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Level 1 vs Level 2 EV Charging Stations

Now that the Chevrolet Bolt EV, second generation Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 are on the road, drivers have more choices in affordable electric cars with long range.

Pure battery electric vehicles (BEV) can take quite a while to charge if empty; plug in hybrids can recover their electric range more quickly. So, when does it make sense to get a faster home EV charging station (also referred to as an EV charger or EVSE, which in EV lingo stands for electric vehicle supply equipment) installed?

There are three types of chargers, but only the first two are really meant for your home:

Level 1 Charging Stations

These charging stations use a normal 120-volt connection, which uses any standard household outlet; there are no extra costs here. The downside is that charging times can be slow. Many electric vehicle owners will likely find that they typically don’t deplete more of the battery than can be replenished overnight using a basic 120V connection.

Level 2 Charging Stations

These EV chargers use a higher-output 240-volt power source, like the one that you plug your oven or clothes dryer into. Charging times are much faster than with a Level 1 EV charging station. A Mercedes B Class 250e, for example, can take 20 hours to fully charge (87 miles of range) with a standard 120-volt charging station. A 240-volt Level 2 charger can fully charge a 250e in three hours.

Most EV owners find they want a faster charge and upgrade to a Level 2 charging station soon after buying their electric car. A high-speed charging station at home is much more convenient and also can add value to your home’s resale value.

Having a Level 2 EVSE at home is ideal because most EV owners find they do the majority of their charging at home. For example, Level 1 home charging simply won’t work for anyone who drives long distances regularly and doesn’t have the time or opportunity to recharge their car during the day. Upgrading to a Level 2 charging station for that owner becomes a necessity, especially if the car is fully electric and there aren’t any public charging stations at the workplace or nearby.

One advantage of the longer range cars is that they should seldom use all their charge in a single day’s commute. With ranges that top 200 miles and average daily commutes of less than 40 miles, it should only be a matter of topping off the battery at night, which can typically be done in a couple hours.

Level 3 Charging Stations

These fast-charging devices use very high voltage and can add 90 miles of range to an EV in just 30 minutes in some cases. These chargers, however, are extremely expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars, and routinely using a Level 3 charger can ultimately hurt your car’s battery, so we wouldn’t consider one for home installation; they are also cost prohibitive for most EV owners.

Determining EV Charging Times

Here are a couple factors that determine how long it will take to charge your electric vehicle and how many miles of range you can add per hour of charging:

  1. The EV being charged


    • Electric vehicles have battery packs in varying sizes; the battery pack size determines the amount of energy stored in the vehicle.
  2. The power going into the EV
    • Electric vehicles also have varying power ‘acceptance rates.’
    • EV charging stations have various max power delivery ratings.
    • If the EV charging station offers less power than the vehicle’s maximum acceptance rate, the EV charging station is the limiting factor in charge time. If the vehicle’s acceptance rate is lower than the EV charging station’s maximum output rate, the vehicle is the limiting factor.
  3. Divide your electric vehicle’s battery pack rating by whichever number is lower: the vehicle’s acceptance rate, or the EV charging station’s output rate. This will give you the total hours to charge from “empty.”
    • Most vehicles will provide this information through the dashboard interface once you plug into an EVSE.

We’ve also created a chart (see link in Quick Reference section below) to help you determine your vehicle’s charge time using a Level 1 charging station (like the cordset that came in your electric vehicle) and various power levels of a Level 2 charging station for comparison.

Quick Reference

Click on the charts below to enlarge and find the charge time and miles of range per hour of charging for every Battery Electric Vehicle and Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle currently on the market. We do update this chart with new electric vehicles as they are introduced in the market. Click to download or print a pdf of the charging times chart.

Level 1 vs Level 2 Charging Times Chart p2
Level 1 vs Level 2 Charging Times Chart

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