What is a Level 2 Charger?
Electric vehicle (EV) charging has come a long way from the first trickle chargers that marked the tentative beginnings of e-mobility. Today, manufacturers have started developing other charging alternatives, including wireless charging and solar charging. Despite recent developments, Level 2 chargers remain as the top choice EV charging, for most EV owners. This doesn't come as a surprise as these chargers strike a balance between charging speed, convenience, and cost-effectiveness.
What are Level 2 Chargers?
Level 2 chargers are a type of electric vehicle charging station that operates at a higher power level than standard Level 1 chargers. Unlike Level 1 EV chargers that use a standard household outlet, Level 2 chargers require a dedicated charging unit and a 240-volt power source, typically found in homes, workplaces, and public charging stations. These chargers deliver a faster charging rate, making them a preferred choice for overnight charging.
AC vs. DC Charging
The primary distinction between AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) fast charging, lies in the type of current used to deliver power to the electric vehicle. Level 2 EV chargers utilize AC power, which is then converted to DC power within the vehicle's onboard converter. This conversion process is more efficient for everyday charging needs and is cost-effective for both residential and commercial applications. DC fast chargers, on the other hand, provide direct current to the EV's battery, enabling faster charging speeds but are generally more expensive and suited for rapid charging stations.
How fast is a Level 2 charger?
The charging speed of a Level 2 charger is significantly faster than that of a Level 1 charger. While Level 1 chargers typically provide around 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging, Level 2 chargers can deliver approximately 20-60 miles of range per hour, depending on the specific charger and the vehicle's compatibility. This increased speed makes Level 2 chargers more practical for everyday use and long-distance travel.
Charging Times For Level 2 Chargers
The charging time for Level 2 chargers varies based on the battery capacity of the electric vehicle and the power output of the charging station. For example, if an electric vehicle has a battery capacity of 40 kWh, it would take approximately 2 hours to fully charge the EV battery from empty using a 22 kW Level 2 charger.
Level 2 Charging Connectors and Plugs
Standardized EV charging connectors and plugs are crucial for ensuring compatibility between Level 2 chargers and electric vehicles. Several global standards have emerged, each with its unique design. Some prominent Level 2 charging connectors include:
J1772 (Type 1)
The SAE J1772, commonly known as J1772, is the standard Level 2 charging connector used in North America. The J1772 connector has a power output of up to 19.2 kW, translating to about 18-28 miles of range per hour. This standard is widely adopted in the United States and Canada, and it provides a common interface for most electric car and plug-in hybrid models from various manufacturers, except Tesla vehicles.
Mennekes (Type 2)
Image courtesy of Elbigrossisten
Mennekes, also known as Type 2, is a Level 2 charging connector that is prevalent in Europe, Australia, and select parts of the Middle East and Africa. This connector has a power output between 7.6 kW (32 Amp, single-phase, 230-volt) and 22 kW (32 Amp, three-phase, 400-volt).
Image courtesy of Ali Bahrami
GB/T is the Level 2 charging standard used in China. It differs in both design and signaling when compared to the European Type 2 connector, despite having physical compatibility. Unlike the European Type 2 setup, GB/T 20234.2 employs a male connector and a female vehicle inlet. This connector has a power output of up to 7.4 kW with a single-phase input.
North American Charging Standard (Tesla NACS)
Tesla uses its proprietary connector for Level 2 charging in North America. Tesla electric cars come equipped with their own charging port, which is different from the J1772 standard used by other electric vehicle manufacturers in the region. While Tesla provides adapters for J1772 charging, Tesla EV drivers typically use Tesla-specific charging equipment for optimal performance. The NACS can be used as both an AC or DC fast charger.
How much does a Level 2 charger cost?
Aside from the upfront costs of the home charging unit, there are several other expenses to consider when installing EV chargers, most importantly, your existing electrical setup. If you already have a 240-volt circuit available, a basic installation can range from $250 to $800. However, should you need a panel upgrade, you're looking at anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000, including the hourly rate of the electrician. Federal tax credits of up to $1,000 and various state rebates can help offset installation expenses.
Permits, necessary to comply with federal, state, and local codes, can cost between $50 and slightly over $160. Adjusting your garage's electrical setup might also incur additional costs, approximately $150 per square foot. Additionally, the choice between a hardwired or plug-in Level 2 EV charger affects the installation cost, with hardwired level 2 EV charging stations typically being more expensive due to their permanence and professional installation requirements. Opting for a portable charger could be a cost-effective choice, providing flexibility in installation options and delivering a practical range of 6 to 31 miles per hour.
Luckily, manufacturers like Lectron offer charging stations that can either be plugged directly into a NEMA 14-50 outlet or be hardwired into your home's electrical system. The V-Box and V-Box Pro are Lectron's flagship home charging stations that boast flexible installation options and adjustable charging rate based on your needs.
How do Level 2 chargers compare to the alternatives?
Level 2 chargers offer a balance between charging speed, convenience, and cost, making them a popular choice for both residential and public charging infrastructure. Let's explore how Level 2 chargers compare to other charging alternatives:
Level 1 Chargers:
Level 1 chargers use a standard 120-volt household outlet.
While they both use AC electricity, Level 1 chargers are slower, providing 3-5 miles of range per hour.
Suitable for overnight charging at home but less practical for on-the-go charging.
DC Fast Chargers:
Level 3 chargers deliver a much higher charging speed, providing up to 200 miles of range in around 30 minutes.
Commonly found in public charging stations along highways and urban areas.
More expensive to install and maintain compared to Level 2 chargers.
Frequent use of DC electricity contributes to EV battery degradation.
Wireless charging eliminates the need for physical connectors and plugs.
Charging rates are similar to Level 2 chargers.
Limited availability, and the technology is still in the early stages of adoption.
Comparatively, Level 2 chargers strike a balance between charging speed and installation costs, making them a practical choice for both residential charging networks and public charging infrastructure.
Level 1 chargers use a standard 120-volt household outlet and provide a slower charging speed (3-5 miles of range per hour). In contrast, Level 2 chargers operate on a 240-volt power source and deliver a faster charging speed (20-60 miles of driving range per hour).
No, Level 2 chargers require a dedicated 240-volt power source. Attempting to plug a Level 2 charger into a regular 120-volt outlet will not provide the required power and may damage the charger.
It depends on individual needs and usage patterns. If you require faster charging times and have access to a dedicated 240-volt power source, a Level 2 charger is worth considering, especially for those with longer commutes or frequent long-distance travel.
Level 2 charging operates on a 240-volt power source and provides a faster charging speed compared to Level 1 charging speeds. DC Fast Charging delivers even more power and higher charging speed, suitable for quick charging stops during long journeys.
A Level 2 EV charger replenishes an electric vehicle's battery at a faster rate than a Level 1 charger. It operates on a 240-volt power source, making it suitable for home charging, workplace charging, public spaces, and public charging stations.