Reading Time: 5 minutesElectric cars are becoming increasingly popular with drivers who desire their eco-friendliness and cutting-edge design. These days, they’re turning to them because they want to save money as they steer clear of gas stations.
They are also becoming cheaper to own and easier to maintain, thanks to a proliferation of charging stations at gas stations, office buildings, shopping centers, and other public places. Also, the federal government offers from $2,500 to $7,500 in tax incentives for buying an electric car. Only GM and Tesla no longer qualify for the federal incentives.
However, charging these cutting-edge automobiles may hinder their popularity due to a lack of charging stations in certain areas and slow charging times in many cases. Even extreme weather conditions like below-zero temperatures can wreak havoc on drivers’ ability to charge their vehicles.
What can drivers do to maximize how much time they can drive on a single charge? Let’s start with some factors that can affect how much time they spend charging their EVs in the first place.
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Factors That Impact EV Charging Time
Charging times can vary due to several factors. What is your power source? How much power can your electric car handle? How can drivers charge their vehicles and get back on the road more quickly? Depending on an electric vehicle’s charging source and battery capacity, some drivers can charge their cars to 80% in as little as 30 minutes using a Level 3 fast charger (more on that in a bit).
Unfortunately, that isn’t the standard. Most drivers will need up to a full day to charge a fully depleted electric car battery if they use the standard three-prong plugs found in the walls of most homes.
Other Factors That Impact Electric Car Charging Time:
Your battery’s size: Level 1 outlets (like those you use at home) charge car batteries at the slowest rate. If your vehicle offers more battery capacity (measured in kWh), you’ll need more time to charge your car battery fully.
Is your battery empty or full?: Drivers rarely charge their vehicles from an empty battery. They usually “top up” their batteries instead to lengthen the time they can drive on a single charge, which generally saves drivers significant charging time.
Your vehicle’s maximum charging rate: How much of a charge can your vehicle accept at once? Your vehicle’s maximum charge rate is static, so you won’t save time by charging your battery at a more powerful charging station.
The power of your charging station: Your charging time also depends on the maximum charging rate of the charging station you are using. Even if your car can charge at a higher rate, it will only charge at your charging station’s maximum power rate, which can adversely affect charging time.
The weather in your area: Lower temperatures can affect vehicle efficiency and lengthen charging times, especially when using rapid chargers. Conversely, Hot weather can also affect your electric car’s thermal management systems, affecting its efficiency. Hot conditions can also test an electric vehicle’s internal resistance, rising as battery charges increase.
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Your Power Source for Charging
Start with your home power source to get a sense of how long it will take to charge your car. A Level 1 power outlet charges at the least amount of power, while Level 2 chargers can plug into outlets like the ones dryers use and charge at twice the power.
Unlike Level 1 chargers, however, you’ll need an electrician and a compatible circuit to install a Level 2 charger at home. (A quick way to calculate the power you can generate is to multiply your voltage and the number of amps you plan to use.) Companies like California-based startup Splitvolt have also developed splitters that let EV drivers use a standard household garage outlet without unique installations.
Level 3 chargers (also called DC fast chargers, or DCFCs) use a high-voltage direct current that goes straight to the car’s battery. However, these chargers aren’t compatible with every electric vehicle.
Also, they are both expensive and hard to find beyond public spaces like malls and parking garages. Automakers like Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Tesla offer Level 3 charging systems for their vehicles.
At the same time, third-party manufacturers like Electrify America and SparkCharge have also produced DCFCs for cars that can use them. Beyond that, many drivers who can’t use DCFCs opt for the combined charging system (CCS). CCS supercharges its power sources by conjoining Level 1 and Level 2 chargers.
Your Car’s Charging Capacity
You should also consider your car’s charging capacity when figuring out how long it will take you to charge it. For calculations, get the optimal charging time for your electric vehicle by dividing the battery capacity (measured in kWh) by the power rating of your car’s onboard charger, then adding 10% to the loss of power associated with charging it.
For example, a 2022 Tesla Model 3 Long Range has an 11.5-kW charger and a 75-kWh battery pack, which would take roughly 6.5 hours to charge fully using a Level 2 charger.
The Tesla Supercharger can charge at 250 kW, which would lower that charging time to approximately 15 to 25 minutes.
What to Know About Rapid Charging
Rapid charging seems easy and convenient, but that speed comes with a caveat. Even the fastest charging time can decrease significantly when the battery falls under 20% or above 80% complete.
This keeps the battery from overcharging and keeps it at optimum condition. Many manufacturers gauge charging times by how long DCFCs can get your battery charge to 80%.
Rapid charging is also becoming easier to access thanks to initiatives like the EV Charging Network, a coalition of six electric utility giants that plan to build DCFCs across 17 interconnected states. Volkswagen is mulling using mobile charging robots to “fill up” batteries without investing in new charging infrastructure.
Anyone who’s ever driven a car with a standard gasoline engine has “topped up” their gas tanks or filled them way before the gas meter hits “E.” It makes sense: No one wants to run out of gas, especially on a longer trip. But should you top up your electric car’s battery the same way? Not really.
The battery works best when it isn’t running below 20% or above 80%. Many manufacturers discourage topping up batteries in hot weather since the act of charging combined with excessive heat can adversely affect your electric car’s thermal management systems and internal resistance systems.
That can adversely affect how well your car works over time.
Here’s How Long it Takes to Charge an Electric Car
How long would it take to fully charge some of the leading electric cars on the road?
Use these approximate calculations based on a Level 2 power source and charging capacity, according to the manufacturers’ websites (unless otherwise noted) for the following 2022 cars:
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Chanel Lee is an author specializing in business and technology. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, HowStuffWorks.com, Crain Communications, and other publications. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. She is also a native of New York City and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she weathers quarantine with Netflix, patio gardening and cat videos.