Electric Car Charging Guide
This charging 101 guide discusses 3 key concepts about recharging an electric car:
Before we get into those concepts, it's good to know the various terms used for charging stations. They usually all refer to the same thing.
- Charging station
- Charging outlet
- Charging plug
- Charge port
- EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment)
There are 3 standard charging levels to charge your electric car. All electric cars can charge on Level 1 and Level 2 stations. However, some vehicles cannot charge at a Level 3 (also known as a DCFC or fast charger). Knowing your vehicle capabilities is therefore very important.
Charging Level Summary
|Power (kW)||Approximate Charging Time (Empty Battery)|
|1||1||8 to 15 hours|
|2||3 to 20, typically 6||3 to 8 hours|
|3 (a.k.a. DCFC)||Typically 50, occasionaly 20||20 min to 1 hour|
The Level 1 is the standard wall outlet. It is the slowest charge level. Several hours are required to fully charge a vehicle.
The Level 2 is the typical EV plug you'll install in your garage for example. Many public charging stations are Level 2. RV plugs are also considered Level 2's.
Finally, there is the Level 3, commonly called the DCFC or DC Fast Charge. These charging stations are the quickest means to recharge a vehicle.
Tip: Charging at a DCFC station is only effective if your battery state-of-charge (SOC) is below 80%. After that point, charging will slow down significantly.
Charging Station Connectors
The most common connector is the Level 2 J1772 EV plug. All vehicles can use this connector standard in Canada and USA. Where connector standards may get confusing is for Level 3 stations. One way to remember Level 3 connector compatibilities is to look at the make.
- Asian: Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-Miev, etc. These cars use the CHAdeMO connector standard.
- American / European: Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Spark, BMW i3, Mercedes, Volkswagen, etc. These cars use the SAE Combo CCS standard.
- Tesla: Model S and Model X. Tesla uses its own Tesla connector standard.
|Connectors||Level||Asian makes||US / EU Makes||Tesla|
|Wall outlets (Nema 515, Nema 520)||1||With adapter||With adapter||With adapter|
|J1772 EV Plug||2||Yes||Yes||With adapter|
|Nema 1450 (RV plug)||2||With adapter||With adapter||With adapter|
|SAE Combo CCS||3||No||Yes||No|
Before driving to a charging station, it is important to know if your vehicle is compatible with the connectors available. This is especially important for non-Tesla DCFC stations. Some may have just a CHAdeMO connector, others just an SAE Combo CCS connector, and others will have both. Also, some vehicles, like the Chevrolet Volt - a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, are not compatible for Level 3 stations. Make sure you know your vehicle compatibilities before planning a trip.
Charging Station Networks
There are many charging networks in the United States and Canada. Not all are present everywhere, but you can often have several in a region. They could be split in two categories:
- Smart charging stations, also known as networked charging stations or connected stations
- Non-networked charging stations. These do not require any membership to activate
Charging Networks Overview
|ChargePoint||Yes||USA + Canada|
|Blink (CarCharging)||Yes||USA + Canada|
|SemaConnect / SemaCharge||Yes||USA + Canada|
|Greenlots||Yes||USA + Canada|
|GE WattStation||Yes||USA + Canada|
|Tesla (Superchargers and Destination)||No, but limited to Tesla vehicles||USA + Canada|
|Sun Country Highway||No||USA + Canada|
|Doc Borné||No||USA + Canada|
|Non-networked stations||No||USA + Canada|
Charging stations that are smart (or connected to the cloud) require a membership. It is free to signup, but charging fees may be applicable depending on the station and network. To activate these stations, you typically need a key fob, RFID card or the network app. SemaCharge stations can be activated directly through the ChargeHub app on Android - no prior network signup required.