Charging Challenges

Charging Challenges

What is involved in fueling in an electric car?

The answer depends on whether you are using your electric car for commuting or road tripping. If you are like most car owners, you do the bulk of your driving around or near town. If you have a place to park your car near an outlet, whether at home or at work, you are probably all set for electric commuter charging. Congratulations! (See Commuter Charging). If you routinely drive long distances (more than about 200 miles in a day), you may need long distance charging. (See Road Trip Charging ) Keep in mind many current electric car owners are in a household with two cars, one of which is used primarily for commuting and the other of which is used also for road tripping. At present, it can be a challenge for non-Tesla owners to take long road trips, except along certain routes. If you are in a household with only one vehicle and you need to take long trips with it, consider acquiring a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). (See EV Types).

To be honest, the network for long distances (road tripping) is not yet where it needs to be, except for Tesla owners. Tesla spent a lot of money up front to create an excellent network of long-distance chargers for their cars. This means that they don’t make their chargers available for other car brands (no free riding) and the other car manufacturers are largely waiting for somebody else to build a charging network for their cars. But it is coming along rapidly; new charging stations are appearing every month. Fast chargers for non-Teslas are due to be completed at regular intervals along U.S. highways 550 and 160 in Colorado in 2020 (let’s see if construction occurs on schedule).

In the meantime, it’s useful to understand the three levels of charging. Sometimes they are called Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. How boring is that? And hard to remember. We’ll call them 110 V charging, 220 V charging and fast charging. There are some hardware limits on how fast a charge a given car can take, and not all older EVs are set up for fast charging. Furthermore, batteries can suffer if they are charged too fast, at too high a charge state, or if they are discharged to too low a charge state. Fortunately, you rarely have to worry about these details. The software in your car knows how to charge the battery optimally.

What you do need to know is the speed with which a battery charges may slow down to protect the battery as it approaches full charge. Therefore charging a battery to 80% of full charge is relatively quick, whereas charging the battery from 95% to 100% is comparatively slow. This is good for the battery, but this phenomenon should be understood when you are waiting for a battery to “fill up.” Better to get it nearly full than to wait for the last few percent of charge.