Which solution is best for your charging needs at home or at your business?
With gasoline prices alarmingly high throughout much of the United States — averaging more than $4 per gallon for unleaded regular throughout the West Coast near the end of 2022, according to government data —more people are seriously considering buying an electric vehicle. While electric cars usually cost more to buy than traditional gas-powered automobiles, an increasing number of automakers are rolling out models of their own, which has helped to make prices more affordable. As a result, sales have soared. Indeed, according to estimates from Kelley Blue Book, dealers nationwide during the third quarter moved over 200,000 EVs. KIA, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and several others all have EVs prominently displayed on their showroom floors. By 2025, it's estimated that a quarter of the vehicles sold globally will be electric, according to Goldman Sachs, up from the current overall share of 5%.
With more EVs hitting the roads, both now and in the future, more EV charging stations are popping up. Led by California with close to 15,200 — around 29% of the nation's total — there are nearly 53,000 public EV charging stations across the country and 140,000 public chargers, according to the most recent statistics available from the World Economic Forum. New York (3,085), Florida (2,858), Texas (2,419) and Massachusetts (2,328) round out the top five.
While gas stations still vastly outnumber EV charging stations by approximately 3 to 1, the growth in public charging station volume over the past five years speaks to the reality that EVs are no flash-in-the-pan fad; they're here to stay. And with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will invest $7.5 billion toward growing the U.S.' existing EV charger network — more public charging stations are on the way.
But just as electric vehicles come in many styles, varieties and capabilities, the same can be said for charging stations: They're wide ranging, both in capacity and how quickly they can charge an all-electric or hybrid automobile. How can you find the best charging solution for you, whether you're at home or on the road? It's a matter of levels. Here, we'll explore Level 1 charging, Level 2 charging and why knowing the differences can influence which electric car charging option is appropriate for you.
What is Level 1 charging?
As its title suggests, Level 1 is the simplest, most basic EV charging solution that's out there. Leveraged by both employers in work environments and private users within household settings, Level 1 chargers plug into 120-volt electrical outlets, which typically have two to three prongs.
The amount of electricity that a Level 1 charging station is capable of producing largely depends on the voltage of the outlet, the strength of the electric current (i.e., amperage) the type of electric vehicle (i.e., all electric or plug-in hybrid), the size of the vehicle's battery and how much energy the EV battery has left in it. For example, an electric vehicle with a 100-mile battery plugged into a 120 volt, 20 amp Level 1 charger usually takes a full day to fully charge if it's at or near empty.
According to the Department of Energy, the average Level 1 charging station restores between 2 and 5 miles of range for every hour the vehicle is plugged into the station's outlet. The quality of the equipment can also influence how quickly (or slowly) the vehicle is charged. And as previously noted, the type of electric vehicle can also play a role in the speed of charging. According to the Department of Transportation, a plug-in hybrid with an empty battery may be able to receive a full charge in as little as six hours.
What is Level 2 charging?
A Level 2 charger is a step above Level 1, in terms of electrical output capacity and the speed with which a vehicle can be fully charged. While a Level 1 charging station uses a 120 volt outlet, Level 2 is double that amount, both in voltage (240 volts) as well as amperage (40 amps). Because a Level 2 charging station can produce more kilowatts, all-electric and plug-in hybrids are capable of charging much more quickly than Level 1 for superior fast charging. For example, an electric vehicle with a 100 mile battery typically takes between four and five hours to fully charge.
Another distinction between Level 1 charging and Level 2 charging relates to the number of automobiles that can be serviced in a given 24 hour period, such as at a workplace. A Level 1 EV charger can charge one electric vehicle per day (by design, given the process takes 24 hours), the fast charging capacity of a Level 2 station makes it possible to serve up to four vehicles. And because a Level 2 charger has more power, it delivers a greater degree of mileage range on a per-hour basis, restoring up to 25 miles for every 60 minutes an EV is hooked up.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of Level 1 charging stations?
If your primary objectives related to electric car charging are simplicity and affordability, a Level 1 charging system may be your best bet. Since most homes and businesses already have 120 volt AC outlets, you don't need to be concerned about setting up new electrical infrastructure. Additionally, the low power output generated from the charging station won't dramatically increase what you spend on electricity from one month to the next.
However, if what you really want from an EV charging station is speed, Level 1 may not be the ideal solution. Given the power it generates is quite low relative to Level 2, it can take a full day or longer for a vehicle to be fully charged, depending on how much of the battery has been drained. Your schedule and the frequency with which you or your employees drive may allow for this.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of Level 2 charging stations?
As you might have suspected, in light of the main distinctions between the two systems, the overarching strength of a Level 2 charger is how quickly it can charge an electric vehicle. As noted by the Department of Transportation, the amount of time for a PHEV to be fully charged at a Level 2 station averages between 1 and 2 hours. The system can deliver up to 20 miles of range per hour of charging as well. This compares to 2 to 5 miles of electric range per hour for the same PHEV at a Level 1 charging station and an overall charge time of six hours.
Also, since the electrical output generated is greater with Level 2, several vehicles can be charged in a given day rather than one.
At the same time, though, greater efficiency in the long run comes with more of an investment at the outset, which some may view as a drawback to Level 2. Not nearly as ubiquitous as 120 volt AC outlets, 240 volt chargers must be installed professionally for Level 2 charging systems to work as intended. And because Level 2 chargers are capable of emitting more electricity, your energy bill may be higher, depending on how often you and fellow users use the station, the vehicles being charged and how low the batteries are on energy. Generally speaking, the faster a vehicle charges, the more it will cost.
But if your business is heavily reliant on its fleet of vehicles — or your employees simply value their time and don't have much of it to spare — investing in a Level 2 charging system is worth the added expense.
Much like gas prices, the amount that it costs to charge an electric vehicle can vary substantially based on a number of different factors, including the car(s) you own, where you live or operate your business, the time of year, and the charging system you're using, be it Level 1 or Level 2. Whether you're a homeowner or a business owner can also influence what you spend.
Let's say you're a homeowner who has a brand new all electric vehicle that is capable of holding 100 kilowatt hours. If you live in California and pay 26 cents per kWh, this means it would cost $26 for your car to be fully charged. You would likely pay much more than that to fully gas up your car, especially in California, a state that consistently has some of the highest average fuel prices in the nation.
If you've already bought or are planning on purchasing an electric car, Webasto Charging Systems can make the transition to owning a hybrid or all electric vehicle as smooth as your driving experience. We produce an ever-evolving lineup of high quality business and home charging systems that are easy, safe and fast.