Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, Spreading Fast, Come in Varying Shapes, Speeds

admin  /   October 2023

Owners Find Most in North America Charge Slowly, and Not All Work With Every Vehicle

As electric vehicles become more commonplace on American roads, a variety of charging equipment for motorists is popping up in shopping centers and commercial parking areas across the country. But vehicle owners are finding the chargers work at various speeds — and not with every electric car.

While online maps provide clues about the location and capabilities of charging stations at a variety of commercial properties, they aren’t always updated with the latest information.

That can be a challenge as EV charging stations are added to supermarkets, apartment properties, convenience stores and in parking decks and parking lots. Even though most drivers of EVs these days still charge up at home, the United States and Canada need to install more charging stations in public areas, including chargers that can be used by all models for EVs to become a mainstay,industry professionals say,

The U.S. needs to quadruple the number of chargers now publicly available to meet projected demand from the billions of dollars automakers are spending to build factories to make EVs, S&P Global estimated. Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and more have major industrial expansions in the works, all focused on EVs and the lithium-ion batteries that power them.

Climate change is partly behind the generational shift to EVs, with President Biden setting a goal for half of all sales of new vehicles to be electric by 2030. Corporations have also set goals to reduce carbon emissions: About 12% of companies in the S&P 500 Index have established internal targets to cut emissions enough to lower the average global temperature by a significant amount, according to CDP, a London-based nonprofit group that tracks climate change initiatives.

To that end, the federal government is providing states with $7.5 billion through initiatives to install charging stations and upgrade electrical infrastructure. States are selecting the companies and local governments to receive the money, with most federally funded chargers placed next to major highways, with some funding for rural areas.

Using a public charging station, however, isn’t as simple and easy as pulling into a gas station. Some chargers work only for specific vehicles while others take hours to replenish an EV battery’s power supply.

Chargers Vary

Charging stations come in many varieties and brand names. Some require prepaid subscriptions or on-site payments, but others are free. ChargePoint, Blink, Electrify America and EVgo operate some of the largest EV charging station networks. Convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K are rolling out chargers with their own brand names.

It’s essential that more EV charging stations are installed across the country, Dylan Jones, mobility lab director at architecture firm Gensler, wrote in a Sept. 13 blog post. But the consumer experience has been largely neglected. That also must change, he said.

“There is so much thinking and attention being devoted to the vehicles themselves,” Jones said. “But there’s this whole other side to it and that’s EV charging. We know what EV charging is like now and it’s not pretty. In most cases it’s just a cable you walk up to and people have nowhere to walk their dog or go to the bathroom.”

Meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the different types of EV charging stations in the United States and Canada. The data was compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Type: Level 1

It may seem like a no-brainer, but an electric vehicle can be charged by simply plugging into a standard U.S. wall outlet. This method requires a special connector for the vehicle hook-up.

Don’t expect to be driving any time soon, however. It can take up to two days to fully charge some electric vehicles when using this charger type.

Type: Level 2

Costs: Charger at a commercial property, including installation, between $400 and $6,500, according to 4Front Energy.
Properties: multifamily, office, retail, hospitality, specialty.

These are the most common charger types in North America, used both with at-home chargers and charging stations in public spaces.

The J1772 connector can be used for all electric vehicles, though Teslas require a special adapter.

Teslas are equipped with NACS connectors, the type of connection used at Tesla-branded charging stations. Before 2023, Tesla charging stations only worked for Teslas. But Tesla recently added a converter called a Magic Dock that lets non-Teslas charge at their stations.

Several big automakers this year have said they will switch to NACS connectors, including Ford, GM, Rivian, Volvo, Mercedes and Honda.

Level 2 chargers are too slow to be useful in the same situations as a gasoline pump at a convenience store. Instead, many drivers use Level 2 equipment for overnight charging.

Type: Level 3 or DC Fast Charging or Tesla Supercharger

Costs: Charger at a commercial property, including installation, between $50,000 and $100,000, according to industry consultant WattLogic.
Properties: multifamily, office, retail, hospitality, specialty.

Level 3 is the holy grail of EV chargers. Currently, only about 15% of all chargers in the U.S. have Level 3 status, but it’s important for any company looking to get into charging stations. Mercedes-Benz in August said it will roll out its own line of charging stations with equipment that provides vehicles with 62 miles of range in three minutes of charging.

Level 3 connectors, also known as DC Fast Charging and Tesla Superchargers, come in three different connector setups.

The SAE Combined Charging System pairs an SAE J1772 port with two DC fast charging pins. Most models of electric vehicles can use this connector type.

The CHAdeMO connector has four pins and works on most EV models.

The NACS connector is primarily used as a Level 2 charger for Teslas. However, many automakers and charging equipment manufacturers are developing ways to allow the NACS connector to convey power at Level 3 speeds.

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