More than 8% of the cars sold in Canada today are electric vehicles (EVs). That’s a pretty amazing fact when you consider that just a decade ago there were only a couple of thousand EVs in all of Canada. As electric vehicles become more and more popular the need for more and more charging stations increases in lockstep.
There are 3 types of charging stations in use today: Level 1 charging, Level 2 charging and Level 3 charging stations. Level 1 is charging at its most basic. You simply plug your EV into a standard 110 or 120 Volt AC outlet in the garage. Level 2 charging uses a 240 Volt system that cuts charging times by 60 or 70%. And Level 3 charging – or DC Fast Charging as it’s known – bypasses the AC charging system and plugs directly into the battery. It is Level 3 charging that we will look at in this article.
Level 3 Charging: What it is and how it Works
AC charging is a popular choice for EV owners simply because it’s easy. The entire electrical grid is AC after all. With Level 1 AC charging you can plug your car right into an outlet in the garage. What could be easier than that? Level 2 AC chargers are available at shopping malls, restaurants, office building and even in some highway rest areas. They can also be easily installed in virtually any home.
So, for the moment, AC charging is king. But that situation is likely to change in the not-too-distant future. The more people learn about and experience DC Fast Charging, or Level 3 charging, the more they’re likely to demand it for their EVs. So what is Level 3 charging and how does it work?
The Basics of Level 3 Charging
- Direct connection – Level 3 DC charging connects directly to the battery of the electric vehicle. As such there is no AC to DC conversion necessary and the time it takes to charge the battery is reduced from the 10 or 20 hours required by Level 1 charging to about 20 minutes. You can plug your car into a Level 3 charger, go have a cup of coffee in the rest stop restaurant and emerge to a completely charged battery.
- 120 kW of power – A DC Fast Charger delivers a powerful DC current directly to the EV battery. That current, typically up to 120 kW, bypasses the onboard AC to DC power converter. If one were to draw a human comparison it’s like the difference between taking medicine in pill form (which would be Level 1 charging) and having the medication delivered directly to your bloodstream using an IV.
- Perfect for commercial fleets – Because Level 3 charging is so fast it is a perfect match for taxi companies or corporations that operate large fleets of electric vehicles that need quick turnaround times. Electric buses, courtesy vehicles and trucks also benefit from DC Fast Charging. At the moment most Level 3 charging stations can be found in taxi and bus depots, airports and similar places. Although the EV company Tesla is engaged in a campaign to build an extensive international network of Level 3 charging stations.
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Next-Gen Level 3 Chargers
If Level 3 charging has a downside it’s that currently not every electric vehicle is able to accept the 120 kW the DCFC delivers. Most top out at about 50 kW. But that is slowly changing. Greater numbers of EVs are being produced that can accept DC Level 3 charging and the day is not far off when 350 kW chargers will provide a full charge in just minutes.
For the moment, however, there are 3 types of DC Fast Charging; CCS, CHAdeMO and Tesla.
- CCS – The CCS system uses direct current charging at a maximum of 200 kW. Although, as we alluded to above, plans are in the works to introduce ultra-fast 350 kW charging stations as well.
- CHAdeMO – CHAdeMO is an international organization dedicated to the proliferation of electric powered vehicles. While the organization is headquartered in France the basis for the CHAdeMO protocol is now-patented technology developed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in Japan. This technology allows for high voltage, high current fast charging of EVs via proprietary DC connectors.
- Tesla – Tesla is the brainchild of SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The company not only designs and sells some of the most popular EVs on the road today, it is also engaged in an international effort to build a network of Level 3 charging stations for Tesla vehicles. The Tesla Supercharger system delivers 120 kW of power directly to the EV battery. An onboard computer in the car monitors the charge and optimizes the flow of power to prevent damage to the battery.
While Level 1 and Level 2 charging currently rule the EV roost, it won’t be long before Level 3 DC Fast Charging becomes the industry standard. For more Information call Hotwire Electric @ 416-553-5533