How to Charge an Electric Vehicle: Part 2 of 2

How to Charge an Electric Vehicle: Part 2 of 2

Welcome to How to Charge an Electric Vehicle (Part 2 of 2). Check out Part 1 if you missed the first part of a two-part series. While Part 1 discussed Level 1 and 2 charging, part 2 will discuss Level 3 (more commonly known as DC Fast Charging). DC Fast Charging is mostly used for the periodic road trip.  

Let’s begin!


Level 3/DC Fast Charging:

DC Fasting Charging (DCFC), or sometimes called Level 3, utilizes over 400 volts and is only available at public stations. Tesla’s proprietary DCFC is known as a Supercharger.

Due to the high voltage, these charging stations are about the size of a gas pump. DCFC is almost exclusively for BEV only.

Tesla Supercharger
Tesla Supercharging Station

Where are they located?

The Plugshare app and website is by far the most recommended place to locate DCFC stations (even Level 2). It’s free, easy to use, and comprehensive of all the different networks. It contains ratings from users so you know if stations aren’t working. Google Maps is even integrated for easy navigation on your smartphone while you are traveling.

You may be surprised how many charging stations are already near you. Try the map below to see how many DC Fast Charging stations are around your location!

Like public Level 2 charging stations, DCFC stations are often located by highway rest stops, restaurants, or large shopping areas. This makes DCFC easy as you can grab a bite to eat or use the restroom while your vehicle charges thereby reducing the amount of downtime on your road trip.

Since DCFC is most commonly used for road trips, these periodic 30-minute breaks are only as often as your road trip. The vast majority of charging an EV is at home overnight via Level 1 or Level 2.

Just like with gas stations, DCFC are offered from a variety of networks such as EVgo, Tesla, Electrify America, and Chargepoint. While Tesla is the largest and offers the quickest charging speeds, it is also proprietary so only Tesla vehicles can use it. Other networks like EVgo and Electrify America are open to all vehicles.

To find out if the charger is available, pricing or other network questions look to the network’s app on your smartphone.

While Level 1 and Level 2 charging is stated in miles per hour of charging, DCFC is more commonly expressed as the time from 10% to 80% battery state of charge. This is the sweet spot the lithium-ion batteries like to be.

The batteries will charge the fastest within these parameters. Also, less than a 10% charge can give range anxiety, so it is best to avoid that situation.

Charging Duration:

The charging duration for DCFC is a bit complicated. There are two main factors that play a role in how long a DCFC will take: a) the vehicle’s accepted charging rate and b) the network charging speed.

Think of it this way, the vehicle accepted charging rate is like a garden hose diameter while the charger speed is like the flow of water. The larger the hose, the more capacity for more water. The faster the flow of water, the more water that comes out of the hose. Large hose + high flow of water = super-fast charging!

Charging Duration Per Level
Charging Duration Per Level
Image credit: Energysage

A)      Accepted Charging Rate:

The Chevy Bolt is limited to a charge rate of 55 kW (kilowatts). Despite plugging into a DCFC that is capable of 250 kW, the Bolt will only accept a maximum of 55 kW. Conversely, the Tesla Model 3 can charge up to 250 kW, but if connected to a 50 kW DCFC, it will only pull a maximum of 50 kW.

More kW means less time charging.

The latest generation of EVs can pull more and more kW during a DCFC session. New entries in 2020, such as the Mustang Mach-E or the Tesla Model Y, will accept over 125 kW.

It is important to note that while a vehicle like the Kia Niro EV can accept a maximum charge rate of 72 kW, it will not sustain that rate during the entire charging session. In a bell curve-like fashion, an EV will ramp up the charge rate to a peak before decreasing over time. Therefore, expect the average charge rate to be less than the advertised maximum rate.

Tesla Model 3 Supercharging Curve
Tesla Model 3 Supercharging Curve
Image credit: Abetterrouteplanner

B)      Network Charging Speed:

Older DCFC stations typically have a max speed of 50 kW. Five years ago this was quite fast, however, with the rapid improvements in EV technology, it is now considered quite slow. Most new DCFC stations have a max of 150 kW.

The Tesla and the Electrify America networks offer the fastest DCFC stations as of today. Some have even up to 350 kW! Great Scott!

The latest generation of EVs achieve 10-80% DCFC in around 20-45 minutes. The latest new non-Tesla EVs, such as the Ford Mustang Mach E or Audi E-Tron, will charge at faster speeds like Tesla (20-30 minutes).

Charging cost:

DCFC cost either per minute of charging or per kilowatt-hour (kWh). For example, Electrify America in California charges $0.99/minute plus a $1.00 activation fee for the fastest charging speed of 125+ kW. Using the new Ford Mustang Mach-E, a 30-minute charge at this rate would cost around $31.70 for 200 miles of range.

Alternatively, using a Tesla Model 3 and the Tesla Supercharger Network, the cost would be around $17.50 or $0.07/mi.

In other words, charging at a DCFC will cost around $0.07 to $0.15/mi.

By comparison, gas will cost around $0.14/mile using national averages for an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, or gas car, of 25 MPG efficiency and $3.52/gal for gas (California).

In this scenario, gas and electric are around the same cost but remember these DCFC sessions are few and far between. Less than 5% of the average American’s trips are more than 200 miles per year.

Quick summary:

  • Charger cost: $0—public station only
  • Charging cost: $0.07 to $0.15/mi (factors: Tesla Model 3/Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Supercharger Network/Electrify America Network)
  • Duration: 25-45 minutes (primarily used only during road trips)

Typical gas car comparison:

  • Refueling cost: $0.14/mi (factors: 25 MPG, $3.52/gallon)
  • Refueling duration: 5 minutes (all refueling must be done at gas station)

*Results will vary depending on vehicle efficiency, electricity rates, network pricing, gas pricing, etc

Closing Thoughts:

Whew. We made it.

While it seems fairly complicated, 95% of the time it is just a matter of plugging in when you get home and waking up in the morning to a full charge. It is really just as simple as charging your phone every night.

Only a handful of trips a year warrant a DCFC session with a BEV (battery electric vehicle, or all-electric). Of course, with a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) long road trips are the same as a regular gas car since PHEVs have around 20-40 miles electric range before the 300+ miles of gas kicks in automatically.

In my personal experience, I travel over 200 miles about once a month. A couple of 30-minute DCFC sessions here and there throughout the year would certainly not be an issue for me.

These periodic 30-minute breaks during long road trips are perfect for grabbing lunch, stretching the legs, or using the restroom since DCFC stations are conveniently located nearby these amenities. In fact, I already take 15-minute breaks here and there when road tripping in my PHEV. Adding an extra 15 minutes is really not that big of a deal.  

In the big scheme of things, charging an EV is by far cheaper than fueling a gas car. This is especially so as the vast majority of charging is completed overnight at home with a Level 2 charger found easily on Amazon. To find exactly how much cheaper your personal situation, check out the website PlugStar.

Let me know what your thoughts are from the second part of the How to Charge an Electric Vehicle series in the comments below.

Stay charged! 

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