How electric car charging stations work

 In Vehicles

Proportionally to the increase of electric vehicle owners, recently there has been a growing need for accessible electric car charging stations.

The obvious issue here is that every driver needs to be able to recharge his car by connecting it to an electricity source, whether public or domestic.

We know that more than 80 % recharges are done at home, but still it’s undeniable that there is a strong need for charging structures along roads and public places.

However, how do the electric car charging stations really work?

What are electric car charging stations

Before understanding how they work, it’s important to understand what electric car charging station actually are.

According to a generic definition, it’s a collection of two or more individual charging points.

Practically, it’s an infrastructure that provides electric energy for recharging electric vehicles (cars, motorcycles and bicycles), installed by private persons, local governments, car makers and energy companies.

It’s possible to distinguish three different categories of electric car charging stations, each suitable for different car models and charging needs:

  • Level 1: electric car chargers that can be plugged into a household plug (120 V). This is the cheapest option but also the one that takes longer to charge car batteries. Depending on the battery capacity, full recharge can take up to one day, while plug-in hybrid vehicles can take as long as 12 hours.
  • Level 2: both domestic (204 V) and public (208 V) electric car charging stations, suitable for recharging EVs and PHEVs. This type of station delivers 10/60 miles of range per hour of charging, so generally a full electric vehicle needs at least 3/6 hours of charging, while a plug-in hybrid car can fully charge the battery in two hours.
  • DC Fast Charger (Level 3): this is the most expensive option, which can offer 60/100 miles of range for 20 minutes of charging. This means that you can recharge the 80 % of your battery in about half an hour. This electric car charging station can be used only in commercial and industrial applications, and it can’t recharge all commercial car models.

Beyond energy power and charging times, there is significant difference between this three categories: during the charging procedure, Level 1 and 2 chargers use the same charging port on the vehicle, while Level 3 requires a specific charging port.

Outside these categories there is also the Tesla Supercharger, a super fast charging station designed only for Tesla vehicles, which allows drivers to fully charge the battery in just 30 minutes.

Electric car charging stations, how long does it take

Depending on the single battery capacity and different electric car charging station features, time to recharge an electric vehicle may also change.

The length of time for the recharge of an electric car depends on how many kilowatts the charging station can provide and how many kilowatts the vehicle can accept.

Generally, the greater is the wattage, the faster is the recharge.

Three different charging times can be considered:

  1. Slow charging: using 3 kW, the full recharge of battery takes about 8 hours
  2. Fast charging: with a 7/22 kW charging station, you can recharge a battery from zero in just three or four hours
  3. Rapid charging: having available 43/50 kW allows you to replenish the 80 % of a car battery in less than an hour.

How do electric car charging station work

We have already discussed the different types of electric car charging stations, but their operating system is probably still unclear.

So, how do charging stations actually work?

The answer is pretty simple: just consider that recharging an electric vehicle requires the same method of charging than your smartphone and that is simply connecting the plug to the electrical socket.

Rechargeable electric devices and EVs use in fact similar type of batteries, such as lithium-ion battery or nickel-methal hybrid battery: to recharge these batteries a user generally needs a special electric car charger to boost the charge level while at the same time balancing safety and efficiency of the battery.

Especially when recharging car at home, a user needs an ESVE charger, a device that enables AC electricity from your main source to be converted to DC power for the vehicle battery.

To access one of this public charging stations, a user would generally need a wireless key that will allow him to unlock the structure and draw power.

Where to find electric car charging stations

Electric car charging stations are installed by public authorities, commercial and energy companies aiming to increase the global market of electric vehicles.

The objective is to make easier finding a charging station where there is on-street parking, in driveways or hotels car parks, airports, shopping centers and fast food restaurants.

Of course, as already mentioned, most charging stations are at home or in domestic garage.

That’s why local governments are currently trying to increase the number of public charging stations, to boost the spreading of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars and to support drivers who have already made this choice.

For example, in the United States, Obama’s administration announced a plan to increase charging stations in the entire country.

Despite the popularity of electric vehicles in the USA, there are still areas that don’t have electric car charging stations along highways and city roads.

According to some research, California is the most advance country for the number of electric car charging stations: there are more than 11000 outlets in 3488 public charging stations, a real dream for electric drivers.

Infographic: Density of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the United States | Statista

How do you know where to find a charging stations?

It’s simple! There are useful Apps that, through Google Maps, allow you to find the nearest station in your area.

Currently PlugShare, EV Charge Hub and Charge Point offer the most popular charging networks, an extremely useful tool to recharge your car wherever you are.

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