EV Charging Basics: What Are the Different Types of EV Charging?


As more electric vehicles (EVs) hit the roads, businesses are coming to understand the importance of providing charging stations on their premises to keep up with the demands of employees, customers, and visitors who drive EVs. What can sometimes be less clear, however, are the types of EV chargers available and the different needs they accommodate. Let's explore some of these basic EV charging concepts in greater detail.

Commercial vs. Home EV Charging  

First, it’s important to establish what makes EV charging for commercial properties different from the kinds of chargers EV drivers use to replenish their batteries at home.  

Home chargers can be plugged into a standard household power outlet, often in a homeowner’s garage or on the side of the house. They’re suitable for people with short daily commutes who have the flexibility to charge their car overnight.

Commercial EV charging stations are generally available for public use and can be found at workplaces, retail locations, municipal lots, rest stops, and any other areas where drivers need to charge their cars while out and about. The types of chargers deployed in commercial settings require more sophisticated infrastructure and are more powerful and faster than chargers for residential use.

AC vs. DC Electric Vehicle Charging

Next, let’s explore the differences between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) electric vehicle charging.  

Alternating current is the type of electrical current that flows from the utility grid and is used to power everything from home appliances to commercial and industrial buildings. Electricity that is stored in a battery, however, must take the form of direct current.

When an AC charger is used to charge an EV, a converter inside the vehicle transforms the electricity into DC current so that it can be stored in the EV’s battery. With DC charging, this conversion happens inside the charger, allowing the battery to take in electricity directly, without an in-vehicle converter.

EV Charging Levels

In addition to the distinction between AC and DC, electric vehicle chargers are also broken down into three charging levels. These levels differ along the lines of voltage, electrical power, the type of connector used, and the distance a vehicle can travel for every hour its battery is charged.

Level 1 Charging

Level 1 chargers can operate at a standard voltage of 120 volts. They draw electricity from a power cord plugged into a household outlet and deliver it to the vehicle via a J1772 plug, commonly called a “J-plug.” Level 1 chargers provide about 5 miles of range per charging hour, depending on the power output of the charger. This makes Level 1 chargers less than ideal for commuters who don’t have access to another charging source besides their home.

Level 2 Charging

Level 2 chargers generally can provide up to around 40 miles per hour of charging depending on the charger’s maximum power delivery and the vehicle’s battery capacity. They are up to 10 times faster than Level 1 chargers, providing significant range to any driver who can charge for at least a few hours a day.  

Most Level 2 chargers use J-plugs to connect to a vehicle, but they require a 208- or 240-volt circuit from which to draw electricity. This typically requires an upgrade to residential service, but most workplaces, multiple-unit dwellings, and public spaces can easily accommodate the higher voltage needed. Level 2 chargers are commonly implemented as permanently installed charging stations at these types of locations, allowing multiple EV drivers to park and recharge.

Level 3 or DC Fast Charging (DCFC)

Level 3 (DC Fast) Chargers are the most powerful and fastest chargers available. They require anywhere between 400 and 1,000 volts and have a range of about 200 miles per hour of charging. Typically, an 80% battery charge can be achieved within 30 minutes. (Since charging speed slows as a battery approaches full charge, it’s advisable to stop at 80% to save time and money.)  

Plug types for DC Fast Chargers vary, but the most common is Combined Charging System (CCS), which can also support Level 1 and Level 2 charging. Some EV models require specific types of DC Fast Chargers, like Tesla, whose vehicles are compatible only with the Tesla Supercharger (though an adapter makes using other types of DC Fast Chargers possible).  

DC Fast Chargers accommodate drivers who don't have a lot of time to charge their vehicles, and are essential to quelling the so-called “range anxiety” experienced by many new EV owners who fear running out of power while out on the road.  

How to Choose the Right Type of EV Charger for Your Needs

For commercial and industrial businesses, the decision comes down to installing either Level 2 chargers or DC Fast Chargers (or in some cases, a mixture of both). When choosing which chargers to deploy, it’s important to take several factors into account:

  • Number of Vehicles: Consider your business type and the number of vehicles you will most likely be accommodating at your site. A corporate workplace that hosts employees and customers throughout the day is an ideal candidate for Level 2 chargers while a logistics company may opt for a mix of L2 and DCFC for when delivery vehicles need a quicker charge.
  • Driver Dwell Times: Understand anticipated driver dwell times, or the length of time drivers tend to stay parked on your property. For example, tenants in a multi-unit apartment building who park for extended periods of time while at home can easily meet their charging needs with Level 2. Drivers making a short pit stop at a rest area, however, will benefit more from the faster charging rate of DCFC.  
  • Power Requirements: Level 2 and DCFC have different power needs, so it’s important to keep in mind the power requirements for each individual charging station as well as power requirements for the entire site.
  • Project Budget: Whether you’re installing Level 2 or DC Fast Chargers, you’ll want to be sure to secure the proper funding and get sign off from internal stakeholders. Luckily, tax credits and incentive programs are available to defray costs. You can learn more about them by visiting our Policy & Incentives Hub.

If this sounds like a lot of information to juggle, don’t worry. An experienced EV charging solutions provider can help you navigate these factors and design an EV charging system that fits your unique needs and goals.

PowerFlex Makes EV Charging Effective and Affordable for Businesses

Ready to take the first step to implementing EV charging on your property? PowerFlex has installed more than 10,000 EV charging stations throughout the United States, helping sustainability leaders, operations people, property developers, and other teams across industries meet the demands of drivers while reducing carbon emissions and managing costs.  

With our adaptive energy management platform, PowerFlex X™, we’re able to dynamically distribute EV charging demand to mitigate spikes in power loads and save businesses from incurring expensive peak use charges from the utility company. This allows customers to deploy a larger number of chargers without major infrastructure upgrades, saving up to 60% on implementation costs. Get in touch with us via our contact form and one of our EV charging experts will reach out to answer your questions.