EV chargers* - What you should know
Owning an electric vehicle is a different experience than owning a gas powered one. However, one similarity between the two is that they both need to be refueled. How they refuel though is one of the fundamental differences between the two types of mobility. While cars with internal combustion engines pull into gas stations and get gas into their tanks, an electric vehicle uses EV chargers to connect to the power grid and uses electrons to replenish the batteries. In this article, we will look at the different types of EV chargers and charging available.
Electric vehicles are in two categories. First there are battery electric vehicles (BEVs). They derive all the power used to move the vehicle from an embedded battery that stores energy. The second category is plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). They get power from a combination of a battery and an ICE. BEVs use EV chargers to connect to a power source while PHEVs can charge their batteries either from a power source or from the ICE when the vehicle is in motion.
EV chargers or charging can be classified in different ways. They could be grouped by the type of current (AC or DC), the charging location or condition, and the ‘level’ or mode of charging (UK EV owners are used to charging ‘modes’ while across the pond, it is commonly referred to as ‘level’), and charging standards.
The categorizations above have overlapping areas, as we shall see.
AC or DC chargers
When you plug your EV chargers to the grid, it draws AC. However, the battery can only store DC power. This means a conversion takes place before the power is stored in the battery. Where the conversion takes place is the difference between AC and DC chargers. When you use a DC charger at a public station, the station does the work of converting the AC from the grid to DC before supplying the electricity to the battery. However, with AC chargers, the conversion takes place inside the car, with the help of an on-board charger.
At public charging stations, where the conversion to DC takes place outside the car, bigger converters can be used as there is no space constraints, like it happens in a car. This means DC chargers can supply larger currents, which charge the car battery at a higher rate. Some DC stations are capable of supplying up to 350 kW of power, which can charge a typical car battery in 15 minutes. AC chargers by contrast, will require longer times for a full charge.
Charging locations or conditions
Charging can also be classified based on the location of the charging. ‘Main harbour’ takes place at or near the home or workplace. Destination charging happens when the vehicle is parked somewhere while the owner is involved in an activity. Examples are restaurants, malls and other public spaces that offer EV chargers. Main harbour and destination chargers typically use AC power. As a result, they are more readily available. The last category is range extension charging, which involves rapid charging of the battery, typically found at public charging stations. They use DC.
Modes 2, 3, and 4
Mode 2 EV chargers have a power lead that plugs into a power point with a 3 pin plug at one end and the charging plug of the car at the other end. The car controls its on/off function, which means it can inform the charger to switch off at the control box when the battery is full. Mode 2 chargers typically supply around 2.4 kW.
Mode 3 EV chargers are mode 2 EV chargers with the electronic control box mounted on the wall, which removes the need for live cabling when charging takes place. They come in various charging speeds. The one you should get depends on the charging rate of your EV, the maximum power the house can supply and whether the electrical connection is single or three phase. The CHARGESTORM® CONNECTED 2 is a wall or pole mounted EV charger that allows you monitor your charging through a smartphone app.
Mode 4 is also referred to as DC Fast Charge or rapid EV chargers. They supply DC current to the battery directly, which means they convert the AC from the grid to DC outside the car, eliminating the function of the on-board charger. They are capable of supplying from 50 kW to 800 kW. These are typically found in public charging stations. Mode 4 EV chargers also fall under DC chargers.
EV chargers can also be categorized based on the standard they are based on. They may be based on the CHAdeMO or CCS standard. CHAdeMO is a fast charging standard that can supply up to 500 kW power to the battery. CHAdeMO chargers come with both the cable and the connector, which means you do not need to provide your own.
The CCS or Combined Charging System gets its name from combining a slow charging Type 2 interface with two extra DC power lines that can work on higher voltages.
The standard you use depends on your EV maker, as they are free to use ports of any of the two standards. This means you have to locate the type of charger standard that is compatible with your car to be able to use them.
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* You might have noticed that we call the CHARGESTORM® CONNECTED 2 an ‘EV charger’. Technically speaking it’s ‘electrical vehicle supply equipment’ (or EVSE for short), that provides a safe supply of electricity to power the on-board battery charger in your Electrical Vehicle (EV). Most people use the term EV charger, so to keep things simple, we’ve chosen to use this term too.