The most important thing to know about charging an electric vehicle, be it a BEV or a PHEV, 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 (between from 3 to 5 hours) with a 240V outlet, same used by a domestic clothes dryer or at a public charging station. Residential charging stations can easily be installed by a qualified electrician. Generally, public charging stations can be accessed by network members only.
- 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 uses a 220/240V outlet. This is 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 3-5 hours with a 240V outlet.
- All plug-in vehicles sold in North America are expected to have both Level 1 and Level 2 recharging capability using a J1772 connector.
- Level 3 or “fast” chargers (typically 480 V) have been developed to enable quick charging (80%) in as little as a half-hour. They for sale by some electric vehicle manufacturers and third parties. These fast chargers are still rare but are generally available in urban centres in Canada, the United States and many other countries.
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.
There are two types of connectors for fast charging: CHAdeMO and COMBO.
CHAdeMO connectors were developed and adopted by Japanese and Korean manufacturers. They can be found in the Nissan LEAF, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Kia Soul EV, for instance.
COMBO connectors are used by almost all American and European manufacturers, including Chevrolet, Ford and BMW. This means that a Nissan LEAF owner cannot recharge her vehicle at a charging station without a COMBO connector. This is why most fast charging stations have both types.
Tesla also has its own connector but a CHAdeMO adaptor can be used to recharge these vehicles at a fast charging station. Tesla also has its own network of fast charging stations reserved for Tesla owners.
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. The Electric Circuit public network offers nearly 400 charging stations throughout Québec with 10 fast chargers. For detailed information on charging stations across Canada click here.
The principle of inductive charging (charging 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