EV Charging Basics: What Is EV Charging?
April 2023Electric vehicles are no longer just a passing trend – they have become a global movement towards more affordable and sustainable modes of transportation. As the cost of owning an electric vehicle becomes more affordable and automakers commit to offering electric vehicle models, how we “refuel” our vehicles is being redefined and reimagined.
The increase in EV drivers has sparked a demand for connected and accessible EV charging infrastructure. With battery life a top concern for EV owners, drivers need convenient access to charging – but what exactly is electrical vehicle charging? How does it work? And what do prospective charger owners and operators need to know?
Table of Contents
I. What is EV Charging?
II. EV Market Trends and Applications
III. EV Charger Station Basics
IV. EV Government Incentives
What is EV Charging?An EV charging station supplies electrical power for charging plug-in electric vehicles.
Like other devices you charge from a wall outlet, an EV charger transfers electricity to a vehicle’s battery by pulling an electrical current from the outlet or grid it’s hardwired to which may be in a public or private application.
Not all EV chargers are the same and the spectrum of chargers caters to the diverse needs of EV drivers and their various applications. Armed with foundational knowledge, it is possible to navigate the EV charging industry and make an informed choice about the type of EV charging you may want to offer to potential customers, tenets, or employees.
Offer your tenants, customers, or employees convenient access to electric vehicle charging.
EV Market Trends and Applications
EV TrendsThere is a growing global demand for the migration from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs), with several countries and automakers already committing to the development and expansion of EV platforms. As more countries and automakers announce transitions to emission-free vehicles, this trend will continue to accelerate with an expected 54% of new car sales and 33% of the global fleet becoming electric by 2040.
The cost of owning an electric vehicle has also changed with operation and maintenance costs less cumbersome than that of a gas-powered vehicle – sometimes by as much as half. Although the purchase price of electric vehicles is still higher than traditional models, this is expected to change as the production of electric vehicles increases and become more available. The availability of financial incentives for drivers to help offset the cost of owning an electric vehicle is also becoming more widespread as the federal government, states, and private utility companies increase efforts to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles.
As vehicles change, the way drivers “fuel up” is also evolving. Traditionally, drivers of fuel-powered vehicles seek out gas stations along their routes to a destination point. In this depot model of fueling, drivers typically wait until their fuel tanks are almost empty before stopping to refuel. With the emergence of electric vehicles, the depot model is transitioning to a top-off model – one where drivers charge their vehicles wherever they are parked without waiting until their battery has run low.
EV ApplicationsWith more EVs on the road, EV charging infrastructure has not kept up with demand. The range of an EV vehicle varies widely, but most reach close to or above 300 miles on a full charge. EV owners regularly charge their vehicles at their home overnight, but more are seeking additional opportunities to charge while away from home to alleviate common “range anxiety” -- the fear of not having enough energy to make it to their next destination.
Public EV charging station networks are being constructed throughout the United States in response to this demand – but at a rate where demand still well outpaces supply. Chargers are being installed in a variety of locations including traditional gas stations, shopping mall centers, corporate workplaces, apartment complexes and hotels. This high demand coupled with the technology to offer charging in a variety of applications creates an excellent opportunity for manufacturers offering EV charging equipment.
EV Charger Station BasicsWithin the EV industry, there are some basic concepts that drivers, charger owners, and EV installers should know. This includes understanding the difference between networked and non-networked chargers, the levels of chargers, OCPP compliance, and common charger features.
Networked vs. Non-Networked ChargersNon-networked, or “dumb,” chargers are simple plug and charge devices that do not have revenue-generating capabilities and cannot connect to the Internet or the larger EV charging network. These chargers are most often owned by EV drivers who want to charge their vehicle while it is parked at their home.
Networked, or “smart,” chargers connect to the Internet and communicate data that optimizes the charging experience and maximizes revenue potential. These chargers are ideal for semi-commercial and commercial use because of the level of control they offer business owners and the potential for scaling a network of connected chargers.
Levels of ChargersThere are three different levels of EV chargers: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
Level 1 charging refers to chargers that plug into standard household 120V AC outlets to charge an electric vehicle. These chargers usually operate at up to 12A and offer 2-5 miles of range per hour of charging. Compared to the other charging levels, Level 1 charging is very slow and usually used in settings where a vehicle is being charged overnight or longer. This type of charging is typically not used in commercial applications.
Level 2 charging requires a 208-240V AC connection and can be hardwired or utilize an outlet. Level 2 chargers can range in amperage from 16-80A. A 48A Level 2 Charger can provide an average of 46 miles of range per hour of charging. This type of charging is much faster than Level 1 and can be used in both residential and commercial applications.
Level 3 charging, also known as direct current (DC) fast charging or rapid charging, is currently the fastest way to charge an electric vehicle. While Level 1 and Level 2 charging deliver alternating current (AC) that needs to be converted by the vehicle’s battery, Level 3 charging delivers DC directly by first converting the current within the charger. This type of charging can offer up to 100-200 miles of range per hour (RPH) and take 15-45 minutes to nearly fully charge a vehicle’s battery. You will find these chargers primarily in public commercial settings ideal for long-distance drivers, such as along major highways.
OCPP ComplianceThe Open Charge Point Protocol (OCCP) Compliance was established in 2009 by the Open Charge Alliance and is an open-source communication standard for EV charging stations and charging solution software companies. This protocol helps to globally standardize EV charging interoperability throughout the industry to ensure the market is supported with the best, most user-friendly equipment.
Physical Charger FeaturesAlthough the physical features of chargers vary, there are some commonalities amongst chargers within the industry:
- Installation Options: Flexible installation options and accessories, such as the ability to mount the charger on a wall or pedestal, help to meet the needs of a variety of application sites.
- Connectors: There are different standards and connectors available for EV charging. Most Level 1 and Level 2 chargers feature a J1772 connector that allows it to connect to most North American electric vehicles. Level 3 chargers utilize a standard CCS connector which adds additional connections to the J1772 connector for DC fast charging. Tesla vehicles are the current common exception and utilize their own Tesla connector, but these vehicles can use an adapter to charge with a standard J1172 connector or CCS connector.
Software Charger FeaturesLike the physical features of chargers, software features vary from model to model, but many share the following characteristics:
- Communication Capabilities: Chargers have varying levels of communication with other components of the EV charging ecosystem including the end user, charger host, and the local utility cloud. A charger’s ability to communicate with these other elements depends on whether it is networked or non-networked.
- Access Control: Allows station owners to restrict access to the charger to approved-only users. This can include the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards or mobile phone apps. This feature is critical for chargers in commercial applications where owners want to restrict station access to tenets, customers, or employees.
- Accelerated Install: A charger’s software can help guide a station owner through the onboarding process and streamline setup to have a charger online in minutes.
- Station Monitoring/Management: Dashboards and charger analytics that allow a station owner to monitor and control multiple aspects of the charging process including pricing, revenue collection, energy consumption, and load management.
- Remote Troubleshooting: The ability for charger owners to increase a station’s uptime and save money by maintaining smooth maintenance cycles with remote troubleshooting sessions that don’t require a technician to be onsite.
- Software Support: Readily available customer service support that assists charger owners with any software-related concerns.
EV Government IncentivesToday, purchasing and installing EV chargers is more affordable than ever thanks to government and utility incentives. EV incentives are policies and programs offered by governments and private organizations to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles. They can take the form of tax credits, rebates, grants, or other forms of financial assistance.
EV incentives can be separated into two main categories: incentives for consumers and incentives for infrastructure.
EV Consumer Incentives vs. EV Infrastructure IncentivesEV consumer incentives are financial assistance policies and programs for owners and operators of electric vehicles. These incentives make owning and operating an electric vehicle more accessible and affordable.
With drivers incentivized to transition to electric vehicles, EV infrastructure needs to expand to support the growing number of EV drivers on the roads. EV infrastructure incentives exist to encourage this expansion by providing financial assistance to owners and operators of EV charging equipment. These incentives help turn EV chargers from a nice-to-have amenity into a serious business investment packed with financial advantage – all while helping to meet drivers’ demand for charging.
ConclusionThe EV industry is growing – and demand for EV vehicles and infrastructure continues to boom. With demand for EV infrastructure outpacing supply, there is ample opportunity for business owners to make a lucrative investment in EV charging equipment. The path towards becoming an EV charger owner and operator starts with foundational EV knowledge guided by a trusted EV charger manufacturer. To learn more about EV charging and Legrand’s comprehensive commercial EV charging offering, visit Commercial Electric Vehicle Charging | Legrand.
A comparison of cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity technologies for networked EV chargers.