As more electric vehicles (EVs) hit the roads, businesses are coming to understand the importance of providing charging for light-duty EVs, such as passenger cars and delivery vans, at their facilities. What can sometimes be less clear, however, are the types of EV chargers available and the different needs they accommodate for both drivers and businesses. Let's explore some of these basic EV charging concepts in greater detail.
Electric vehicle charging is broken down into tiers: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (also called “DC Fast Charging” or “DCFC” for short). They differ along the lines of voltage, electrical power and current output, the type of connection used, and the distance a vehicle can travel for every hour its battery is charged.
Level 1 chargers carry a voltage of either 110 or 120 volts. They draw electricity from a standard 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 anywhere from 2 to 6.5 miles of range per charging hour, making them less than ideal for daily commuters who don’t have access to another charging source besides their home.
Level 2 chargers operate at 208 and 240 volts and can provide as much as 80 miles of range per hour of charging, depending on the charger’s maximum power delivery and the vehicle’s maximum charge capacity. They are up to 10 times faster than Level 1 chargers, providing significant range to any driver who is able to 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 (DC Fast) Chargers are the most powerful and fastest chargers available, operating at 400 to 900 volts with a range of up to 1,200 miles per hour of charging. Typically, an 85% battery charge can be achieved within 30 minutes. Plug types for DC Fast Chargers vary, but the most common is the 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.
For many businesses, installing Level 2 charging stations on a per-driver basis is the preferred route for implementing EV charging commercially. A big advantage of Level 2 chargers is that they can be networked together to increase energy and cost efficiencies. PowerFlex leverages this capability to the fullest extent with its Adaptive Load Management® (ALM) system. With ALM, charging demand is dynamically distributed across the charging network throughout the day, which mitigates spikes in power loads and saves businesses from incurring expensive peak demand charges. (Utility companies generally bill your highest 15 minutes of energy usage at a steeper rate.) This allows companies to install four times the number of EV charging stations for the same utility infrastructure cost.
Another advantage of Level 2 charging is that, due to its widespread application and suitability in terms of meeting most drivers’ needs, rebates and other incentives that can help offset installation costs are often available through utilities or government agencies. Most U.S. states have some type of rebate available. California’s Charge Ready program, for instance, offers rebates across the public and private sectors, including for commercial buildings, municipal properties, and newly constructed multi-family dwellings that may be obligated to make their properties EV-ready under the state’s CALGreen building codes.
For the right business, DC Fast Chargers can also make sense. They’re a great solution for workplaces that host short-dwell drivers such as visitors, salespeople, and fleet vehicle operators who don't have a lot of time to charge their vehicles in between trips. Like Level 2 chargers, DC Fast Chargers can be networked to optimize charging and are eligible for incentives.
When done right, EV charging enables businesses to provide a necessary service to their employees and customers as the automotive market transitions to low-carbon fueling — without incurring costly peak demand charges from utilities. That’s why working with an experienced and innovative developer like PowerFlex is so important. We’re the third-largest EV charging provider for large sites nationwide, with more than 4,000 ports installed. In addition to smart EV charging, we also offer whole-site energy management solutions that can integrate solar, storage, and microgrid technology that keep energy costs down while creating resiliency in the face of growing utility disruptions. Contact us using the button below to learn more.