Charging Electric Vehicles 101

Charging an electric vehicle (EV) is like filling up a conventional vehicle with gas, except the gas station is a charging station, and the fuel is electricity.

It couldn’t be simpler to charge your EV—we’ll help you break it down.

 

Charging speeds

Level 1 charging

Charging a vehicle at “Level 1” means plugging into a standard 120-volt outlet (a typical household electrical outlet). All drivers can charge their EVs at Level 1, which requires no extra equipment or installation. On average, Level 1 provides two to five miles of vehicle range per hour the vehicle is connected.

Level 1 chargers are well-suited to places where people park vehicles for a long time, such as workplaces and homes. EV drivers who typically drive 40-50 miles per day or less may find that a Level 1 charger is adequate for home charging.

Level 2 charging (J1772)

Charging a vehicle at “Level 2” means plugging into a 240-volt outlet (the same kind that powers appliances like refrigerators). On average, Level 2 stations provide 10 to 20 miles of range per hour the vehicle is connected.

Places where EV drivers will be staying for a while are great locations for Level 2 chargers. Level 2 stations offer faster charging than Level 1 chargers but are much less expensive to install than DC fast chargers. Examples of public locations include workplaces and destinations like hotels, retail centers, major attractions like zoos and parks, park and ride lots, and public parking ramps. Residential examples include single-family homes and multi-unit dwellings such as apartment buildings and condominiums. Homeowners who often drive more than 40-50 miles in a day or want the option for faster charging may choose to install a Level 2 charger.

Direct current (DC) fast charging

DC fast-charging stations offer the quickest charge available, fully charging a vehicle in around 30 minutes or less, depending on several factors including how “empty” the vehicle battery is, battery capacity, and fast charger’s power output. Additionally, vehicles take longer to charge in cold weather.

The higher the power output of the charger, the quicker the charge:

  • 50kW stations are most common, providing vehicles with 80-90 miles of range in 30 minutes.
  • 150kW is becoming more common, offering increased speeds and convenience.
  • Tesla V3 Supercharging stations with a peak efficiency of 250kW can charge a 2020 long-range Tesla Model 3 (322-mile range) about 23 percent in about five minutes, 80 percent in about 20 minutes, and 100 percent in less than 25 minutes.
  • Ultra-fast charging stations with an energy output of 350kW can charge vehicles with large batteries (100kWh+) to 80 percent in about 15 minutes. Vehicles that can accept that power level are only starting to enter the market.

Fast charging provides the ability for EV drivers to travel beyond their home base, making long-distance trips doable in a shorter amount of time. Additionally, they are important in metropolitan settings, with public and private fleets, and for people without good access to home charging. They also boost prospective EV owners’ confidence and reduce perceived range anxiety, helping to increase EV adoption. Further, fast charging stations are critical for increasing EV adoption amongst transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft.

 

DC Fast Charging plug standards

Three plug standards exist in the United States and are used by different vehicles.

Used by: American/European and certain Asian EVs. Examples include the Chevrolet Bolt, BMW i3, Kia e-Niro, and Jaguar I-Pace. Also used by heavy-duty vehicles like transit buses.

Plug standard: CCS-1 (or SAE Combo)

Energy output: 25kW-350kW

Used by:In North America, only the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander. Tesla vehicles can also use with an adapter. However, an announcement made in 2020 signals the shift away from CHAdeMO for new vehicles

Plug standard: CHAdeMO

Energy output: 25kW-150kW

Used by: Tesla vehicles only.

Plug standard:Tesla Supercharger

Energy output: Up to 250kW

Electric utility programs

Electric utilities, from local municipal utilities to investor-owned utilities, play an important role in accelerating EV adoption. Integrating EVs into the electric system can drive down electricity rates for all customers, including those that don’t drive an EV.

More EVs charging on the electric grid can require distribution system upgrades if not carefully planned. One of the ways utilities are planning for increased electricity load is by encouraging consumers to charge during low demand times like overnight (i.e., off-peak) through specialized rates and smart charging technology, generally making it cheaper for EV drivers to charge their vehicle.

These time of use rates assess higher fees outside of the low demand times and can apply to the entire house or to the EV itself only. However, applying the rate specifically to the EV generally requires installing a separate meter to track energy usage, though utilities are beginning to pilot ways to encourage charging during low demand times without requiring the customer to sign up for a whole-home time of use rate or install a separate meter.

 

Find a program near you

The Great Plains Institute compiled a list of programs in 2020 that Minnesota utilities offer to customers who drive an EV. It indicates what subscribers pay during off-peak and on-peak times of the day and contains information about available rebates and renewable energy programs.

Links are provided below to some of the more common programs available in Minnesota. Be sure to check your utility’s website, or contact your utility, to receive information on programs available to you.

 

Charge your EV with renewable energy

Many utilities also offer renewable energy programs, allowing EV drivers to reduce their carbon footprint even further. The list below provides links to some of the larger programs available in Minnesota. Be sure to check your utility’s website, or contact your utility, to receive information on programs available to you.

Xcel Energy
Windsource
Renewable*Connect
Solar*Rewards Community

Minnesota Power
Community Solar Garden
SolarSense

Great River Energy
Revolt
Wellspring
Wellspring Solar Program

Otter Tail Power Company
TailWinds Wind Energy Program

 

Beyond utility programs, EV drivers can also power their vehicle directly with renewable energy, which not only makes the vehicle emission-free, but can create additional cost savings and benefits.

Solar energy is the most common on-site option for linking renewable energy to EV charging, and doing so can maximize the value of the on-site solar production and reduces the grid impacts of EV charging. This option works best if the EV is being charged during the middle of the day, such as when vehicles are parked at home during the day, or at workplaces, parking ramps, retail centers, and public amenities like parks. However, technology to link and manage on-site solar production with EV charging is still nascent, so it may not be available for all charging types or utility service areas.