Straight Talk Articles
Getting Charged Up About Electric Vehicles
Dear Pat and Brad:
I read your recent article about electric pickups and SUVs and I’m excited that some electric vehicle options are now better suited to rural areas. Can you tell me more about how the battery system and charging works in an electric vehicle? -- Evie
We’ve been hearing more buzz about electric vehicles (EVs) in rural America. So it’s a good time to know more about batteries and charging.
Batteries, like the vehicles they power, come in different sizes that provide different mileage ranges. Most people charge their EVs at home(1), but if you take a cross country trip you can charge your EV at one of the rapidly growing number of charging stations around the country. Your vehicle will tell you how many miles are remaining before a charge is needed and many models offer in-car navigation to the next charger. For cars without this feature there are 3rd party phone apps available.
We often refer to 3 levels of charging. A new EV comes equipped with equipment for Level 1 (L1) charging, which just plugs into a regular wall outlet. This is the slowest form of charging, but if you don’t travel many miles per day, or your EV is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with a small battery, it might be all you need. L1 requires less than 1.5 kWs, which is about the same as a hair blow dryer, and will give the battery 3-4 miles of range per hour of charging. If you drive your car 40 miles or less during the day and can charge it for ten hours a night, this will probably be adequate. But if you have an all-electric EV with a 60kWh battery it would take over 40 hours to fully charge with L1.
Level 2 (L2) is the most common type of charging because it operates on 240 volt power, which nearly every home has. Level 2 can supply roughly 6-19kW of power, depending on what your vehicle is capable of accepting and your electricity circuit’s amperage. L2 can provide 100 miles of charge in several hours, and fully charge a large battery in 8 to 10 hours. You may need to install a new circuit if there isn’t a 240V circuit near where you park. L2 is the most common type of charging at grocery stores, libraries and workplaces.
Level 3 (L3) chargers, often called DC Fast Chargers (DCFC), require much more current and are not installed in homes. More and more of these chargers are available at the charging stations being built around the country. These chargers have power levels from 50kW to 350kW depending on the charging station. Some new EVs can accept 250kW or more and charge a battery from a 10% level to an 80% level in under 20 minutes.(2) Some older EV models may take an hour or more to achieve 80% full at 50kW. When selecting an EV, the charge time from 10% to 80% can be an important factor if you regularly head out on road trips.
Vehicle to home is an exciting new technology that enables EVs to power a home or shop during a power outage. Ford’s upcoming F150 Lightning (2022),(3) Hyundai’s Ioniq5/Kia EV6 (4) crossovers and 2022 Volkswagens are slated to offer this option. With a large battery like that found in the F150 Lightning you may be able to power your home for several days or more.
An important decision is when to charge your vehicle. Your co-op may prefer you charge at night when there is excess capacity on the electric grid because this could help keep costs down. Co-ops around the country are working on programs to prepare their system for more EVs. Some may offer reduced rates for times that are desirable to charge. Other co-ops may offer members financial incentives to reduce peak demand by controlling the charging while providing you with the charge you need by the time you leave for work.
Charging infrastructure is being built all over the country. You may not have them in your area yet but many co-ops are planning for customer’s charging needs. You can reach out to your co-op to discuss charging locations that may help you and your community.
This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Jon Jantz of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on charging your electric vehicle, please visit the November 2021 more information page.
The condenser for a mini-split is often mounted on an exterior wall. Source: Marcela Gara, EE image database.