Getting charged up about electric vehicles

Dear Pat: I’m excited that some electric vehicle options are now better suited to rural areas. Can you tell me more about how the battery system and charging works in an electric vehicle? – Evie

Dear Evie: We’ve been hearing more buzz about electric vehicles (EVs) in rural America, so it’s a good time to know more about EV batteries and charging options.

Batteries, like the vehicles they power, come in different sizes that provide different mileage ranges. Most people charge their EVs at home, but if you take a cross-country trip, you can charge your EV at one of the rapidly growing number of charging stations around the country. The Department of Energy estimates there are currently 50,000 EV charging sites in the U.S.

Electric vehicles will tell you how many miles are remaining before a charge is needed, and many models offer in-car navigation to the next charger. For EVs without this feature, there are many smartphone apps available.

There are three levels of electric vehicle charging. A new EV comes equipped for Level 1 (L1) charging, which simply plugs into a regular electrical outlet. This is the slowest option for charging, but if you don’t travel many miles per day or your EV is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with a small battery, L1 charging will likely meet your needs. L1 requires less than 1.5 kilowatts, about the same as a hair dryer, and will give the battery 3 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging. If you drive less than 40 miles a day and can charge it for 10 hours every night, this method should suffice. But if you have an all-electric EV with a 60-kWh battery, it will take more than 40 hours to fully charge with L1.

Level 2 (L2) is the most common type of charging because it operates on 240-volt power, which nearly every home has. Level 2 can supply roughly 6 to 19 kW of power, depending on what your vehicle can accept and your electric circuit’s amperage. L2 can provide 100 miles of charge in several hours, and fully charge a large battery in eight to 10 hours. You may need to install a new circuit if there isn’t a 240-volt circuit near the area you park. L2 is the most common type of charging at public sites, like grocery stores, libraries and workplaces.

Level 3 (L3) chargers, often called DC Fast Chargers (DCFC), require much more current and are not installed in homes. L3 chargers are typically seen at specific EV charging sites and some gas stations. These chargers have power levels from 50 kW to 350 kW, depending on the charging station. Some new EVs can accept 250 kW or more and charge a battery from 10 to 80 percent in less than 20 minutes. Some older EV models may take an hour or more to achieve 80 percent at 50 kW. When selecting an EV, the charge time can be an important factor if you regularly take road trips.

Vehicle to home is an exciting new technology that enables EVs to power a home or shop during a power outage. Ford’s upcoming F-150 Lightning Pro (2022), Hyundai’s Ioniq5 and Kia’s EV6 crossovers, and the 2022 Volkswagens are slated to offer this option.

EV charging infrastructure is currently being built across the country. You may not see them in your area yet, but they’re coming, so get charged up about electric vehicles.