We have already discussed the general design of modern electric cars and the configuration of contemporary traction batteries. Let's move on to the operation of an electric car. The first and foremost question that an EV owner may face is as follows: where and how do you charge an electric car? Let us take a look at charging modes, sockets, connectivity standards and benefits of switching from petrol to electricity.
When refueling a regular car, the main rule is to choose a reliable gas station. The rest is just the small stuff: decide on the type of fuel you need and try not to spill it while refueling. Modern refueling equipment make it as easy as pie.
The electric car is a different story. Hand cleanliness and fuel quality do not matter at all. It is more difficult to decide on the type: various electricity sources — both household and specialized ones — are suitable for charging electric cars. However, it is not that hard to sort it out. So is the compatibility of the source and electric vehicle connectors. Still, the matter of EV charging is a bit more difficult to resolve. Although the number of public charging points (not including home charges - here everything is obvious) cannot be deemed modest (as of 2021: Germany — 44.7 K, France — 46 K, Great Britain — 33.5 K, USA — 98.8 K, South Korea — 61.1 K, Spain — 8 K, Ukraine — 7 K), there are regions where the "density" of charges is frankly unsatisfactory. This is particularly true for the European continent. Besides, some EV drivers have to deal with incompatibility between the charger and their EV (e.g. the connector does not fit). Though this problem can be solved with the GO TO-U app allowing to choose a charger (the nearest to your location) with the required characteristics (power, appropriate connector type etc.). In addition, some chargers may have limited access, and the charging and payment activation systems are often totally confusing. Sometimes the charger may happen not to be certified and the charging safety may be questionable.
In general, there are a lot of questions. But we are ready to answer them. So, let us start, as always, with the basics.
To charge the battery, it is not enough just to connect its cables to the power source. Each device requires voltage, charging current and time after which the process must be stopped. Simply put, any battery is charged in a specific mode (or modes). Depending on their complexity and effectiveness, the modes can be divided into four types.
Mode 1 presupposes a direct connection to the household power grid without controlling the parameters in this circuit. There are no strictly prescribed standards for grounding and the level of external impact protection. The network and the device do not exchange data. For these reasons, this mode is neither suitable nor used for charging electric cars. In some countries, a direct connection is prohibited even for low-power devices.
Mode 2 is a basic semi-automatic mode used for charging electric cars EV from AC networks. It also does not provide for the exchange of information about permissible modes, but the cable connection has an electronic surge protection device that can reduce the charging current if necessary. Such are the charging systems that come with the electric car. The ones designed to be connected to household single-phase sockets provide a charging power of no more than 3.5 kW, and those connected to industrial three-phase networks — up to 7-11 kW.
Due to such power, a 70-90 kWh battery is replenished slowly - the process can last for a whole day. Among EV owners such a charger is known as a "granny charger" (for slowness) and a "brick" (due to a special rectangular control unit located directly on a charging cable).
Mode 3 is a protected charging mode that involves the use of AC from EV charging stations (ECS) via a special cable equipped with a data bus. With the help of the latter, a charging point and EV check all the connections and possible insulation leakages and "agree" on the permissible modes. Only then current is sent. This ensures complete safety of charging even in the most adverse weather conditions. During charging, the EV electronics can control the current generated by the EV charging station.
Theoretically, the charging power in Mode 3 can be up to 43 kW, although most stations are designed for 22 kW. Therefore, such charging is also considered "slow" — it will take more than 4 hours to fully charge, for example, the Jaguar i-Pace crossover. Moreover, the electric car itself can set its own power limits to optimize the charging process, which will cause additional delays. The thing is that AC cannot be applied directly to the EV battery – first, it passes through the inverter of the electric car, where it is rectified, stabilized and regulated. Restrictions at this stage prevent overheating of the onboard electronics and save battery life.
Mode 4 is an advanced protected DC charging mode. This charging mode involves the use of a special cable. The EV and the charging station exchange information about permissible current and voltage, and charging starts only after all systems are fully checked. Conversion losses are also excluded, so the rectified current from the external station charges the battery virtually directly.
As a rule, the weakest DC stations ensure the power of 43-50 kW. But the high-speed charging networks operating in Mode 4 already offer charging points with a capacity of 100, 150, 250 and even 320 kW (for example, the Porsche Turbo Charging Network), which can replenish the battery of a powerful electric car only in an hour. In the future, such charging networks should completely remove the issue of long-distance trips by the electric car. They will allow you to replenish the power reserve for a few hundred kilometer in just a few minutes, during which you can warm up a bit and drink a cup of coffee. Despite all the advantages, DC charging points are much more complex and much more expensive than AC stations.
Experienced travelers know that it is very easy to have no access to electricity in another country simply because the plug of the device does not fit into the local socket. This problem can be solved by an adapter that you can take with you.
In case of EV, there is no standard charging connector and an ordinary adapter will not solve the problem. Actually, there are not so many types of EV chargers as compared to ones for household devices - only seven.
Type 1. This is a single-phase connector (sometimes also referred to as J1772) that became the first standard for the electrical connection of EVs in 2009. It is designed only for AC charging in Mode 2 and Mode 3 and is mainly used in the United States and Japan. The maximum charge power is 9.2 kW.
Type 2. This is a combined (single-/three-phase) connector used for EVs in Europe. Developed by Mennekes, it provides charging power of 43 kW in Mode 3, though mostly the power is limited to 22 kW.
CCS Combo 1 and CCS Combo 2. Realizing the shortcomings of Type 1 and Type 2, EV manufacturers developed more advanced connectors. They have additional wiring designed for DC charging (Mode 4) with power up to 400 kW. Such a charger will not be suitable for EVs with Type1/Type 2 cable, but there is backward compatibility – a "combo" EV can be connected to a slow charging station.
Tesla Supercharger. As the name suggests, this connector was introduced by Tesla which has been developing its own network of charging stations to bypass the power restrictions of the American Type 1 standard. It is a combo connector: it can charge the EV with "slow" AC as well as quicker DC with a capacity of up to 135 kW. A new version of the liquid-cooled Supercharger V3 cable will increase charging power up to 250 kW.
Tesla vehicles created for export markets are equipped with Type 2 connectors, which makes them compatible with European charging points. Simultaneously, a local Tesla Supercharger station will allow you to charge your EV with a powerful DC.
CHAdeMO. This standard is actively used in the United States and Japan by Tesla's competitors. The 2.0. version of this folding connector developed in 2018 provides DC charging power of up to 400 kW (if the charging points are liquid-cooled), but at the same time, it can separately feed the 12-volt EV network. However, most electric vehicles equipped with such a "plug" (mainly Japanese and Korean) can take only 50 kW. Using a special adapter, Tesla electric vehicles can be connected to CHAdeMO charging points.
GB/T. This connector (in fact, two connectors - AC/DC) was developed in China on the basis of some proven solutions of already existing standards. GB / T provides DC charging power (Mode 4) of up to 237 kW, and the new liquid-cooled version promises to reach fantastic 900 kW.
Does it seem difficult? Not really. Ukraine has adopted the "European" Type 2/CCS Combo 2 standards. If your EV has any of these connectors, you will not have to deal with compatibility issues. Some European models are equipped with such ports that are placed in pairs on different sides. American or Japanese EVs designed for the European market often feature two standards: in addition to the "native" CHAdeMO connector, there will also be a mandatory "local" one. By the way, charging points with CHAdeMO connectors can also be found in Ukraine.
If you decide to buy a car that is not designed for the European market, then you will have to purchase a cable with different connectors at opposite ends or special Type 2 adapters. But just know that the first connector will be useless at the charging stations with a built-in cable as a substitute for an outlet. The second one will create additional connection in the circuit that may cause failures and even damage the charger. Moreover, adapters are quite expensive – for example, a Tesla CHAdeMO adapter costs several hundred dollars.
You can use mobile apps or websites to find a public or commercial charging point with the connector you need. For example, you can choose our GO TO-U app which offers EV charging stations all over the globe (to be more precise - there are 300,000 chargers at 17,000 locations in 47 countries). The advantage of this app is that in addition to the information about the number and types of the available sockets, the EV owners can reserve the necessary charger for a certain day and time avoiding queues. Users can also choose the charger by applying a the following filters:
Most chargers are concentrated in big cities. However, they can also be found in smaller localities and on suburban roads. Charging stations can be found in the wide variety of places. These are shopping malls, gas stations, restaurants, cafes, hotels, dealership parking lots, office buildings etc. The GO TO-U app offers you a map showing the locations of all charging stations.
The power of the charging points is 2-7 kW, 11-22 kW, 50+ kW, 120+ kW. The first category includes ordinary sockets located on the building walls, at the gas stations and even on the "smart poles". At best, they provide 5-7 kW from a three-phase power grid, but most frequently these are ordinary 3.5 kW euro sockets to which an EV can be connected via a "brick" connector. The ones providing 11 kW and more can be considered full-fledged charging points. All connectors (Type 1, Type 2, CCS Combo 1 and 2, CHAdeMO) except Tesla Supercharger are available.
The paradox is that most modern EVs do not need powerful charging stations. The global practice shows that the best charging point is the one available at home. Or at work. That is, the best are places where an EV stands most of the day or night. Therefore, the issue of power and charging speed becomes irrelevant. When you get home, you need just connect your EV to the socket – in the morning your car will be ready to hit the road with a full battery.
Home charging works well due to several reasons. Due to dual-zone connection, you can get electricity at reduced night-time tariff. You can also warm up or cool your EV from the mains before leaving home without wasting your battery energy. At the same time, the EV owner will not have to deal with connector compatibility issues: you can install a charging point with the necessary socket in your garage or front yard. The fourth advantage is the possibility of "slow" charging which allows reducing the expensive battery wear by avoiding critical loads that can appear at high-speed public charging points.
When the daily mileage does not exceed 50-100 km, a 220 V home socket will be enough to charge a not very powerful EV. The main requirement is the operability of the wiring and reliability of the network (if the network drops much, the EV itself will limit the charging current). Even the slowest granny charger will replenish the battery overnight, and the charge will be enough to drive such a distance.
If you need to recharge your EV for a 150-200 km ride, you would better contact a local energy company for it to arrange three-phase power for your house (or garage). Then the electric car can be charged with 7-11 kW and the night will be enough to replenish the battery up to 100 percent.
Even better option will be to install a wall-mounted charging system (offered by many manufacturers) which can charge your EV in Mode 3 providing power of up to 22 kW. Such device will replenish the battery in 6 hours, and the charge will be enough for a 200-400 km ride. The main obstacle is to get permission for such powerful energy facilities and power supply ensured by the local energy company.
Another way to speed up home charging is to use an external inverter that converts home network AC into DC and supplies it through the corresponding connector (CHAdeMO, GB/T, CCS Combo). Manufacturers of such devices claim that such connection speeds up charging almost fourfold as compared to Mode 2. But the load on the home wiring also increases.
At public charging networks, you can charge your car both for free and for money. In the first case, the charging process is very simple (you insert a cable and the charging starts). The only drawback, if one may say so, is that free chargers mostly provide "slow" charging.
You can find free chargers in many places. They are available at gas stations, parking lots of hotels, restaurants, business centers and big shopping malls (such charging stations can also be found in the GO TO-U app). In some cases, you will only have to pay for parking time. Depending on the district (city center or outskirts) and parking type (street, underground, multilevel parking), the parking fee in Paris and Berlin is 1-3.5 EUR per hour, in Kyiv - 10-30 UAH per hour (thus, taking into account a typical charging speed at such charging points, you can charge you car for 30-35 km during 1 hour).
As for paid chargers, they are also rather common and can be found in various places. To access the commercial charging point, you will usually need to install the company's app that records the electricity consumption and charges the corresponding fees.
The price mainly depends on the charging power. For example, in Poland, AC charging costs around 30 euro cents per kilowatt-hour (in terms of zlotys), DC fast charging - 45 euro cents. That is, full charging of the largest EV battery (with the capacity of, say, 100 kWh) will cost 30 or 45 EUR, respectively. And it should be enough for 400-500 km. Even such figures make an electric car a profitable mode of transport compared to conventional cars (to compare, AI-95 gasoline costs 1.24 EUR per 1 liter in Poland).
– The main difficulty in EV charging is to find a charging station with the necessary charging mode and connector. In addition, there is an availability issue: you don't know for sure that the charger is available. But here the GO TO-U app may help.
– There are 4 charging modes, and the typology criteria include the level of process control, power and type of input current. Mode 4 (DC charging) is the fastest.
– Charging power depends on the mode. In Mode 2 it cannot exceed 11 kW, in Mode 3 – 22-43 kW. Only Mode 4 can ensure the power of up to 350-400 kW. However, it may be harmful for the battery as the latter is subject to high loads.
– Nowadays, there are several standards for charging connectors, each designed for its own charging mode (or two modes). The adapter cables will help you make the charger more versatile in some cases.
– To avoid problems with finding an appropriate charger, it is better to buy the EV with European Type 2/CCS Combo 2 ports accepted in Ukraine.
– The network of charging stations is now well developed, although there may still be problems with chargers availability in certain regions (this applies, in particular, to Europe). An adequate pricing policy for charging makes electric vehicles profitable as compared to ICE cars.