This is How Fast Charging Works and How You Should Use it
Across its lifecycle, even when manufacturing and charging are taken into account, an electric vehicle is better for the environment than an equivalent gasoline vehicle. So the more people who switch from gasoline to electric, the better.
If we want to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, it’s important that we try to make them as convenient as possible. Fast charging technology is a crucial component of that. But what exactly is fast charging, and how does it work?
Fast Charging Explained
What is Fast Charging?
Fast charging for electric vehicles (EVs) is designed to recharge EV batteries quickly and efficiently. This allows drivers to travel longer distances without lengthy charging stops, making EVs much more convenient.
While traditional charging methods for EVs involve plugging the vehicle into a standard power outlet or charging station, which can take several hours to fully charge the battery, fast charging stations provide a significant charge to the battery in a much shorter period of time. At a fast- charging station, a 30-minute charge is often enough to bring an EV back up to optimal range. When it comes to the technical side of things, fast charging works a little differently compared to standard charging.
How Does Fast Charging Work?
To understand the basics of how fast charging works it’s first important to consider direct current (DC), and alternating current (AC). All batteries — including EV batteries — require direct current to charge, but standard power grids use alternating current.
So every time an electric vehicle is charged, the AC from the power grid must be converted to DC in order to actually charge the battery. This is done using a converter, and it is here where fast charging really works differently compared to standard charging.
With standard or ‘AC charging’, the charger first sends power to the EV’s onboard charger. This onboard charger then converts that AC power into DC so the battery can be charged. Fully charging an EV in this way will usually take around 5 hours or more.
When using fast charging though, the conversion from AC to DC is done within the charger itself. This is why fast charging is often referred to as ‘DC fast charging’. By removing the EV’s onboard charger from the equation, this process allows charge to be sent directly to the vehicle’s battery, significantly speeding up the charging process.
Depending on battery size and health, and the exact output of the particular fast charging station, it can be possible to add about 80% charge to an EV in 30 minutes or so using fast charging. Fast charging is considered to be level 3 charging, compared to standard AC charging, which is both level 1 and level 2.
What are the Different Charging Levels?
There are three main levels of EV charging, each with different charging speeds and equipment requirements:
Level 1 charging is the slowest and most basic form of EV charging. It uses a standard household power outlet and requires no additional charging equipment. As it can take up to 24 hours to fully charge an EV this way, it is often only considered a backup option, and impractical for everyday use.
Level 2 charging is the kind of AC charging that’s available at standard public charging stations. It’s much faster compared to level 1 charging, but as we’ve seen, it can still take up to 5 hours or more to sufficiently charge an EV using this method. Conveniently though, level 2 chargers are affordable enough to purchase and install for home use. There are many options available on the market for a few hundred dollars.
Level 3 (Fast Charging)
Fast charging is the fastest and most powerful form of EV charging. The specialized charging equipment it requires though, is usually too expensive for home use. For this reason, fast charging is mainly reserved for public and commercial charging stations. Now you know what fast charging is and how it works, it’s probably best to figure out how best you can use it.
How You Should Use Fast Charging
If you’re thinking about installing fast charging technology at your facility, here are a few tips for how to utilize it best:
Not All Vehicles are Compatible with Fast Charging
First things first, it’s important to keep in mind that not all electric vehicles are compatible with fast charging. This is because fast charging uses a different connector than that used for level 1 and level 2 charging. Most modern EVs are compatible, but it’s still a good idea to double-check that the vehicles you’re going to be charging are compatible.
There are Different Types of Fast Charging
In North America there are currently three main types of fast charging. These are Combined Charging System (CCS), Tesla Supercharger, and CHAdeMO. Different vehicles are compatible with different types of charging depending on what make they are.
If you choose to install Tesla Superchargers, they will only be able to charge Tesla vehicles. However, if you install charging units from any of the other major fast charger producers, you’ll be able to charge both CCS and CHAdeMO-compatible vehicles. (It’s also possible to charge Tesla vehicles using CHAdeMO chargers using an adapter).
Don’t Overdo it!
Fast chargers send a great deal of power to an EV’s battery, which can be quite stressful for the battery. For this reason, it’s best to only use fast charging when you absolutely need to. Overdoing it can reduce the battery’s performance and longevity.
The 80% Rule
When you’re charging an EV battery, it follows what’s known as a ‘charging curve’. It starts charging slowly, speeds up dramatically in the middle, and then slows down significantly once it’s reached about 80% charge. So to maximize efficiency and save energy, it’s usually best to only use fast charging until each vehicle reaches 80% charge. That way, you’ll have your whole fleet ready to go in next to no time.