As much as they’re hyped, electric vehicles (EVs) have several benefits against their gasoline-only counterparts. From their superior use of green energy to simplicity in design and suspension, electric cars are promising to turn the motor vehicle concept around. An EV’s exterior design is very similar to that of a conventional car. When you pop the gas filler door, for example, you see the charging plug of a tube leading to the gas tank in a gas fuel car. In this article, we are going to learn all that you need to know about electric cars.
Charging an electric car
An electric car uses an electric motor or motors to power it. When in motion, an electric car cannot be connected to the grid, thus it requires an inbuilt source of electricity. This electricity is stored in batteries or accumulators, which store charge and often require recharging. To recharge an electric car, a special charging system is needed. One such system has two main functions, which are; to charge the battery as fast as possible and to track the batteries during the charging process to avoid would-be damage due to maybe, high temperatures.
To charge an electric car, you need a charging station and a charger. A charging station can be simple, requiring you to plug them on a home wall socket, whereas others would need some specialized installation.
This difference is the basis of their classification into three (3) categories; Level 1, 2 and 3.
Level 1 charging stations
These chargers utilize the normal household outlet plug, rated at 120-volt. The household power is usually regulated using a 15-amp circuit breaker. The level 1 charger has one major advantage over other levels; that is simplicity. They do not need any custom installation- just plug and wait as your car fuels.
A supply of 120 V at a rate of 15 A (the circuit breaker limit) can give a total power of 1,800 watts. Practically, the attainable power is lesser by around 15%. Most electric car batteries have capacities anywhere between 12 and 15 kilowatts. Level 1 charging stations will output about 1500 watts (1.5 kWh) translating to about 10 hours of straight-up charging. For most vehicles, a level 1 charging, you can have up to 4.5 miles per hour of charge.
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These chargers are the slowest but are the most affordable electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). They are widely used by EV owners who like charging their vehicles at home.
Level 2 charging stations
Level 2 charging stations offer shorter charge times than the level 1. These stations work with 240-volt supply as residential stations and 208-volt for the commercial variant. These charging stations cannot, however, be mounted on a standard wall socket. To use them, you first need the services of an electrician for the installation part. The electricity first flows into the charging box then into the battery via the charging cable. The system can also be connected to a solar electrical power module.
At their rated supply of 240-volts, most level 2 charging stations will give you anywhere between 20 and 60 miles per hour of charging. A hybrid EV can charge to full capacity on this level in roughly bone to two hours. A fully electric car will need at least three hours to charge fully on this level, but it is still dependent on the battery capacity.
It is important to note that both level 1 & 2 charging stations use AC power. The cords connecting to the car’s charging plug are also similar and interchangeable.
Level 3 charging stations
Also known as DC fast charging, this level charges the car battery in the shortest time. The station uses direct current (DC) and outputs through a specific vehicle port. This makes the chargers quite rare. The charging stations are also tremendously expensive, with some costing a hundred grand. The main reason is the tech involved in making this equipment. Due to the cost, these charging stations are mostly commercial, to provide a boost to users on the go.
Tesla Company has not only produced high-end electric cars but also established superchargers, as they call them, throughout the US. These stations can charge a battery of the Tesla model in half an hour!
Unfortunately, some cars cannot be charged on level 3 charging stations.
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Best rated commercial chargers
Here is a short review of some of the best-rated EV chargers;
As a product of a world-renowned electronics manufacturer, it is not a wonder this is the top product in many aspects. This model is hard-wired, meaning power delivery isn’t a challenge, for a station of level 2. It has a rating of 220/240 V and can efficiently push a 30-amp current. The station comes with a long charging cable and very flexible controls.
JuiceBox Pro 40 EV Charging Station
JuiceBox Pro 40 EV Charging Station has really earned the rep behind it. Utilizing a 40-amp supply, the charger is sufficient to charge your EV as fast as it takes your morning schedule. It also comes with a long charging cord -24 feet in length and has remote control capabilities. The station comes with a smartphone application and is Wi-Fi enabled. The phone app allows you to monitor charging from say the kitchen while preparing your breakfast. Another awesome feature is the Alexa voice control that lets you speak out a command to the charging station.
On the con side, this station is quite expensive to install and the 40-amp rating means you need electrical wiring (breaker) that can handle about 50 amperes.
ChargePoint Home EV Charger
This is another reputable level 2 charging station, but of a lower rating than the JuiceBox Pro. It has a rating of 32 amps and a long (25 feet) charging cord so that the station can be installed further indoors from the garage/parking area.
In just a few hours, your empty battery will be full of juice, and this is not as expensive as the first two. ChargePoint Home EV Charger has a built-in Wi-Fi adapter to facilitate remote access and control of the equipment.
This charging station is one of the most versatile, being compatible with Ford, Toyota, Honda, and even BMW models.
ClipperCreek HCS-40P EV Charging Station
It looks like the socket design is the only thing that’d make the charger a little demanding but not beyond the great feature in design and performance. The station plugs from a Nema 14-50 power outlet. This can be fixed very fast by a qualified electrician.
The plug-and-play design means that apart from plugging in and switching on the power, you have nothing else to do on the stations except waiting for the job to complete. It comes with a 25 feet long power cord that assures proximity to multiple power supply points.
Zencar Home EV Station
The Zencar Home EV Station is arguably the best level 1 charging station. It comes at a cost, much lower than the level 2 types and is simpler in design and usability. It is also waterproof, meaning outdoor use isn’t much of a problem.
The 15-amp rating is also the same as the domestic wiring, eradicating any need for complex modifications of your home electrical circuits.
A fully electric car has its ‘gas tank’ replaced with the battery. Currently, three rechargeable types are robust enough to store the needed power. They include; lead-acid, lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel-metal hydroxide batteries.
The lead-acid batteries are the oldest and most popular batteries. They’re cheap to produce but not very durable. They also emit poisonous gases during use. They’re also prone to overcharging which poses a risk of explosion.
Nickel metal hydride accumulators are a sealed and recyclable type with zero-emission. They have a higher energy density than the lead-acid type.
The most popular electric car batteries are lithium-ion type. These batteries are lightweight and have the highest energy density.
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These batteries, just like other components of a machine, have a lifespan, after which they may not be used efficiently. When you charge and discharge a battery once, that makes one cycle. Batteries have an estimated number of charging cycles, which when divided by the average cycles per a given period, can give an indication of how long the battery will last. Several factors determine how long your electric car battery serves you.
Factors affecting the lifespan of an electric car battery
The battery temperature is likely to fluctuate most during charging. When charging, the potential drop (voltage) across the terminal increases to a certain level. This maximum terminal voltage for a lithium-ion battery is usually 4.2V. Beyond this value, the battery starts heating up. The heat destroys the battery and at higher levels, it could pose a risk of fire. Premium charging stations come with battery management systems that control the voltage and hence the temperature.
All batteries are designed with a given rating. If you try to squeeze out more power than the designed value, you adversely undermine the lifespan of that battery. You should also avoid higher than recommended charging current/voltages.
Depth of Discharge (DOD)
The level of charge in a battery is quantified by either depth of discharge or state of charge (SoC). When you charge a battery to full, then discharge it to, say 50% and recharge it again to 100%, it is equivalent to half a cycle of charging. You can get close to twice the number of charging cycles in this manner since the indicated number usually means a full charge followed by a full discharge.
Also, to maximize the lifespan of the battery, avoid 100% DOD.
Average state of charge
Batteries have been observed to serve for the longest periods if not charged to 100% and/or discharged to 0%. Charging to 80% and discharging to not below 20% will give your electric car battery close to full life.
The cost of charging an electric car
Just as gas will cost you money, electricity powering your EV car is not going to be free, at least not everywhere. There are places that you won’t be charged for charging your car. Many employers are nowadays providing their workers with free electricity to charge their EVs during the day. Also, in places like shopping malls, it’s not rare to find a parking lot with charging stations where you can leave your car charging as you shop. Fast charging is also available at some motorway stations, but you will be charged for it.
Normally, the fuel efficiency of an electric car is expressed as kilowatt-hours per 1oo miles or kilometers. To arrive at that figure, you need to know the cost of electricity in your state and your car’s efficiency. Efficiency in this context is the amount of electricity required to propel the car for 100 miles or kilometers.
The household cost of electricity is about $0.11/kWh. An average class electric car can consume about 35kWh of power to cover a hundred miles. The fuel cost would be (35/100) *0.11, which is roughly $0.0385 per mile.
Different electric cars have different fuel efficiencies. It is, therefore, best to compare before settling for a specific brand and model.
There are specialized commercial EV charging providers like the Walgreens. According to information on their website, the company claims to have more than 400 charging stations across the country. The charging stations are mainly level 2 for compatibility purposes. The cost per hour is not uniform throughout- they depend on the pricing structure. In New York, for example, the cost is about $2.99 per hour whereas, in cities like Florida where billing is calculated based on a unit of energy, the cost per unit is roughly $0.49.
Electric cars have a record lower emission than gasoline fuel type cars. To combat pollutions and consequent climatic change, the federal government introduced a tax credit in 2010 for all the electric cars that were bought from Jan 1st, 2010. This move was aimed at encouraging the use of electric cars which ultimately would enhance the environmental integrity.
Featured Image by Jan Kaluza