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
  • Charger
  • EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment)

Charging Levels

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

Level ChargeHub
Markers
Power (kW) Approximate Charging Time (Empty Battery)
1 ChargeHub Map marker icon for level 1 electric vehicle charging stations 1 8 to 15 hours
2 ChargeHub Map marker icon for level 2 electric vehicle charging stations 3 to 20, typically 6 3 to 8 hours
3 (a.k.a. DCFC) ChargeHub Map marker icon for level 1 electric vehicle charging stations Typically 50, occasionaly 20 20 min to 1 hour
Level 1 electric vehicle charging station illustration

Level 1

The Level 1 is the standard wall outlet. It is the slowest charge level. Several hours are required to fully charge a vehicle.

Level 2 electric car charging station

Level 2

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.

Level 3 / DCFastCharger electric car charging station

Level 3

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.

  1. Asian: Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-Miev, etc. These cars use the CHAdeMO connector standard.
  2. American / European: Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Spark, BMW i3, Mercedes, Volkswagen, etc. These cars use the SAE Combo CCS standard.
  3. 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) Level 1 electric vehicle charging connectors 1 With adapter With adapter With adapter
J1772 EV Plug Level 2 j1772 electric vehicle charging connector 2 Yes Yes With adapter
Nema 1450 (RV plug) Level 2 Nema 1450 (RV plug) electric vehicle charging connector 2 With adapter With adapter With adapter
CHAdeMO Level 3 CHAdeMO electric vehicle charging connector 3 Yes No With adapter
SAE Combo CCS Level 3 SAE Combo CCS electric vehicle charging connector 3 No Yes No
Tesla HPWC Level 2 Tesla HPWC electric vehicle charging connector 2 No No Yes
Tesla Supercharger Level 3 Tesla Supercharger electric vehicle charging connector 3 No No Yes

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:

  1. Smart charging stations, also known as networked charging stations or connected stations
  2. Non-networked charging stations. These do not require any membership to activate

Charging Networks Overview

Network/Operator Membership Required? Region
ChargePoint ChargePoint electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA + Canada
Blink (CarCharging) Blink (CarCharging) electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA + Canada
SemaConnect / SemaCharge SemaConnect electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA + Canada
NRG eVgo NRG eVgo electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA
Aerovironment Aerovironment electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA
Greenlots Greenlots electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA + Canada
FLO FLO electric vehicle charging network logo Yes Canada
OP Connect OP Connect electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA
GE WattStation GE WattStation electric vehicle charging network logo Yes USA + Canada
Electric Circuit Electric Circuit electric vehicle charging network logo Yes Quebec
Tesla (Superchargers and Destination) Tesla electric vehicle manufacturer logo No, but limited to Tesla vehicles USA + Canada
Sun Country Highway Sun Country Highway electric vehicle charging network logo No USA + Canada
Volta Volta electric vehicle charging network logo No USA
Doc Borné Doc Borné electric vehicle charging network logo No USA + Canada
Azra Azra electric vehicle charging network logo Yes Quebec
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.