How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Electric vehicles are perfect for people who fancy cutting-edge designs and eco-friendly options. You can save money at the pump since you don't have to fuel your vehicle. Quiet rides are great, but there is always a major concern when using electric cars: the charging time. So, how long does it take to charge an electric car? Unfortunately, recharging an electric vehicle isn't the same as filling up a gas tank. After depleting the charge, moving the vehicle takes more than a few minutes. The duration taken to charge an electric car depends on the size of the battery and the power source. Let's explore the factors that affect the charging time and charger options to improve speed.
What factors affect charging speed?
Like in petrol-powered cars, where the tank determines the fuel you can fill up, the battery size dictates the energy a car can hold. The battery capacity is usually measured in kilowatt-hours, and a large battery needs more charging time since it can hold higher energy. Therefore, electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S with a 75 kWh battery capacity will take longer to charge at the same power output than models with a 40 kWh capacity.
State of the battery
Is the battery empty, or are you topping up? Electric cars have a state of charge (SoC) in place of the fuel gauge in petrol-powered cars. The state of charge helps you determine the amount of charge the car uses between full and empty. When charging from 1%, you need a few hours to get the battery to an optimal level. If you are topping up above 80%, the charging time is also more. Remember, electric cars use lithium-ion batteries. The batteries degrade faster when you drain them to zero and fully recharge. Fortunately, electric car manufacturers use technology to prevent your EV from draining below 20% or charging above 80%. It will take less time to top up your car from 20% than a drained battery.
Maximum charge rate of the battery
Sometimes, having a small vehicle doesn't guarantee fast charging since battery charging capacities differ. For instance, some large batteries store more power and handle higher inputs, speeding up the charging time. The Tesla Model 3 has a 250 kW fast-charging capacity, which means it charges faster than the Peugeot e-208 with a 50 kW fast-charging capacity. Even if the Tesla is equipped with a larger battery, you can recharge it faster than the Peugeot e-208.
What is the highest charging rate of your power sources? If you use a charging station with low power output, it takes a couple of hours to recharge the EV to optimal functioning. Even when your vehicle's battery has a high input, the charging station's power affects the time. A charging station or power source with high output can charge your car more quickly.
Weather conditions can also affect the speed of charging your car battery. When temperatures are too high or low, it will interfere with the charging time. Most electric vehicle batteries operate at temperatures between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. When temperatures drop due to cold weather, the battery management system protects the battery by lowering the power input and output. It affects the vehicle's efficiency and increases the charging time.
Types of electric chargers
The type of charger affects the charging time since it influences the power output from the power source. The different types of electric vehicle chargers include:
Slow charging is Level 1, which slowly recharges the car's battery due to the low output below 7 kW. The chargers usually produce an output of 3 kW or 5 kW. Hence, the car takes several hours to a few days to fully recharge. Slow chargers are often referred to as trickle chargers, and they are comparable to using main sockets with a special adapter or plugging your car into the wall like a phone. For instance, using a 3 kW charger to recharge your 40 kWh battery from 20% to 80% takes around 9 hours, while an 82 kWh battery takes over 18 hours to reach the same capacity. Charging from 1% to 100% would take over 15 hours for the 40 kWh battery and over 30 hours for the 82 kWh battery.
Slow chargers are rarely found at public charging stations. However, you can get one installed in your home. If you run minimal errands during the day, you can charge the car overnight.
Fast chargers are faster than slow chargers, but they are slow enough to limit battery degradation. You get a healthy compromise of maximising the lifespan of your battery while ensuring your car is topped up relatively fast and ready to go. Fast charging is quite popular for domestic charging since the power output is 7 kW or 22 kW. You can install a dedicated domestic Wallbox with a 7 kW output at home. It halves the charging time compared to slow chargers. For instance, you can recharge your 40 kW to 100% in six hours and less than four hours to recharge from 20% to 80%. The 22 kW is mostly for public charging stations since they require a three-phase electricity supply, making them expensive to install in domestic properties.
Rapid charging is the fastest way of charging electric cars and can deliver significant energy injection within 20 minutes. However, it isn't advisable to indulge regularly. Lithium batteries are fickle and degrade faster with exposure to high voltage. Rapid charging generates excess heat that slowly damages the battery, affecting its ability to hold power.
Most people use rapid charging when it is necessary. For instance, if you are mid-trip and need to recharge, your 40 kWh battery takes 30 minutes from 20% to 80%, while the 82 kWh takes under an hour. Rapid chargers usually have an output of between 50 kW and 350 kW. Hence, they are only found in dedicated charging hubs and motorway service stations. Since they use direct current, your car should be compatible with rapid charging. Some electric car models can handle up to 100 kW DC charging, while others, like the Kia EV6, accept a DC charge of up to 200 kW. The Tesla Model 3 and Model S can charge at 250 kW.
What is top-up charging?
Most motorists keep their cars plugged in at car parks or homes to avoid running out of power on the road. Instead of waiting for the battery to deplete before recharging, you can plug it into a public charger while shopping or enjoying a meal. When you build a habit of top-up charging every time you park, you won't notice the time it takes to recharge your car. Besides, topping up increases the miles you can cover, depending on the charging time. When you top up at a fast-charging public station at 22 kW, you add 90 miles to your range for every charge hour, while 7 kW fast chargers add 30 miles. Rapid charging stations can increase your range to 90 miles in 30 minutes. Most manufacturers discourage topping up during hot weather since the combined heat from the higher temperatures and charging damages the internal resistance systems of your electric car.
Your electric car charging options
If you charge your electric car overnight, consider installing a charging point or Wallbox. You can choose between a slow charger or a fast charger, depending on the battery size of your electric car. Most people get the 7 kW fast charger since it can add between 10 and 30 miles per hour. When looking for a home charging point, you should research your local grid to ensure it can withstand the power output. You can also get the 22 kW fast charger for your home. Some manufacturers offer a free Wallbox home charge station, but you usually have to pay for installation. You can also utilise the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme, which covers 75% of the installation cost or a maximum of £350. You can also use a three-pin plug socket, but charging is slow.
Public charging stations
Nowadays, you can find public charging stations to top up during the day. Most service stations have charging points with varied outputs. Carparks and supermarkets have also introduced public charging stations. While some charging points are free, some are dedicated to specific car models or require a pay-as-you-go payment. Workplaces are also introducing charging stations by taking advantage of government grants for the Workplace Charging Scheme. When travelling to a new area, use your phone to find nearby charging networks.
How long will it take to charge an electric car in the future?
Electric car manufacturers are working hard to minimise the shortcomings of EVs. With advancements in technology, electric car charging will be faster without damaging the batteries. For instance, some manufacturers are already working on new lithium-ion materials and all-solid-state batteries to improve EVs' stability, affordability and safety. Recharging an EV in under 20 minutes could be possible without damaging the battery in the future. A recently designed lithium-ion battery can recharge to half-capacity in three minutes without significantly degrading. Hence, many people are looking forward to super-fast charging.