 miles of driving range per hour of charge. This means that you’re charging up to 8 times faster with a Level 2 charging station. Typical charging time for a Level 2 EV charger is around 3-8 hours from empty to full while the average Level 1 EV charger will take 11-20 hours to fully charge.
Level 2 chargers will deliver 6.2 to 19.2 kW versus the 1.2 kW you get with a Level 1. For a direct comparison, check out this resource to see how fast a Level 2 charger is compared to its counterpart.
When One Might Consider a Level 1
A Level 2 EV charger needs a 240v outlet, which many new homes or new multi-unit homes and building standards require. If you do not have a 240v outlet, a certified electrician can easily install one and the cost can sometimes be offset through local, federal, state or utility companies which offer rebates and financial incentives for the charger, installation, or for charging during lower electric rate times.
Additionally, Level 2 charging stations like the EvoCharge iEVSE Home Smart EV Charger allow you to customize charging schedules with the EvoCharge mobile app to better control charging, lessening your overall cost and making you eligible for further rebates through your municipality so you get faster charging times at a lower cost. The mobile app also provides usage history, multiple vehicle controls, and much more.