Level 2 Versus Level 3 EV Chargers
Drivers of electric vehicles (EVs) in the US will soon have access to a nationwide network of EV charging stations, a move that is part of an increasingly clear message from the Biden administration. In February 2023, the federal government released final rules about the distribution of 7.5 billion of federal funds for EV charging as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Unmistakably, the commitment to electrification is solidifying across government, corporate, and consumer sectors. Many original equipment manufacturers have developed sustainability strategies. The state of California even set 2035 as the year by which EVs must constitute all new vehicle sales.
Yet many businesses continue to wonder if EV charging is worth the investment.
What does this investment mean in terms of cost, power needs, and a road map for the future?
The answers for your business begin by identifying your unique use case and understanding how EV charging complements your business objectives.
What Are the Different EV Charger Levels?
There are three primary types of EV chargers: level 1, level 2, and level 3. The difference among the levels has to do with the amount of electricity that the charger delivers to the battery of the electric vehicle. Higher levels mean greater power and faster charge.
Each EV has its own onboard charger capacity and automatically communicates with the charger to maximize the amount of charge it can accept. In other words, it’s not possible to “overcharge” an EV.
Level 1 EV Charging
Level 1 EV chargers work off 120-volt power, which is the standard power for a house. All electric vehicles come with a cord that the driver can use to plug the car into a standard outlet.
Level 1 power tops out around 2.4 kilowatts (kW) and provides about five miles of range for each hour of charging. As a result, level 1 chargers are most appropriate for home use. The EV can remain plugged in overnight and receive about 40 miles of range, enough for the commute or daily activity of most drivers.
Level 2 EV Charging
Level 2 charger stations require a 240-volt power source, typically used for larger appliances such as air conditioners and clothes dryers. Level 2 chargers operate up to 19.2 kW and generally charge an EV at about 40 miles per hour.
EV drivers might install a level 2 charger on a dedicated 240-volt circuit in the garage. This is also the level that businesses commonly install for employees or customers. In the US, more than 80% of publicly available EV chargers are level 2.
Level 3 EV Charging
A level 3 charger is also known as a direct-current fast charger (DCFC), because DCFCs feed direct current directly into an EV’s battery. A level 3 charging station runs on 480- or 1000-volt power, and many operate at 400 kW. The conversion of alternating current from the grid to direct current for the EV battery takes place within the charger.
As a result, level 3 chargers are the fastest chargers available. A level 3 DC fast charger can fully charge an EV in about a half hour.
Which Level of EV Charging Does My Business Need?
Whether your business needs level 2 or level 3 chargers is not a simple question. Decisions about EV charger installation depend above all on your business’s unique use case.
Determining Your Power Needs
The number one factor is the availability of the appropriate electrical infrastructure.
The 480-volt three-phase power required for level 3 charging generally exists in industrial and commercial systems.
The utility company typically considers businesses such as automotive dealerships, shopping malls, and office buildings to be small-time power users. The existing infrastructure would only support level 2 charging. If level 3 EV chargers fit your use case, an infrastructure upgrade to 480-volt three-phase power has to be part of the plan.
Understanding Time Requirements for EV Charging
Even if your company has the proper infrastructure for level 3 chargers, DC fast charging may not fit your use case. For example, if your EV fleet will be stationary overnight, level 2 charging solutions may be sufficient.
Future Energy recommends a full analysis of who you expect to use your EV chargers that gauges how long they will be charging their vehicles and the risk if they leave your establishment without a full charge.
Considering the Cost of EV Charging Solutions
“How much does an EV charger cost?” That’s one of the first questions we hear at Future Energy. The answer is more complicated than considering just the equipment’s price tag though.
The cost of a level 3 charger ranges from 40,000 to 175,000 per unit, as they vary widely by capability.
In many cases, your company can recoup much of your investment for the cost of EV chargers and infrastructure upgrades. There are funds available at the federal, state, and local levels in the form of tax credits, grants, rebates, and reductions in utility rates. Future Energy’s Financial Incentive National Database tool helps us uncover 99% of all available money to offset our clients’ costs related to their EV charger strategy.
What Does My Company Need to Do Now about EV Charging?
Just like a printer or industrial machinery, EV chargers will require upgrades at some point. That’s why Future Energy favors a phased approach to EV charging: plan for now while thinking about the future.
What Are Your Immediate Needs?
Current consumer EV charging demands may influence a company’s decision between level 2 and level 3 chargers. For example, hybrid vehicles (HEVs), which are powered by both a battery and internal combustion engine, are achieving record sales numbers in the US. Because they don’t rely exclusively on electricity, HEVs take less time to charge fully. Depending on your business use case, that could favor investment in level 2 chargers for the short term.
What Is Your Long-Term Strategy?
Future Energy works to help educate businesses on what a long-term EV charging investment would look like. The plan is more complex than a simple equipment installation or infrastructure project. Instead, the decision between level 2 and level 3 chargers will affect electrical power needs, electricity consumption, and a subsequent correlation to the utility bill.
What Does the Future Hold for EV Charging?
Future Energy focuses on the future, then works backward to your current needs. Level 2 EV chargers may be fine for now. But what could we see in 2035?
- Fully electrified fleets
- Employee expectations that they can charge at work
- Customers choosing locations that offer EV chargers
That’s why it’s critical to plan now for potential infrastructure needs in 10 years.
Who Can Help Answer My Questions about EV Charging Solutions?
Plan for the future of electrification by integrating level 2 and level 3 EV chargers into your road map. Contact Future Energy today for expert EV charging consulting for your business.
Sam DiNello is Chief Executive Officer at Future Energy. He is an expert in the EV infrastructure space and passionate about innovative data-driven solutions that help companies access real-time intelligence for real-time action.
Level 3 Is A Perfectly Legitimate Term For DC Fast Charging
Obviously, DC fast charging exists, and many people call that Level 3, so why are they saying it’s not real??
I came across an interesting conversation on earlier today that made it pretty clear that most people don’t know that much about the levels of EV charging, and sadly many people who know a little more than average often know just enough to cause trouble and confusion for others.
I’ll forgive you if you have no idea what these guys are talking about. They’re not bad people, and they’re not dumb people. If you follow them, you’d know that they’re very knowledgeable about EVs and EV charging, so it might seem absurd to see them say that there’s no such thing as Level 3 or L3 charging. Obviously, DC fast charging exists, and many people call that Level 3, so why are they saying it’s not real??
What They’re Talking About
What they’re talking about is SAE’s J1772 standard, which includes not only the J1772 plug, but also the standards for charging speeds and types.
The SAE J1772 standard lays out five types of charging: Levels 1-3 of AC charging, and two levels of DC charging. The AC standards are:
- AC Level 1, for 120 volt AC charging at 12 or 16 amps. This maxes out at 1.92 kW, but 12 amp is more common.
- AC Level 2, for 240 volt AC charging at up to 19.2 kW (up to 80 amps).
- AC Level 3, for faster AC charging from 22.7 up to 166 kW (this standard never actually ended up being used).
So, if you go by SAE’s charging standards, there really is no Level 3 DC fast charging. What we commonly call Level 3, SAE would call DC Level 1 or DC Level 2.
Nobody Really Follows This, Though
The truth is, everybody from CleanTechnica’s writers to charging network executives to government officials can be seen referring to DC fast charging as Level 3. Once again, I personally may or may not be an idiot, but I don’t think the executives of major charging providers and automotive manufacturers are that easy to pin that tail on. So, this begs the question: why are so many Smart people referring to DC fast charging as Level 3?
The answer is that SAE isn’t really official. I don’t mean to trash it at all, but the fact is nobody has ever suffered any consequences for not marching to SAE’s tune. It is a private entity, and the standards documents it compiles and propagates aren’t legally binding on anybody. Government entities may even reference these documents (because they are often quite useful), but that doesn’t mean anybody is obligated to use the language and terminology that SAE does.
While everybody from Elon Musk to an EV fanatic with ten followers on (one is their mom) often follows SAE’s terminology (especially the SAE Levels of Autonomous Driving™®©℠), people by and large use Level 3 to refer to DC fast charging, because everybody else does it. If you do it, other people will know what you mean, so it doesn’t hurt anything.
I’ll go ahead and define my own EV charging standard that everybody can reference if they want to at the end of this article. If anybody tells you that it’s incorrect to call DCFC Level 3, you can point to my published standard here and point out that my standard is just as official as SAE’s standard, plus it’s more widely used!
But first, let’s talk a bit about language.
Language Issues Can’t Be Solved Or Dictated By Authorities
I’d argue that categorizing all DC fast charging as Level 3 is more of a linguistic issue than a standards issue. What really matters is whether the car charges when you plug it in, and you could call your car’s charging port the Alien Abductee and the charging station The Probe and it wouldn’t change anything. But, if you came up to somebody else at a charging station and told them your probe wasn’t working right, they wouldn’t know what you’re talking about (but might be able to guess).
In other words, we’ve all got to be on the same page at least a high percentage of the time to communicate. But, the need for consistency and precision is an argument that can only be taken so far in defense of following a written standard instead of using what everybody is using.
After all, language changes over time. If it didn’t change, you’d be able to read this ancient English sentence: “Hwät! we Gâr-Dena in geâr-dagum þeód-cyninga þrym gefrunon, hû þâ äðelingas ellen fremedon.”
If you didn’t know, that’s the first few lines of Beowulf. That ancient Germanic language bears some resemblance to modern English, but it may as well be a foreign language. We got to here from that language a little bit at a time. Each generation (to the chagrin of their parents and grandparents) spoke a little differently than the last one. Even during a lifetime, one encounters new words for new things, borrow words from foreign languages, and much more.
This process of linguistic evolution is almost never guided by officials of any kind. Attempts to mandate language often fail when it is tried. Why? Because something as basic as how people speak is guided by culture and not authority.
This is what happened with charging “levels.” While the SAE doesn’t call DC fast charging Level 3, almost everybody else refers to it as Level 3. Even people who want to follow the SAE on this know what somebody else means when they say Level 3, so the language has changed despite their refusal to use the new term that has emerged in EV culture. Those of us who call DCFC Level 3 might be uneducated rubes in your eyes for doing it, but that’s an opinion and not a fact.
Jennifer at CleanTechnica’s Standard Levels of Charging (As Derived From Popular EV Culture in 2023)
I know the above reasons aren’t enough for some people, so I’ll give you a standard you can use so you can feel good about saying Level 3 to refer to DC fast charging.
Due to confusion over what is the proper way to describe EV charging speeds, I hereby promulgate this unofficial standard for EV charging levels. It’s based on popular language in the EV community, and is likely to be understood by all EV owners, manufacturers, and charging providers. Its already widespread use makes it an easy standard to adopt, so it wouldn’t be Smart to do anything else.
Jennifer’s official charging levels are:
- Level 1: All 120-volt charging, regardless of amperage
- Level 2: All 240-volt charging, regardless of amperage
- Level 3: All DC charging of vehicles above 22 kW, with no maximum amperage
Some other terms to know and use:
- DC Slow Charging: DC charging below 20 kW, often due to a nearly full battery at a Level 3 station or an overheated battery in an air-cooled electric vehicle (see “Karabast!” below)
- Euro Charging: 22 kW AC
- Direct Solar Charging: Delivering DC power directly to a vehicle’s traction battery from onboard solar panels
- The Ringy Dingy Thingy: The part of a car that dings or chimes to get your attention. This part is usually integrated into the vehicle’s computer these days, but it used to be a separate electronic module in older GM cars
- Karabast!: You should yell this or utter it despondently when your vehicle won’t charge properly for whatever reason. information here. Pronunciation and usage examples here.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:
I don’t like paywalls. You don’t like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don’t like paywalls, and so we’ve decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It’s a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So.
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you! Advertisement
Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her Bolt EAV and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on here, here, and YouTube here.
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.
EvoCharge EVSE Level 2 EV Charging Station
EvoCharge’s standard EVSE Level 2 charger is a simple plug-and-charge solution for the basic needs of charging your vehicle at home quickly and safely.
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.
What are the different options for charging my electric vehicle (EV)?
EV charger rebates for single-family homes are currently unavailable.
Visit the EV charger rebate program for information.
If installed at an apartment/condo or workplace, this networked charger may be eligible for a rebate.
Rebates for apartments/condos
Get up to 5,000 in rebates, up to 50% of costs, per charger to purchase and install Level 2 networked EV chargers at your building’s residential parking spaces, to a maximum of 25,000.
Rebate amounts vary depending on factors such as whether or not the building is participating in other EV Ready rebates.
Rebates for workplaces
Up to 5,000 per charger to purchase and install eligible Level 2 networked EV chargers for employee use, to a maximum of 25,000.
Pre-approval from BC Hydro is required for apartment/condo and workplace customers. Program maximums apply.
Load management: Allows multiple EV chargers to share the same electrical circuit, allowing the charging power to be distributed across each charger.
Networked: A networked charging station that is connected to a central system via internet communication such as open protocol (e.g. OCPP, OpenADR or other) or a proprietary system (must be connected to a network for minimum of two years).
Multiple ports: Allows multiple vehicles to charge at the same time.
CSA Certification: Tested and certified electric vehicle charging and components by CSA Group.
cETL Certification: Compliant with North American safety standards and tested/certified by Intertek.
cUL Certification: Compliant with Canadian safety standards by UL Canada.