With the growth in both sales and infrastructure, electric vehicles are becoming the leading choice for emission-free transportation. They are transforming the commuting experience by becoming more accessible for everyone, everywhere. From understanding the basics to learning more about EV chargers themselves, you will find everything you need to know about charging electric vehicles and how they are transforming the mobility experience.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Just as available technologies vary in conventional vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) have different capabilities to meet drivers’ needs. The primary attraction of using electric vehicles is that drivers can plug them in to charge from an off-board power source (EV chargers). This contrasts with hybrid electric vehicles that use an internal combustion engine to supplement. In electric vehicles, onboard rechargeable batteries store energy to power electric motors and produce no tailpipe emissions, although there are upstream emissions associated with the actual production of electricity.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are powered by traditional gasoline or diesel ICE and by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged by the ICE and through regenerative braking. The vehicle cannot be plugged in to charge. The electric motor provides extra power during starts and acceleration, allowing for a smaller engine. This results in better fuel economy without sacrificing performance.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are like HEVs but have a larger battery that allows it to travel on electricity alone. The battery can be charged by plugging into an electric power source, through regenerative braking, and by the ICE. Unlike all-electric vehicles, PHEVs do not have to be plugged in before driving. They can be fueled solely with gasoline, like a conventional HEV. However, they will not achieve maximum fuel economy or take full advantage of their all-electric capabilities without plugging-in.
All-Electric Vehicles (EVs) run on electricity alone. They are powered by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery (larger than the batteries in an HEV or PHEV). EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source, like an EV charger, and (to a lesser degree) through regenerative braking.
Regenerative Braking is an energy recovery mechanism that slows down a moving vehicle by converting kinetic energy into a form that can be stored until needed. Typically, in this mechanism, the electric traction motor uses the vehicle’s momentum to recover energy otherwise lost as heat. Improvements in electronics have allowed this process to be fully automated and modern EVs use this technique to extend the range of the battery.
Plug-in electric vehicles are connected, enjoyable, and practical. The primary benefit is that they reduce emissions that contribute negatively to the environment compared to conventional vehicles. There are two types of categories of vehicle emissions: direct and life cycle.
Direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe, through the evaporation from the fuel system. Examples include smog-forming pollutants (nitrogen oxides), pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide). Life cycle emissions are related to fuel and vehicle production, processing, distribution, and disposal. Examples include emissions produced when petroleum is extracted from the ground to refine gasoline, distributed, and burned in vehicles. Like direct emissions, they include pollutants and greenhouse gases.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), In 2019 the United States net imported 0.53 million barrels per day, equal to about 2.7% of average daily U.S. petroleum consumption. Because petroleum accounted for 88% of the total U.S. transportation sector energy use, using energy-efficient electric vehicles can have a direct impact. This in turn supports the economy and helps to diversify the U.S. transportation fleet, as well as reduce any possible impact of international supply disruption.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Tables 2.5, 3.8c, and 10.2b, May 2020
Electric vehicles reduce fuel costs dramatically because of the high-efficiency and performance of electric-drive components. Because they rely on electric power, their fuel economy is measured differently than that of conventional vehicles. EVs convert over 77% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Conventional gasoline vehicles only convert up to 30% of the energy stored in gasoline to the wheels.
Miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (MPGE) and kilowatt-hours (kWh) per 100 miles are common metrics. Depending on how they are driven, today's light-duty EVs can exceed 100 MPGE and can drive 100 miles consuming only 25–40 kWh. The overall fuel economy of EVs is highly dependent on the load carried, but in the right applications, they can maintain a strong fuel-to-cost advantage over conventional vehicles.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, fueleconomy.gov
Electric vehicles have the added benefit of flexible fueling. Since the electric grid is close to most locations where people park, they can either use a EV charger at home, at their workplace, or a public charging station when available. For corporate fleets, vehicles can use EV chargers at their facility when not actively being used.
Public charging stations are not as prominent as gas stations, but EV charging station manufacturers and EV charging station companies are rapidly establishing a national network of charging stations. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center locator, as of September 2020, there are 26,858 electric vehicle chargers with 86,380 charging outlets available in the United States.
To get the most out of your plug-in electric vehicle, you must charge it regularly. By charging it frequently, you maximize the range of all-electric vehicles. While most owners do most of their charging at their residence, the number of workplace and public charging stations (known as electric vehicle supply equipment) are steadily increasing every year.
Electric vehicle chargers for PHEVs are classified by the rate at which the batteries are charged. The charging times will vary based on how depleted the battery is, how much energy it will hold, the type of battery, and the type of equipment.
Source: Consumer Reports, "Electric Cars 101: The Answers to All Your EV Questions"
Level 1 EV Charger: 2-5 Miles of Range Per 1 Hour of Charging
Alternating Current (AC) Level 1 equipment provides charging through a 120-volt (V) AC plug. Most plug-in electric vehicles will come with a Level 1 cord set, so no additional charging equipment is required. On one end of the cord is a standard NEMA connector, (for example, a NEMA 5-15, which is a common three-prong household plug) and on the other end is an SAE J1772 standard connector (often referred to simply as J1772). The J1772 connector plugs into the car’s J1772 charge port, and the NEMA connector plugs into a standard NEMA wall outlet.
Level 1 EV charging is typically used when there is only a 120V outlet available, such as while charging at home, but can easily provide charging for all a driver's needs. For example, 8 hours of charging at 120V can replenish about 40 miles of electric range for a mid-size plug-in electric vehicle. As of 2019, less than 5% of public charging outlets in the United States were Level 1.
Level 2 EV Charger: 10-20 Miles of Range Per 1 Hour of Charging
AC Level 2 equipment offers charging through 240V (typical in residential applications) or 208V (typical in commercial applications) electrical service. Most homes have 240V service available, and because Level 2 equipment can charge a typical plug-in electric vehicle battery overnight, it is commonly installed at owners' homes for home charging. Level 2 equipment is also commonly used for public and workplace charging. This charging option can operate at up to 80 amperes (Amp) and 19.2 kW. However, most residential Level 2 equipment operates at lower power. Many of these units operate at up to 30 Amps, delivering 7.2 kW of power. These units require a dedicated 40-Amp circuit. As of 2019, over 80% of public outlets in the United States were Level 2.
Level 2 EV charging equipment uses the same J1772 connector and charge port that Level 1 equipment uses. All commercially available electric vehicles can charge using Level 1 and Level 2 charging equipment. Although Tesla vehicles do not have a J1772 charge port, Tesla does sell an adapter.
Level 3 DC Fast EV Charger: Up to 80% capacity in 30-60 minutes.
Direct-current (DC) fast charging equipment (typically 208/480V AC three-phase input), enables rapid charging along heavy traffic corridors at installed stations. As of 2019, about 15% of charging outlets in the United States were DC fast chargers. There are three types of DC fast charging systems, depending on the type of charge port on the vehicle: SAE Combined Charging System (CCS), CHAdeMO, or Tesla.
The CCS (also known as J1772 combo) connector is unique because a driver can use the same charge port when charging with Level 1, 2, or DC fast equipment. The only difference is that the DC fast charge connector has two additional bottom pins. The CCS connector is used by Chevrolet and BMW plug-in electric vehicles, for example. The CHAdeMO connector is the most common of the three connector types and is used by Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota plug-in PEVs, for example. Tesla vehicles have a unique charge port and connector that works for all their charging options including their fast charging option, called a supercharger.
EVs and PHEVs running only on electricity have zero tailpipe emissions. However, emissions may be produced by the source of electrical power, such as a power plant. In geographical areas that use relatively low-polluting energy sources for electricity generation, EVs and PHEVs typically have wheel-to-wheel emissions advantage over conventional vehicles. Check out the source of your electricity and the effect it has on your electric vehicle.
Source: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, https://www.nrel.gov/
Learn more about electric-drive vehicle emissions in the Well-to-Wheels Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Analysis of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles report (PDF), and the Emissions Associated with Electric Vehicle Charging: Impact of Electricity Generation Mix, Charging Infrastructure Availability, and Vehicle Type report (PDF).
Lithium-Ion batteries are currently used the most in portable consumer electronics like cell phones or laptops. These batteries have high energy per unit mass relative to other electrical energy storage options. They also have a high power-to-weight ratio, high energy efficiency, and good temperature performance. Most of today’s lithium-ion batteries can be recycled, but most of the increasing costs associated with material recovery remain high. Most of today’s electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries although they differ slightly than those used in consumer electronics.
Lead-Acid batteries are designed to offer high power, be inexpensive, be safer, and more reliable long term. However, these batteries offer poor cold-temperature performance, have a short cycle life, and offer low specific energy. While research is ongoing for more sophisticated lead-acid batteries, they are mainly used in commercial electric-drive vehicles for ancillary loads.
Ultracapacitors store energy in a more unique way. They keep energy in a polarized liquid between an electrode and an electrolyte. The energy storage capacity increases as the liquid’s surface area increases. These ultracapacitors provide vehicles the power needed during acceleration, sustain increased elevations, and recover from braking energy. They are also useful as secondary storage devices in electric vehicles because they help electrochemical batteries level load power.
While hybrid electric vehicles have similar maintenance needs as conventional vehicles, all-electric vehicles require significantly less. EVs typically require less maintenance than conventional vehicles because:
The advanced batteries used in these types of vehicles have a limited number of charging cycles. Some automotive batteries use liquid coolant to maintain safe operating temperatures. Because of that, these systems may require regular maintenance checks. Batteries in electric-drive vehicles are generally designed to last for the expected lifetime as determined by the EV company. Like engines in conventional vehicles, the batteries can wear out eventually. While a battery replacement does pose a significant expense, prices are expected to decline as technology improves and production increases.
As with any commercially available vehicles, electric vehicles must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and undergo the same safety testing as any other vehicle in the United States. HEVs, PHEVs, and EVs have high-voltage electrical systems that typically range up to 600 volts. These battery packs are encased in sealed shells and have been tested to meet the standards defined for overcharging, vibration, extreme temperatures, short-circuiting, and more.
An EV company design with insulated high-voltage lines and safety features that deactivate the electrical system if a collision or short-circuit is detected. EVs also tend to have a lower center of gravity, making them more stable and less likely to roll over in an accident. In case of an accident, EVs are designed with cutoff switches that isolate the battery in addition to disabling the electrical system. The National Fire Protection Association has more information available for Alternative Fuel Vehicles Safety Training.
Both State and Federal Governments enact laws and provide incentives to help build and maintain a market for electricity fuel and vehicles. Find which laws and incentives are available for you on the Alternative Fuels Data Center.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are powered by traditional gasoline and by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are like HEVs but have a larger battery that allows it to travel on electricity alone. They can be fueled solely with gasoline, like a conventional HEV too. All-Electric Vehicles (EVs) run on electricity alone. They are powered by an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery (larger than the batteries in an HEV or PHEV).
Regardless if you plan to use your electric vehicle for daily driving or long cross-country trips, charging is essential and will impact your life. It all starts with the power source and not all are created equal. For easy reference, there are three levels of charging below and how far you can get on 1 hour of charging. To learn details about each EV charger type, click here.
Level 1 EV Charger (120V AC Plug): 2-5 Miles of Range Per 1 Hour of Charging
Level 2 EV Charger (208V/240V AC Plug): 10-20 Miles of Range Per 1 Hour of Charging
Level 3 DC Fast EV Charger: Up to 80% Capacity in 30-60 minutes of Charging
PHEVs can typically drive up to 50 miles using only electricity before they start using gasoline, and then drive up to 300 miles depending on fuel tank size. Most electric vehicles can drive about 100 miles before they need to be recharged. The exception is Tesla vehicles, which can travel around 250 miles on a charge. However, many automakers are starting to bring electric vehicles to the market that offer longer ranges – around 200+ miles on a charge.
Electric cars have the biggest benefits and cost savings when they are charging overnight at home when rates are the lowest. As another benefit, EV chargers are available with convenient access in public areas like retail stores and commercial parking lots. Workplaces are also adding EV chargers to accommodate both employees and visitors. As EV charging companies help grow the number of EV chargers across the country, you can search using third-party locators like plugshare.com or the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.
EV tax credits are non-refundable federal tax credits available to purchasers of vehicles with a battery propulsion system that draws from an external power source. All-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids qualify. The federal government has been offering a substantial credit since 2010, and most manufacturers’ EVs are still eligible for it. The credits depend on a variety of factors and are used to lower taxes you owe each year. They can also bring down the price on an electric vehicle, so research which state and federal incentives you qualify for here.
Because the public’s priorities have changed, many are looking for more options to charge their electric vehicles wherever they are. Meanwhile top automakers are developing more electric cars to meet increased demand, all while EV charging station companies try to develop products for the infrastructure. For those looking to purchase electric vehicle charging stations for their corporate fleet or want to buy an electric vehicle charging station for home use, there are many options out there. When deciding to purchase, look for EV charging companies that will provide after-sales service for the EV charging station.
When installing a charging station for your electric vehicle, consideration must be given to the safety of both installer and end user. For complete safety, installation and maintenance work should only be carried out by qualified electricians who are aware of standards and installation guidelines. US LED offers complete turnkey EV charger installation throughout the country with certified field technicians and electricians. Project managers will be accountable for every project from start to finish and offer support during the entire process. If purchasing an EV charger from a manufacturer that does not offer installation, be sure to properly vet potential electricians ahead of the installation.
US LED can provide you more information about EV charging and how it can benefit your business. When ready, our EV charging experts can work with you to discuss your EV charging goals and can recommend a solution that maximizes success. Fill out the form and you'll receive an email with additional information on EV charging, including our Electric Vehicle Charging checklist and product brochure.
If you are looking to get a quote for Level 2 or Level 3 EV chargers instead, click here.