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Level up Your EV Charger Knowledge

As the world largely shifts toward sustainable energy solutions, electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a pivotal player in reducing our collective carbon footprint. Adoption of EVs is accelerating, and in fact, both Bloomberg and Morgan Stanley estimate that new global electric vehicle sales will outnumber traditionally fueled vehicle sales by 2050, if not sooner. 

 

One of the critical aspects of driving the EV revolution forward is the infrastructure supporting it. Chargers are at the heart of the supporting infrastructure, so clarifying the difference between charger levels — Level 1, Level 2, and direct current fast charging (DCFC), often referred to as Level 3, — is essential to understanding the current landscape of widescale EV adoption. 


Two people enter their home while their electric car charges outside

Level 1: The Foundation 

 

Level 1 charging is the most basic form of EV charging and is often utilized in residential settings. This level utilizes a standard household electrical outlet, delivering power at 120 volts alternating current (AC). While Level 1 charging is the slowest option, it is highly accessible, requiring no additional infrastructure.  

 

Level 1 chargers often come with the electric vehicle as a value-add from the manufacturer, as they’re simple and inexpensive to manufacture. This level can be suitable for overnight charging at home and is convenient for topping up an EV's battery during extended periods of parking, but generally, it takes too long and lacks the power to meet the daily charging needs of most drivers. 

 

Level 2: The Versatile Middle Ground 


A person leans against their car, using their phone while the car charges outside

Level 2 charging represents a significant step up in terms of power and speed. These chargers operate at 240 volts of AC and can be installed in various locations, including businesses, homes, workplaces and public parking facilities. These are usually the chargers you see at public stations, and business owners looking to attract new visitors to retail stores, schools, restaurants, hotels and more find them especially valuable. Considering that shoppers waiting for their car to charge at a Level 2 charger usually explore, shop or dine as their car powers up, installing chargers is a smart move for businesses. From the benefit of impulse purchases made during charge sessions, to attracting a new customer base, boosting customer loyalty and working toward environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals, Level 2 chargers provide a multifaceted solution for businesses looking to stand out among their competitors. 

 

Level 2 chargers significantly reduce charging times compared to Level 1, providing approximately 25 to 30 miles of range per hour of charging. This level of charging is ideal for daily commuting and longer stops, offering a balance between convenience and charging speed. 

 

Level 3: The Fast Lane – DC Fast Charging 

 

DC fast charging (DCFC), also known as Level 3, is the fastest option for charging electric vehicles. These chargers use direct current (DC) and can deliver power at 480 volts or more. Level 3 charging stations are typically found in central locations to enable long-distance travel by rapidly replenishing an EV's battery. Unlike Levels 1 and 2, which use onboard chargers in the vehicle to convert AC power to DC power, Level 3 chargers bypass this step. 

 

While they require more power and come at a higher price point than Level 2, steadily increasing demand for fast and long-range charging coupled with government funding programs like the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program will see more investment in public DCFC chargers.  

 

The Future of Charging Infrastructure 


A futuristic illustration of an electric car charging

As electric vehicles become more mainstream, the demand for accessible charging infrastructure continues to grow. Industry stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and charging station providers, are investing in expanding the collective charging network, working toward an accessible, convenient and green resource for transportation.  

 

In the dynamic landscape of electric vehicles, understanding the nuances of charger levels is essential for both EV owners and those shaping the future of charging infrastructure. Whether it's the convenience of Level 1, the versatility of Level 2, or the rapid charging capability of Level 3, each level plays a crucial role in supporting the widespread adoption of sustainable transportation. As the charging infrastructure continues to evolve, embracing these differences will be key to creating a seamless and efficient charging experience for all electric vehicles. 

 

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