Electric Vehicles  |  Charging Your EV

Charging your EV: how do EV charging stations work?

Last updated 9/29/2022

Electric vehicle (EV) home charging stations are integral to owning an EV. All-electric cars don’t have a gas tank – rather than filling your car up with gallons of gas, you simply plug it into a charging station to fuel up. A Plug in America 2022 survey indicates that 92% of EV owners primarily charge their vehicle at home. Here’s your guide to the type of electric car charging stations and approximately how much it costs to charge your EV.

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Types of EV charging stations

Charging an electric car is a simple process: you simply plug your car into a charger that is connected to an electricity source. However, not all EV charging stations (also known as electric vehicle supply equipment or EVSE) are created equal. Some can be installed simply by plugging into a standard wall outlet, while others require a custom installation. The time it takes to charge your car will also vary based on the type of charger you use.

EV chargers typically fall into one of  three main categories: Level 1 charging stations, Level 2 charging stations, and DC Fast Chargers (also referred to as Level 3 charging stations).

Level 1 EV charging stations

Level 1 chargers use a 120-volt (V) AC plug and can be plugged into a standard outlet. Unlike other chargers, Level 1 chargers do not require the installation of any additional equipment. These chargers typically deliver two to five miles of range per hour of charging and are most often used at home.

Level 1 chargers are the least expensive EVSE option, but they also take the most time to charge your car’s battery. Homeowners typically use these types of chargers to charge their cars overnight and 24 percent of EV owners use Level 1 chargers to charge their EV at home.

Level 1 EV charger manufacturers include evCHARGEsolutions, Leviton, and MEGEAR.

Level 2 EV charging stations

Level 2 chargers are used for both residential and commercial charging stations. They use a 240 V (for residential) or 208 V (for commercial) plug, and unlike Level 1 chargers, they can’t be plugged into a standard wall outlet. They should also be installed by a professional electrician. Level 2 home EV chargers can also be installed to connect to a solar panel system.  

Level 2 EV chargers usually charge 10 to 50 miles of range per hour, so you can charge much more quickly than with a Level 1 charger. Many electric car manufacturers like Tesla and Ford have their own Level 2 chargers. Other Level 2 EVSE manufacturers include ClipperCreek, ChargePoint, Enel, Grizzl-E, and Lectron.

DC Fast Chargers (also known as Level 3 EV charging stations)

DC Fast Chargers, also known as Level 3, Combined Charging System (CCS), or CHAdeMO charging stations, can add 60 to 80 miles of range to your EV’s battery in just 20 minutes. However, they are typically only used in commercial and industrial applications, requiring highly specialized, high-powered equipment to install and maintain. So, you’ll find them on major roads to use for long-distance driving and road trips. Some well-known Level 3 charging networks include Tesla Superchargers, Electrify America, and EV Connect.

Most EVs can be charged with Level 2 and Level 3 chargers, though some may require an adapter, and others like Tesla Superchargers are currently only available for Teslas.

What are Tesla Superchargers?

One of the big selling points for Tesla electric vehicles is the availability of their Superchargers around the world. These super-fast charging stations can charge a Tesla battery between 162 and 200 miles in just 15 minutes, depending on which model you drive. However, Tesla Superchargers are currently designed and available in the U.S. exclusively for Tesla vehicles (Tesla is testing a program in some European countries to offer increased prices for non-Teslas to charge at Superchargers). So, if you own a non-Tesla EV, you can't charge your vehicle at Supercharger stations.

FAQ: Does my EV need a special charging station?

Not necessarily. There are three types of EV charging stations and the most basic (Level 1) uses a standard wall outlet. However, if you want to charge your car more quickly, you can also have an electrician install a Level 2 home EV charging station.

Read more

Charging different EVs including Nissan Leaf, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Teslas

Not all electric car batteries are created equal. The type of electric vehicle you purchase will impact how long it takes, and how much it costs, to charge your car’s battery. Read our EV charging costs guide here.

Charging the Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf is one of the most affordable EVs on the market today, with a range from 149 to 226 miles. The cost to “fill up” a Nissan Leaf battery costs approximately $6.93 to $10.56, depending on which model Leaf you own.

Learn more in our Nissan Leaf charging guide.

Charging the Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is one of the newer mainstream EVs to hit the market. To charge a Mach-E, it'll cost approximately $11.99 to $14.96, depending on which model you own. A Mach-E will go approximately 224 to 270 miles on a full charge, depending on the model.

Learn more in our Ford Mustang Mach-E charging guide.

Charging a Tesla EV

Tesla offers a few EV models and performance levels including its Model 3, S, X, and Y. The cost to charge and length of time to charge your Tesla battery fully depends on which specific Tesla you own. It costs $13.96 on average to charge a Tesla. Depending on the car model, it costs between $9.62 and $18.30. In general, the cost of charging a Tesla is 3.6 times cheaper per mile than the cost of fueling a gas-powered car (4.56 cents per mile compared to approximately 16.66 cents per mile for gas vehicles).

Learn more in our Tesla EV charging guide.

Install an EV charger at home at home with Qmerit

EnergySage partners with Qmerit, a home EV charging installation leader who works with a trusted network of certified installers. They can help you quickly and easily install your home EV charger.

Find local EV charger installers and get a quote.

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