Do all EVs and PHEVs need a special 240-volt outlet to charge? Or, can they be charged at a normal 120-volt outlet? – Lawrence
That 120-volt plug-in will charge every electric car. But if you drive long distances every day, it might become an outlet for frustration.
“Every electric vehicle, whether it’s a plug-in hybrid [PHEV] or full EV [electric vehicle]. comes with a Level 1 charging cord that plugs into a normal outlet,” said Michael Stanyer, program coordinator with Plug In BC. “I’ve found that I’ve gotten by quite well with Level 1 charging.”
Charging can seem confusing, but it’s basically pretty simple. There are three levels of charging, from slowest to fastest.
Level 1 is a standard 120-volt outlet. That’s the standard voltage in North America. It takes the longest of all three.
For instance, if you plug a 2021 Chevy Bolt, which has a 417 km range, into a 120-volt outlet, it’ll gain about 8 km in range per hour.
So, charging from empty to full at Level 1 could take a couple of days.
Level 2 uses a 240-volt outlet. Depending on the car, you can get back about 30 to 40 km per hour.
So, you can plug in after dinner and go from empty to full overnight.
If you’re installing a Level 2 charger at home, you’d need an electrician to install a 240-volt outlet, the kind used for dryers. Then you’d buy a dedicated Level 2 charger that you’d mount on the wall or a cheaper plug-in adapter.
“I’d say think about a $2,000 budget just in case there’s extra electrical work on the house that needs to be done,” Stanyer said. “Some manufacturers are starting to include a home charging package with vehicle purchase and sometimes dealerships will throw in a charger as a bonus.”
Level 3 is also called Direct Current Fast Charge. These are public chargers that can, generally, get your battery up to 80 per cent full in 30 to 40 minutes.
Depending on the size of the battery and the speed of the charger, it might take another 60 to 90 minutes, or longer, to get to 100 per cent.
Fast chargers are best for times when you need a full charge, well, fast. They make sense for a road trip. Or if you’re near empty and don’t want to sit at a public Level 2 charger for a couple of hours.
But using one daily could shorten the life of your battery.
If you’re charging at home, you’d use a Level 1 or, if you have one, a Level 2 charger. Public chargers are Level 2 or Level 3.
Plug and wait?
Most of us need less range than we think we do. Most new EVs have around 400 km of range. Unless you’re on a road trip, you might not drive 400 km in one day – or even in one week.
For most people, the average commute is around 30 or 40 km a day, Stanyer said.
“If you’re thinking of switching to an EV, just maybe keep a journal for a couple of weeks to see how much you actually drive,” Stanyet said.
So, if you drive shorter distances all week, plugging into a 120-volt outlet every few days should be more than enough.
Even if you only gain 100 km in one night, you’d still have plenty of range for normal driving.
“If you’re driving a little more that, you end up topping up as you sleep in on the weekend,” Stanyer said.
If you occasionally need a faster charge, you can find a public charger.
But if you’re regularly driving long distances, or if you have an older EV with lower range, splurging on a Level 2 charger might make sense.
That way, you’re not stuck at home waiting for enough juice to go somewhere.
But what if you have a PHEV and want to drive it without the gas kicking in? Is 120 volts enough?
PHEVs have smaller batteries – typically with battery-only ranges between 25 and 80 km. With most of them, you can charge to full overnight with a 120-volt outlet.
If you want a full charge in an hour or two, then a home Level 2 charger might make sense.
Have a driving question? Send it to email@example.com and put ‘Driving Concerns’ in your subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.