Which Charging Station Should You Use? Understand EV Charging Level Differences

Did you know there are three EV charging levels? These three levels are offered at various charging stations around the country. When you drive your electric vehicle, you want to make sure you’re refueling your batteries efficiently and at the right connectors. The first part of this is understanding the various charging levels offered at the charging stations in your area and on your road trip.

What are the three types of EV charging?

An EV Charging Station that works for lots of different electric vehicles
EV Charging Station | Getty Images

The three types of EV charging you’ll find at charging stations are levels from one to three. According to Charge Hub, here’s what each one offers:

Level 1

This level isn’t at charging stations any longer. When the first charging locations were built, this was the only type of charging offered. Level 1 is the same as plugging your vehicle into a regular 120-volt outlet in your home. This means you’re charging using the same amount of power that it takes to run your laptop computer. The charge is only 1 kW at a time, and it’s the slowest way to recharge your electric vehicle.

Level 2

If a charging station isn’t a DC Fast-Charging location, it’s likely a Level 2 charger. The charging rate is much faster than Level 1, with power at 3 to 20 kW but typically 6 kW per hour. Level 2 charging is the most versatile because it’s approved for installation in your home. Power for this charging level typically uses a 240-volt power outlet, the same amount that operates your clothes dryer.

Level 3

The most powerful and fastest charging level is Level 3. This is what you find at most DC Fast-Charging stations around the country. When you see that a vehicle can refuel from 10 to 80% in only 30 minutes, it’s through the use of a Level 3 charging station. Power runs at typically 50 kW per hour and is much more powerful than approved for home use.

What is an EV charging rate?

An electric vehicle garage in a city centre car park in Bath, England
An electric vehicle in a garage | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The charging rate is how much you pay per kWh to recharge a vehicle. Some EVs come with free charging for set amounts of time and occurrences using specified networks. Typically, charging an EV is much more affordable than refilling a gas tank. An example given by Drive Clean shows us that charging a Nissan Leaf at 18 cents per kWh costs about $7.00. Refilling a gas vehicle that reaches 25 mpg to the same driving distance costs about $22.000 at a price of $3.70 per gallon.

Which EV charging stations should you use?

A line of EV chargers
A row of EV charge ports | Karol Serewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

If available in your area, you should use a DC Fast-Charging Level 3 location. Find out if your EV comes with free charging using a network in your area. Many networks require membership for you to charge your EV at their charging stations.

A few of the charging networks you could use include:

  • ChargePoint
  • Blink
  • SemaConnect
  • EVgo
  • Electrify America
  • Webasto
  • Greenlots
  • FLO
  • ZEF Energy
  • OP Connect
  • GE WattStation

Are all level 3 charging connectors the same?

A Tesla home EV port hanging on a wall in a garage area.
Tesla Home EV Charger | Telsa

No, two different connectors are used on all electric vehicles not made by Tesla. Tesla has its own connector that is not compatible with other charging stations. The two connectors you’ll find on all other electric vehicles are the CHAdeMO connector and the SAE Combo connector. Ensure you know your connector is compatible with your area’s Level 3 EV charging stations.

The benefits of an at-home charging station?

Of course, one aspect of owning an electric vehicle that you don’t experience with a gas or diesel-powered vehicle is the ability to charge at home. You can set up a Level 2 charging station and power up your ride every night. This allows you to have a fully-charged EV when you head out every morning.

Learn more about how much it could cost for you to set up an at-home charging station in the following article.

RELATED: Can You Get an Automaker to Pay for Your Home EV Charging Station?