How Long Does it Take to Charge an Electric Car?
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How Long Does it Take to Charge an Electric Car?

By Michael O'Connor | September 17, 2021

With the popularity of electric vehicles increasing, it’s more important than ever to understand their daily upkeep and operation. One of the most common concerns when considering an electric car purchase is the charging time. Many people wonder if an electric vehicle will be able to meet their needs when it comes to the miles of range and the typical battery life.

Knowing how electric car charging works can help remove some of the fears around buying one of these vehicles. By understanding how long it takes to charge an electric car and how to get the most out of a single charge, you can make the right decision for your lifestyle and needs.

Popular Electric Vehicle Charging Times

Not all electric cars have the same charging times. Your driving habits and ability to access charging stations will have a lot to do with which vehicle is right for you.

The charging times for some of the most popular electric cars are:

  • Tesla Model S - 12 hours
  • BMW i3 - 7 hours
  • Chevrolet Volt - 10 hours
  • Nissan Leaf - 11 hours
  • Porsche Taycan - 11 hours
  • Audi E-Tron - 10 hours

These charging times are approximate. There are many different factors that will determine how long it takes to charge any one of these vehicles completely.

What Determines an Electric Car’s Charging Time?

Just like with a traditional internal combustion-powered car, your particular circumstances and driving habits determine an electric vehicle’s range and battery capacity. However, the most important thing to consider is how the car is going to be charged. The charging method and the circumstances around it will have more to do with how long it takes than almost anything else.

Battery Size

Battery capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh. This unit of measurement is also how electricity rates are measured for your home. Using this method, you can determine how much it will cost to fully charge your electric vehicle.

The average rate of use for electric vehicle batteries is around 30 kWh per 100 miles. For example, the Tesla Model S comes with a battery capacity of 100 kWh. This means that it will take longer to fully charge the battery than it would for a vehicle with a lower kWh battery. It also means that Tesla has a much longer range than most electric cars.

Charge Level

The charge level of the battery when you plug it in will also have a lot to do with how long it takes to fully charge. Most people aren’t going to drain the battery completely before plugging in their electric car. The level at which you start charging your battery will probably change day-to-day depending on how much you drove at that particular time.

In general, it is best to try and keep your car’s battery charged between 20 percent and 80 percent capacity unless you will need the full range of miles. If you aren’t going to be driving for more than a week, let the battery sit at around 50 percent. This keeps it at a healthy level and won’t threaten its long-term condition.

Vehicle’s Maximum Charging Rate

Different electric cars have different maximum charging rates. This means that not all electric cars will be able to handle higher voltage from the charging station. Knowing an electric vehicle’s charging rate will determine how long it takes to completely recharge.

Some vehicles charge using a standard 120-volt electrical outlet. This is the same type used for any number of household items like televisions or computers. Others use a 240-volt outlet which is usually for large appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. A vehicle with a 240-volt capacity will charge much faster than one with a standard 120-volt charging cable.

Weather

Cold temperatures can affect the efficiency of electric cars. In colder weather, it may take much longer to charge an electric vehicle than it would in warm temperatures. When storing your vehicle in cold climates, it is recommended that you keep it plugged in so the battery can stay warm.

On the other hand, very hot weather can also influence battery life. Higher temperatures can affect a car’s thermal management system, which causes the battery to take longer to completely charge. If you live in an area with extreme temperatures, storing your electric vehicle in a climate-controlled garage is highly recommended.

Charging Station Rate

Your vehicle can only be charged at the maximum rate of its power source. The amount of voltage that can be put out by your home charging station outlet will determine how fast the battery charges up. A 240-volt outlet will charge your electric car battery much faster than a standard 120-volt plug.

Many dedicated EV chargers will deliver a faster charge than a standard plug. For example, public charging stations are usually designed to deliver rapid charging. If you drive your electric vehicle to work and use a rapid charger, you could end up with a better charge than you would at home with your standard plug.

Types of Charging Stations

There are many different types of EV charging stations for electric cars. Before you decide on a model, it may be a good idea to consult with an electrician and determine which kind of charging station will be best for your home. In many cases, a few small modifications can deliver a faster charge.

You may also want to consider whether or not you have access to public charging stations. Many of these stations will use direct current and will be much more efficient than a standard, slow charging household plug. If, for example, you work somewhere that has one of these stations, you may not need to install a modified plug at your home.

120-Volt Electrical Outlet

A standard, 120-volt, alternating current plug, also known as a Level 1 charger, is going to offer the slowest charge for an electric vehicle. In fact, many fully electric cars don’t use this kind of plug and will require a larger, 240-volt hookup. Because of this, you may want to think about any modifications to your home’s electrical system and factor that into the cost of your electric vehicle.

Most of the time, Level 1 electrical outlets can be used only with plug-in hybrids. However, a few of the smaller fully electric cars with lower battery capacity can be charged with a standard plug. The Chevy Volt, for example, can be charged with any household outlet.

240-Volt Electrical Outlet

The most common type of home charging outlet for an electric car is the 240-volt hookup, which is called a Level 2 charger. This is a larger plug that you will most often see with appliances that need more power. If you need one of these plugs in your garage or shop for your home charger, an electrician will have to install a 40-amp circuit or use a specially-developed splitter. Level 2 chargers are more common with larger, more powerful electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan.

Combined Charging System

A combined charging system connects both Level 1 and Level 2 chargers to give you a full charge much quicker. If your electric vehicle can support both AC and DC charging, this could be a good option. It is a good way to get a faster-charging speed out of your home’s standard electrical grid using direct current.

DC Fast Chargers

Direct Current Fast Chargers, or DCFCs, are the quickest way to fill up your electric vehicle’s battery. Also known as Level 3 chargers, they deliver 480 volts of direct current instead of alternating current like your household plugs. This results in a faster, more direct charge.

DCFCs are the most efficient type of electric vehicle charging point. However, if your battery is below 20 percent or above 80 percent the charging speed will decrease. Many DCFCs are only designed to charge batteries up to 80 percent to keep them from getting overcharged and damaging them.

What is Top-Up Charging?

Top-up charging is the act of plugging in your battery just to get it to a full charge. This is common with standard, internal combustion vehicles but with an electric car, most manufacturers discourage it. In general, it is best to charge your battery when it reaches around the 20 percent mark. This will keep it at its most efficient and prevent damage to the thermal management system as well as the internal resistance system.

Difference Between Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

While both hybrid and electric vehicles are getting more popular, they are not the same thing. A hybrid vehicle has a standard internal combustion engine and switches between that and an electric motor. It uses the engine and, in some cases, regenerative braking to charge the battery. Because of this, they don’t need to be charged like fully electric cars do.

Electric cars, however, need to be charged by an external power source. This means that there is a lot more thought and care that has to go into their charging since it’s the only way to get power to the car. While they may require less maintenance and no trips to the gas station, there are still considerations to be made when purchasing one.

Final Thoughts

No matter what kind of electric vehicle you have, the charge point is going to be an important consideration. If you don’t want to make modifications to your home’s electrical system just because you bought a new car, a smaller, less powerful option may be the best choice. However, if you regularly have access to a public charger with direct current, something with a little more power could be viable.