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Level 1, 2, and 3 EV Chargers: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re a prospective electric vehicle (EV) driver or a future charging station owner, it’s important to understand the difference between the three charging level options. With more knowledge about charging hardware and the power output at your location, you’ll be able to identify your charging needs. In this series, we will explore the differences in charging levels and provide insight into the many charging options that exist currently in the market.

What is a level?

In simplest terms, a level refers to the amount of power that is being provided by the charger to your vehicle, and thus, how quickly it will charge. The basic kilowatt (kW) breakdown is:

  • Level 1 – 1.3-2.4 kW range

  • Level 2 – 3-19.2 kW range

  • Level 3 – 20+ kW range

Level 1

Level 1 chargers are the most accessible chargers because they run the same 120V current that can be found in a standard wall outlet. These chargers are widely available, inexpensive to install, and don’t put a strain on the existing power grid in most locations. However, this also means that they provide a much slower charging experience than other levels of charging. On average, level 1 chargers will provide 5 miles of range per hour. Even though it may not seem like an extensive range, for many EV drivers, level 1 is sufficient because it provides enough battery life for their daily commute. Additionally, for locations with long-term parking like hospitals or airports, level 1 charging may make the most sense for the most cost-effective way to charge over long periods of time. It requires very little effort to utilize level 1 charging because it is convenient to obtain, and with some planning to account for longer trips, this level of charging can prove very effective.

Pros: Easily accessible with minimal grid effort or financial investment

Cons: Slowest charging rate which isn’t ideal for quick turn-around

Level 2

The next grade available is level 2 chargers, which run at 240V. You can commonly find examples of 240V outlets attached to more highly powered appliances in your home like clothing dryers or electric ovens. Level 2 chargers draw more current than level 1 chargers and recharge your vehicle faster—at a rate of up to 25 miles per hour. This means that you could reliably charge a vehicle’s full range over the course of 8 hours while you work or sleep.

Level 2 chargers are great for individual drivers to utilize in public spaces and can also translate well into commercial applications such as fleet electrification. Localized fleet vehicles that run the same route every day like buses or delivery vehicles would be optimal for level 2 chargers because they have a predictable daily range and can be managed, organized, and charged accordingly. Many consider level 2 chargers to be the most applicable chargers currently on the market.

Pros: Adequate charging speed without major grid upgrades

Cons: More expensive than level 1 while still not being as fast as level 3

Level 3 or DC Fast Charging (DCFC)

Lastly, we have level 3 chargers, otherwise known as Direct Current Fast Chargers or DCFCs. These charging stations are qualified as anything that runs over 20 kW and are specifically made to translate high voltage Alternating Current (AC) from the power grid into Direct Current (DC) before it makes it into the vehicle. With other chargers, the AC from the grid is plugged into the car and the vehicle itself converts the energy to DC so that the battery can store it. By working to make the switch from AC to DC sooner, level 3 chargers can distribute more power to vehicles exponentially faster, averaging a full charge in 30 minutes.

DCFCs require immense grid support and aren’t made for at-home usage. However, they are perfectly suited for usage in locations with short dwell times such as highway rest stops, grocery stores, or parking garages. Additionally, they could be critical in the success of current fleet electrification efforts nationwide. The use of level 3 chargers would revolutionize the speed at which fleet vehicles could recharge for their next shift.

Pros: Fastest charging option on the market allowing for longer journeys in less time

Cons: Most expensive option, usually requiring more space to install and major grid alterations.

Key Takeaways

Getting to know the different levels of electric vehicle chargers for powering your EV is incredibly important. Whether you're at home or on the road, choosing the right charger level can greatly impact the charging time, convenience, and cost. From Level 1, the slowest but most accessible option, to Level 3, the fastest but most advanced option, each level has its own advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the difference in options available allows you to make informed decisions to ensure a seamless and efficient electric vehicle charging experience.

Let Livingston Energy Group be the link that grants you insight as you review your options for charging station solutions. Our full scope solution provides you with project design, siting, funding services, installation, and ongoing support and maintenance of EV charging infrastructure. We offer a wide range of EV charging hardware and software products, including American-made options, which benefit from our ongoing 24/7 U.S.-based customer support and troubleshooting.

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