The most important thing to know about charging an electric vehicle, whether it’s a battery electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid, is that it is as easy as plugging in a toaster. Most electric cars can be charged overnight in a standard 120V household outlet. However, almost all models can be recharged more quickly – approximately 5 hours – in a 240V outlet, which is the same type of outlet needed for domestic clothes dryers, and which can easily be installed by a qualified electrician.
- Most plug-in electric vehicles can be recharged overnight from a regular three-prong household wall socket (110/120 volts). This is known as Level 1 charging.
- Level 2 charging is 220/240V charging, the type found at most charging stations and easily installed in most homes for a few hundred dollars. Many models can fully charge in approximately 5 hours in a 240V outlet.
- All plug-in vehicles sold in North America are expected to have both Level 1 and Level 2 recharging capability.
- Level 3 or “fast” chargers (typically 480 volt) have been developed to enable quick charging in as little as a half-hour, and they are being offered for sale by some electric vehicle manufacturers as well as by third parties. These are still rare.
Networks of charging stations, similar to gasoline stations, are being developed throughout North America. In Ontario, for instance, some GO Train stations offer parking spaces with outlets for electric vehicles. For detailed information on charging stations across Canada click here.
The principle of inductive charging – accomplished, for example, by just parking on a designated spot, without plugging in – is also being explored, although it has not yet been commercialized.
Quick Battery Change Facilities
An alternative to recharging the battery in the vehicle is to swap it for a fresh fully-charged battery.
Battery quick-change facilities, similar to conventional service stations, have been developed and are in experimental use. Robotic battery change times less than one minute have been reported.
Only vehicles specifically designed for such quick-change battery swaps can be serviced at such facilities.
Stocking and recharging an adequate supply of batteries, particularly if different battery types are serviced, is a significant challenge for such facilities.
Next Section: Sources of Electricity