One of the challenges for buyers considering electrification is the breaking of old habits.
For most people, adding driving range to your vehicle has been as simple as visiting a fuel station for a quick refill and getting back on the road within minutes.
If you're transitioning to an electric vehicle, it's going to take time to adjust to the 'new normal' of topping up your car. Charging is still slower than pouring liquid fuel into the tank, but it's getting faster with every new advancement in technology.
While charging an electric vehicle is simple, there are several ways to do it that involve different charging times and costs.
One of the first things you’ll hear about when it comes to plugging in an EV is the different levels of charging. This can be broken down into three categories – Levels 1, 2 and 3.
For many buyers, the overall process of keeping an EV charged can be a significantly more convenient experience over refuelling a conventional car. Let's see how.
Level 1 – AC trickle charging
This is the most basic home or destination charging option, where you plug the car into a standard 240V AC (alternating current) socket.
While convenient, this is the slowest method, offering only about 2.0kW of power through a normal 10A socket. This means it can take from four to 48 hours to charge your car, depending on the battery size.
How to work out Level 1 charging time for battery capacity
Calculating this is quite simple – just divide the battery capacity by two to gain an approximate time. For example:
Of course, these times will be less if the the battery is already partially charged – a 50 per cent charge will require half the time, which is why it’s a good idea to top up whenever you can.
How to work out EV charging times for distance
If you want to know how long you’ll need to charge your car to travel a certain distance, the charging capacity in kW is the same value as the kilometres you’ll get from 10 minutes of charging.
For example, if you are using a 2.0kW Level 1 charger you will get around two kilometres for every 10 minutes of charging.
Level 2 - AC fast charging
While Level 1 charging will usually be convenient for plug-in-hybrids that can be fully topped up overnight, you might need something faster for a full battery-electric vehicle (BEV) with a much bigger battery.
The good news: there is a quicker home option by installing a Level 2 (wall-box) charger, which increases the charging power to 7.2kW.
This brings charging times down considerably, with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV gaining a full charge from empty in 6.5 hours, and the Nissan Leaf and Mercedes-Benz ECQ 5.5 and 11 hours respectively.
And you’ll get a 7.2km travel range for every 10 minutes, meaning about 43km after an hour's charging – which is enough for the average Aussie commute.
A 7.2kW Level 2 charging unit works off standard 240V single-phase wiring with the wall-box costing around $1000 to $1500 dollars plus installation, which is pretty good value considering what you pay for a full set of tyres or new car options such as a sunroof.
Level 2 charging can also increase to 22kW capacity if you have 415V three-phase power available.
With 22kW you can get 22km for every 10 minutes of charging, so just an hour of plug time will get you about 130km.
You’ll also find many public charging points are Level 2 (7.2kW or 22kW), so be sure you know what capacity they are before you drive to them if time is important.
It's worth noting that most PHEV models, because of their smaller battery capacity and battery management systems, will only charge at a maximum rate of 3.6kW or 7.6kW even when using a 22kW AC charger.
GET Electric has also opened its own hub of 22kW chargers in Port Melbourne, giving nearby EV owners an option for a top-up – particularly those living in the area's high-density apartment towers.
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Level 3 - DC rapid charging
Charging capacity ranges from 50kW on a rapid charger up to 350kW on an ultra-rapid unit.
These are the public DC chargers (480V/direct current), including Tesla Superchargers, that are crucial in making EVs viable for driving long distances with little downtime for charging.
New-generation 800V architectures allow even faster charging, with models like the Porsche Taycan, Audi E-Tron GT, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 capable – in the right circumstances – of charging from 10 to 80 per cent in under 30 minutes.
Most PHEV models can only connect to AC chargers, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV being an exception.
0-80 per cent charge time
You may have noticed carmakers often provide a DC charging time based on a battery being charged up to 80 per cent instead of 100 per cent.
This is because the internal resistance of a battery rises as the state of charge increases. In other words, the more the battery is charged the slower and less efficient it is to keep charging it.
As a result, charging is quickest when the battery is flat. After an initial burst, the charger settles into a constant rate until the battery reaches about 80 per cent full.
After that, the charging slows again – partly due to the decreased efficiency and to prevent the battery from being damaged by overheating or overcharging.
The time it takes to charge between 80 and 100 per cent can vary based on a number of factors, such as battery heat. This is why carmakers can calculate how quickly the battery will reach 80 per cent, but can't provide a definitive time for a full charge.
EV charging plugs and sockets
As we’ve seen with mobile phones, there are different kinds of EV plugs and sockets, which threatened to make the rolling out of charging networks quite complicated.
The good news for Australian drivers is there is now a standard for AC charging... but it's a different matter when it comes to DC rapid charging.
Type 1 AC
Also referred to as J1772 or SAE J1772, this is the standard AC-plug in North America and Japan and is found in Australia on pre-2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs.
It has a five-pin design. The two small pins connect data between the car and charger to determine the maximum current available to the vehicle – which prevents the car from moving while still connected.
The three larger pins are for the 110/240V AC power connection, including the earth. Because there are few public chargers with Type 1 plugs, Outlander can use a Type 2 adaptor.
Type 2 AC
Also referred to as the IEC 62196 or Mennekes plug, this is the standard port in Australia and Europe for AC charging and is used by European and American EV manufacturers, including Tesla.
The Type 2 plug has a seven-pin design, with five power pins to support three-phase charging.
While Teslas use a Type 2 plug, its chargers will only top up Tesla vehicles thanks to an electronic 'lock' that prevents other EV owners from charging on the firm's network.
All plug-in hybrid models in Australia, except the Outlander, are equipped with Type 2 charging ports. EVs with CCS2 sockets (see below) can accept Type 2 plugs.
AUSTRALIAN STANDARD: CCS2
Short for Combined Charging System, CCS can be used for AC and DC chargers. This is the ideal charging port for Australia as it can connect to CCS DC rapid chargers and Type 2 AC chargers. These are becoming more and more popular and can be retrofitted to existing models with only Type 2 sockets.
This is an abbreviation for Charge de Move, which is French for 'move using charge'. It is the standard DC port in Japanese-built EVs and PHEVs such as; the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi Eclipse-Cross PHEV and Lexus UX300e, though Tesla models can use a CHAdeMO via an adaptor. Most vehicles with CHAdeMO sockets also have a Type 2 socket for AC charging.