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How long does it take to charge an electric car?

If you’re new to the electric vehicle (EV) game, you may have a few questions about charging capabilities:

  • How long does it take to charge an electric car?
  • How long does the charge last?
  • How much does it cost to charge up?
  • How do I install a home charging station?
  • How common are public charging stations? What do I need to know about different types of EV chargers?

The following article will dive into these questions and more so you can hit the road in your electric vehicle.

Charging basics

There are three levels of EV charging, each indicating how fast you’re able to fill up your EV’s battery. Most EVs are able to use all three types of charging, though consumers should consult the manufacturer for each model’s specific capabilities.

Level 1

Level 1 charging uses a standard 120-volt wall outlet — the same kind you use for lamps, cell phones and blenders at home. This type of charging is the most accessible because the outlets are so common, but it’s also the slowest. A full charge can potentially take over 24 hours on Level 1, but an overnight charge will typically suffice for day-to-day driving. The charging cord usually comes with the purchase of an EV, so charging up requires no additional equipment.

Level 2

Level 2 charging uses a 240-volt outlet — the same kind clothes dryers use — to charge the car significantly faster, reaching a full charge in just a few hours. This type of charging is commonly used at the driver’s home, where they can hire an electrician to install an outlet where they park overnight.

Level 3

Level 3 charging, also known as “direct current (DC) charging” or “fast charging,” delivers the fastest and most powerful charge for drivers on the go and far from their home chargers. Akin to gas stations, Level 3 charging is typically found at public charging stations that can fully charge most models in under an hour and deliver an 80% charge in about 20 minutes. There are approximately 46,000 public charging stations in place across the country, and there are apps and tools to help you plan your trip to make sure chargers are available along your route.

Charging time

The amount of time it takes to charge up depends on your make/model, as well as whether you’re using Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 charging. Level 1 charging with a standard household outlet may take up to 24 hours. Level 2 charging, which is the most common form of charging, may take a few hours — many drivers charge overnight while they’re asleep. The Level 3 public charging stations are the fastest, delivering an 80% charge in about 20 minutes and a full charge in under an hour.

Charging cost

On average, it costs about half as much to fuel a vehicle with electricity compared to a similar vehicle that runs on gasoline. But just as gas prices vary, so do electricity costs — based on your location, how your driving style impacts your fuel efficiency, and the size of your tank or battery. In the U.S., the average cost of a kilowatt of energy is approximately 13 cents. At that price, the cost to drive 1,000 miles would be just over $30. This cost is either added to your monthly utility bill if you charge at home, or paid “at the pump” when you use public charging stations. 

Battery range

The number of miles you can cover on a full battery really depends on your make and model, as well as other factors like weather, traffic conditions, and driving style — just like with gas-fueled vehicles. The median range of an electric vehicle with a fully charged battery is roughly 250 miles.

How do I install a home charging station?

Most EV drivers install a Level 2 home charging station so they can quickly and easily charge up at home. The “station” typically consists of a cord and a user-friendly dock to keep the cord clean and organized.

Much like with cell phones, the cords differ by manufacturer. Some EV models require a brand-specific charger that comes from the manufacturer, but others can be purchased from a range of home improvement stores and online retailers. Be sure to consider cord length, warranty options, and your car’s specific needs when shopping for a charging station.

Part of building a new charging station is adding the electric outlet it uses. Home charging stations work best with a 240-volt outlet — rather than a standard electrical outlet. While these outlets are common, most EV drivers hire a professional electrician to install one near where they park their car.

According to a 2022 J.D. Power report, these Level 2 home charging stations cost between $250 and $1,000, and the additional cost of labor to install the 240-volt outlet is about $200 to $1,000 (more if you require a service upgrade to add the additional circuit needed). In some areas, there may be a government incentive available to cover a portion of these costs.

Other questions about charging and batteries

How long do electric car batteries last?

Experts suggest that EV batteries will typically last anywhere from 10-20 years, which is longer than most people own a vehicle and longer than most gas-powered engines last. Many EV manufacturers provide a warranty on the battery, typically for eight years and with a promise that your EV battery should still hold at least 70% capacity after eight years.

What type of batteries do electric cars use?

Currently, the majority of electric cars and plug-in hybrids use lithium-ion batteries. These are the same type of battery used in computers and phones. Lithium-ion batteries have a high per-unit energy capacity and energy efficiency. They also perform well at higher temperatures.

In summary

How long it takes to charge an electric car, how much it costs, and how to do it — the answers to all these questions and more vary depending on the make and model, the type of charging utilized, and other factors like driving conditions. Regardless of your location or driving style, charging capabilities for electric vehicles are becoming faster and more accessible every day. If you do decide to purchase an EV, there are financing options, EV charging resources, and EV cost calculators

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