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- There are three main types of EV chargers.
- Any electric vehicle can use multiple charger types.
- Tesla’s proprietary plugs exclude other cars from its branded Superchargers.
Before buying an electric vehicle, the first thing you’ll want to know is how to charge up.
There are two main things to know about EV charging: charger types and connector types. Any electric vehicle, Tesla or otherwise, can use all three types of chargers.
However, Teslas are equipped with a proprietary connector that excludes other types of EVs from using the company’s vast Supercharger network.
Among connectors or plugs, there are two categories: AC and DC, short for alternating or direct current. Type 1 and Type 2 AC plugs are standard on EVs from America and Asia and deliver charge speeds between 7.4 and 43 kilowatts, depending on the charger you’re plugged into. At these speeds, a full charge would typically take several hours.
For a faster charge, you’ll want to look for DC plugs. Of those, there are two standard types, plus Tesla’s. One type of DC is essentially an enhanced type of AC charger with two additional prongs to support faster charging. The other type, CHAdeMO, has fewer prongs, provides a faster charge, and supports bidirectional charging.
Once you have identified your plug type, there are three different types of chargers providing various levels of speed.
Most electric vehicles are sold with a Level 1 charger equipped. It can look similar to an outdoor extension cord in size and length.
While this is likely the most convenient charging option for a new EV buyer – it’s compatible with a standard 120-Volt wall outlet – this is the slowest way to charge. It’s best when your car will be plugged in for a long period, like overnight or during the weekend.
A Level 2 charger can often be found in public areas, like parking garages, restaurants, and grocery store parking lots. These slightly faster chargers – averaging about 25 miles of range per hour – can also be installed in your home.
Level 2 chargers can be either hardwired or plugged into an existing 240-volt outlet, the same type of outlet used to plug in your home dryer. These are great for overnight charging, as they can usually deliver a full charge in 8 to 10 hours.
DC Fast Charger
These are the best chargers for long trips, as they can provide the most juice in the shortest amount of time.
Depending on the size of your battery, a DC fast charger can replenish an empty battery to about 80% in a half hour. Tesla’s Superchargers, which only work on Tesla vehicles because of the proprietary connector, are DC fast chargers. But non-Teslas can also plug into a DC fast charger that is not owned by Tesla.
How to find public charging stations
Tesla is the only EV maker with a dedicated charging network, which has been a big draw for buyers. Other car companies have relied more on partnerships to build out charging infrastructure, which has made the proliferation of much-needed plugs for non-Tesla drivers a much slower process.
General Motors, for example, is just getting started on its Ultium Charge 360 charging network in North America – a joint effort with its dealer network and charging startup FLO.