Electric car charging guide and chargers

By James Walker
Charging an electric car with a public charger in a parking lot

guteksk7- stock.adobe.com

Electric vehicles (EVs) are an ever-growing part of Canada's transport landscape with one in twenty new cars registered in 2021 being fully electric. The Government of Canada is hoping that by 2040 100% of light-duty car and truck sales will be made up of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). Achieving that goal means not just selling the cars, but having the infrastructure in place to make battery-electric and other ZEVs convenient and realistic for buyers. A big part of that is increasing the number of EV charging stations available across our vast nation, including EV home charging stations. This guide will tell you about the different types of EV chargers, who they're suited for and how you can integrate your first EV into your existing transport needs.

Types of EV chargers

There are two main types of EV chargers: alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC), along with three different levels of chargers.

Level 1

Level 1 EV chargers are the slowest and use AC power to charge your car. Every new EV comes with a Level 1 charger, with one end connecting to the car and the other plugging into run-of-the-mill 120 V wall outlets. Level 1 chargers typically add between 3 and 8 km of range per hour of charging, making their slow charging speed a drawback. On the other hand, Level 1 chargers don't require any additional equipment or installation by a qualified electrician. If you only drive your EV over short distances a few times a week a Level 1 charger could be all you need. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which use a combination of internal combustion and electric power, feature smaller batteries than dedicated battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and can fill up overnight with Level 1 chargers.

Level 2

Level 2 chargers also use AC power to charge EVs but do so at a much faster rate. Depending on the vehicle being charged, a Level 2 charger can add anywhere from 16 to 97 km of range for each hour of charging. Level 2 chargers can be installed at home or found at businesses and dedicated public charging stations. Level 2 EV chargers use 208 or 240 V outlets like the ones powering large appliances such as fridges and ovens. If you use your EV for commuting every day and need it to be fully charged each morning then a Level 2 home charger would be the right option for you.

A Level 2 EV car charger can carry an extra cost because of their purchase price and fees for a qualified electrician to install them, though many provincial governments provide rebates and incentives to help EV buyers purchase home chargers. Level 2 home chargers provide extra convenience and are often cheaper to use than comparable public chargers. All EVs (except Tesla which uses its own Supercharger network) can charge at a Level 2 charging station.

Level 3

Level 3 chargers are currently the best in the business and use DC power to charge EVs much faster than Level 2. Sometimes referred to as DC fast-chargers, Level 3 chargers can add as much as 250 km of range in an hour of charging or fill an EV's battery to 80% in 30 minutes. Level 3 DC chargers use a 480 Volt system, though not all EVs are capable of accepting this amount of juice. You should always familiarize yourself with your EV's features before plugging it into a fast car charger. Level 3 chargers are found at some businesses and increasingly at dedicated EV charging stations.

Installing an EV charger at home

A home EV charging station provides a great amount of convenience because you never have to wait for an unoccupied charger and can plug in whenever you need to. Understanding how to charge a car battery at home is important for EV drivers. Here are a few things to consider when planning for a home charging station for electric cars:

What kind of EV car charger do I need?

How you use your EV determines what kind of charger you'll need. If you drive short distances infrequently you'll probably be fine using the Level 1 charger that came with your car, but if you commute daily in your EV it's worth purchasing a Level 2 charger which can give you a full charge overnight.

Charger location

For electric car charging at home, you'll need to consider where you set up your EV home charging station. If you charge your car outside in your driveway you'll need to make sure that the charger you purchase is rated for outdoor use. A car charger, like other major appliances, draws large amounts of power, you want to make sure your EV home charging station is designed to operate properly in its environment.

Electrician fees

If you choose to go for a Level 2 charger it's important to have it installed by a qualified electrician. While this may cost more than using a Level 1 charger initially it'll save you money and time versus public Level 2 chargers down the road. It's also important to make sure the charger you purchase is safety rated for the area you live in.

Good charging habits

There are a couple of habits you can get into to keep your EV and your wallet happy. Charging at home is a big one because your car can be taking on power while you're doing anything else you enjoy. Charging at a public station means you're tied to that location, which is fine if you're shopping at a mall but can be tedious if you're just sitting around waiting for your car to charge.

The best way to charge at home is to do so overnight. Your car will be happy as it gets a consistent charge and electricity is cheaper during the night when demand on the power grid is lower. You'll wake up to a fully charged car having paid less for the electricity and causing less impact on the environment. Charging overnight at home could save you money and stress in the long run.

We hope that this article has given you some valuable information about charging and electric vehicles. As EVs become more and more common on our roads, charging will become a habit similar to charging our phones or mobile devices, and hopefully, this guide has given you the information you need to get ahead of the pack. Start your search for your next vehicle on Kijiji Autos.

James Walker is a motoring writer with a love of all cars fast and slow. Old or new, exotic or cheap, if it's on wheels and has a story he wants to tell you about it.

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