Buying an electric car is an exciting event. Whether your goal is to make an economic impact, reduce time and money at gas stations, or have something more modern, there is no doubt that the popularity of electric cars is on the rise.
As the name suggests, electric cars have a battery that is charged via electricity, rather than an engine that runs on gas. And they are different from hybrid cars, which run first on electricity and then switch to gas after the energy supply has run out. So when purchasing an electric car, your main challenge will be to keep it charged.
The range of charge times varies greatly. It can be anywhere from less than an hour to half a day. So our questions come down to how long will it take to charge for your specific car? How can you optimize your time charging? And what factors will ultimately affect your charging speed? Here we’ve compiled all the information you’ll need to ensure your new electric car is kept charged, and that you don’t waste your time charging it.
Time Savers When Charging
Just like your cell phone, an electric car will need frequent charging to be effective. You rarely set your phone aside during the day and allow it to charge from an empty battery to a full one. Rather, you allow it to “top up” throughout the day as needed, perhaps only allowing it to fully charge at night. Your focus is not on keeping it at 100 percent. Instead, you want to ensure it has enough battery to comfortably last through your activities until you are ready to charge it again.
The same strategy applies to your electric car. Instead of plugging it in during the day at home and waiting for it to fully charge, you only need to give it what you need for the time being. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of public charging stations. After all, you only drive your car to your destination, and then it just stays parked. If you are able, park it at a charging station so it can be powering up while you complete your errands, or go about your work day.
The frequency of electric car charging stations depends upon where you live. A modern city will have plenty of these, but more rural areas will have very few, if any at all. When purchasing your electric car, it’s important to make note of what public charging stations are available to you.
The only time you will really want to fully charge it is overnight at your own home. Otherwise, simply keep track of the miles you are able to go on the current charge during the day.
Factors that Affect Charge Time
There are a handful of factors that influence the time it takes to charge your car. The main one is the size of your battery. Simply put, the larger the battery, the longer it takes to charge. Your vehicle will also have its own max charge rate that it can’t go beyond. This varies from vehicle to vehicle. And the power of the charger you have won’t matter, because you will not be able to up the speed of your electric car’s charge.
Your battery’s current life also affects the charge time. The lower the battery, the faster it will charge. But a fuller battery will slow down the charge. This is referred to as “tapering.” It typically starts to slow down at 50 percent, but it slows down dramatically at 80 percent. Due to this, some charging stations will even cut your car off at the 80 percent mark. So it is advised you don’t worry about charging it more than that unless you are leaving it overnight at your home.
There is also another factor in electric car charging time: the temperature. Colder temperatures create a slower rate of charge. The cold also makes vehicles, overall, less efficient and eats up more miles during driving. So if you live in an area that is cold most of the year, keep this in mind when evaluating your charge times.
Types of Car Chargers
There are different types of car chargers, all running at different charge speeds and costing various prices. Not all of these will be applicable to your car.
You can always simply plug your car into a standard electrical outlet at home. However, this is not the most efficient way to charge your car. But, if you intend to leave it there overnight, and you have a small battery, that may be all you need. Typically, it takes one hour of charge for four miles of driving. So after eight hours, you will only get about 32 miles from it.
A home charging station is a better bet. Also called Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE), these chargers typically can do 10 to over 25 miles per hour of charge. These are fairly expensive, costing around $700, and a professional should install them. You also have the option of a permanent mount in your home, or a portable one that you can take with you if you choose to move to another house.
These EVSE’s typically have a charge rate of 3.7kW or 7kW. Much more than that, and you’re looking at a much larger expense. And your vehicle typically won’t need a more powerful home charge point.
For public chargers, it depends on what network you want to use. It’s usually as simply as going on the company’s website, creating an account, and getting a card to use at these charge stations. Common organizations include ChargePoint, Greelots, Azra, and Blink. Check to see what is most common in your area.
Different Car’s Charge Times
Here is a sampling of different vehicles and how long it will take to charge each, depending upon the charger used.
- Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, 2018. With a 7kW charging speed, it will take four hours to fully charge. With a 50kW rapid charger, it will only take 40 minutes.
- Nissan LEAF, 2018. With a 7kW charging speed, it will take six hours to fully charge. With a 50kW rapid charger, it will only take one hour.
- Tesla Model S, 2019. With a 7kW charging speed, it will take 11 hours to fully charge, much longer than the other models. At 50kW, it will take two hours. But the Tesla can handle a 150kW rapid charger, which the others cannot, and it will charge it from empty to full in less than an hour. But, that is also a more expensive charger.
So, if that is a sampling of charging cars from empty to full, what about just a top up? If you are stopping at a store and let your car charge for 30 minutes, what will you get out of that public charging port?
One public charging station is called the SAE Combo. These produce up to 50kW of rapid charge. For a half-hour charge on the BMW i3, Chevy Spark EV, and Volkswagen e-Golf, you’ll get more than 75 miles of range.
If you have a Tesla, you can use their Supercharger Network that gives a max output of 120kW. For only 30 minutes there, you get an incredible 170 miles of range.
Just like charging your cell phone, your video game controllers, and other electronic devices, your main focus of your electric car will be to top it up throughout the day, and only fully charge it at night. There are a multitude of factors that influence charge time, and there are strategies to make your time more efficient.
- Use Public Charging Stations: Take advantage of the time your car is parked to keep it running smoothly throughout the day. Do your research to see what is common in your area, and what is best for your vehicle. If you have a Tesla, take advantage of their Supercharger Network.
- Battery Size: The smaller the battery, the shorter the charge time.
- Battery Life: Charging over 80 percent of the battery tends to slow it down, and should best be saved for your home charging point.
- Temperature: The cold will make it charge slower.
- Charging Power: Home charge points of 7kW typically fully charge your car within six hours. Not all of your everyday electric vehicles can handle strong, rapid chargers.
Q: Can I just use my electrical outlet in the garage to charge my car?
A: Yes, but it will greatly reduce the mileage you get from your charge.
Q: Shouldn’t I just buy the most powerful charger?
A: Some vehicles can’t handle anything about 50kW. Double-check your electric car’s capabilities before spending the extra money.
Q: Can I install the home charging point myself?
A: It’s better to let a professional handle it.
Q: Why did this public charging station stop at an 80 percent charge?
A: Due to the tapering effect of battery charge, the charge speed slows dramatically after 80 percent. Stopping the charge here saves you time overall.