Developing Infrastructure to Charge Plug-In Electric Vehicles

Photo of charging equipment.

The rate at which charging adds range to a vehicle depends on the vehicle, battery type, and type of EVSE. The following are typical rates for a light-duty vehicle.

AC Level 1: 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging

AC Level 2: 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging

DC Fast Charging (sometimes called DC Level 2): 60 to 80 miles of range in 20 minutes of charging

To widely accept the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs), consumers and fleets need a developed infrastructure of charging stations. Drivers need affordable, convenient, and compatible options for charging at home (or at fleet facilities, in the case of fleets). Charging stations at workplaces and public destinations may also bolster the market acceptance of PEVs.

Charging plug-in electric vehicles requires plugging into electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are charged using regenerative braking and the internal combustion engine and are not plugged into charging equipment.

Charging Equipment

Charging equipment for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs) is classified by the rate at which the batteries are charged. Charging times vary based on how depleted the battery is, how much energy it holds, the type of battery, and the type of EVSE. The charging time can range from 15 minutes to 20 hours or more, depending on these factors.

AC Level 1 Charging

AC Level 1 EVSE (often referred to simply as Level 1) provides charging through a 120 volt (V) AC plug and requires electrical installation per the National Electrical Code. Most, if not all, PEVs will come with an AC Level 1 EVSE cordset so that no additional charging equipment is required. On one end of the cord is a standard, three-prong household plug (NEMA 5-15 connector). On the other end is a J1772 standard connector (see the Connectors and Plugs section below), which plugs into the vehicle.

AC Level 1 is typically used for charging when there is only a 120 V outlet available. Based on the battery type and vehicle, AC Level 1 charging adds about 2 to 5 miles of range to a PEV per hour of charging time.

AC Level 2 Charging

AC Level 2 equipment (often referred to simply as Level 2) offers charging through 240 V (typical in residential applications) or 208 V (typical in commercial applications) electrical service. AC Level 2 EVSE requires installation of home charging or public charging equipment and a dedicated circuit of 20 to 100 amps, depending on the EVSE requirements. This charging option can operate at up to 80 amperes and 19.2 kW. However, most residential AC Level 2 EVSE will operate at lower power. Many such units operate at up to 30 amperes, delivering 7.2 kW of power. These units require a dedicated 40 amp circuit.

Most homes have 240 V service available, and because AC Level 2 EVSE can charge a typical EV battery overnight, this will be a common installation for homes. AC Level 2 equipment uses the same connector on the vehicle that Level 1 equipment uses. Based on the vehicle and circuit capacity, AC Level 2 adds about 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging time.

DC Fast Charging

Direct-current (DC) fast charging equipment, sometimes called DC Level 2 (typically 480 V AC input), enables rapid charging along heavy traffic corridors and at public stations. A DC fast charge can add 60 to 80 miles of range to a light-duty PHEV or EV in 20 minutes.

Inductive Charging

Inductive charging equipment, which uses an electromagnetic field to transfer electricity to a PEV without a cord, has been recently introduced commercially for installation as an aftermarket add-on. Currently available wireless charging stations operate at power levels comparable to AC Level 2.

Photo of charging connector and plug.

The standard J1772 receptacle (right) can receive charge from AC Level 1 or AC Level 2 equipment. The DC fast charge receptacle (left) uses a different type of connector.

Connectors and Plugs

Most modern charging equipment and vehicles have a standard connector and receptacle based on the SAE J1772 standard developed by SAE International. Any vehicle with this plug receptacle should be able to use any J1772-compliant AC Level 1 or AC Level 2 EVSE. All major vehicle and charging system manufacturers support this standard in the U.S., which should eliminate drivers' concerns about whether their vehicle is compatible with the infrastructure. Some currently available plug-in vehicles that are equipped to accept DC fast charging (like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i) are using the CHAdeMO connector. SAE International recently finalized a "combo connector" standard for fast charging that adds high-voltage DC power contact pins to the J1772 connector, enabling use of the same receptacle for all levels of charging. The new standard is now available on a limited number of vehicles.