March 11, 2019

To bring down your carbon footprint, investing in an electric car is a good move. Apart from being far more convenient and more environment-friendly than its traditional counterparts, it would also save you from smelling like gas and breathing poisonous fumes for hours after you have fueled it. If you have already got your vehicle, you have taken the first step of doing your duty to the environment. But unlike conventional cars, keeping your electric car juiced up could be a difficult task. And there arises the need to get the right charger for it.

Charging options – Level 1 vs. Level 2

Before answering whether you can use Level 2 220volt charger for your electric car, it would be better to understand the difference between Level 2 and Level 1 charging. This would give you a better idea about which one is better and if it’s safe to use Level 2 220volt charger.

To begin with, Level 1 charging stations use a regular 120-volt connection, where the charger is plugged into an ordinary household outlet (the one that you use for your TV, toaster, vacuum cleaner etc). Thus, you won’t need to incur extra costs here. But the disadvantage is that Level 1 charging takes a long time to recharge your vehicle. Though the type of vehicle you are charging plays a crucial role in how long it will take to juice up your vehicle, it usually takes anywhere between 8 and 14 hours to charge a vehicle fully. Since the charging current is almost the same as a normal blow dryer, using Level 1 home charging station won’t put a burden on your present electrical service. However, you will need to set up a grounded and dedicated 120-Volt, 20-Amp separate circuit (single phase) to power the charging station.

The problem with Level 1 charging is that the normal household outlet can only provide limited electricity (power) at a time. The maximum power allowed by most of these circuits is approximately 1.3 Kilowatts (kW) or 1300 Watts (W). In case of most electric cars, this means every hour of charging would give your car almost 3 to 4 miles of range. If you need more power or are in a hurry and try to draw excessive electricity, the house circuit breakers would kick in for safety reasons and shut down the circuit. 

If you are looking for faster charging times, Level 2 charging stations or chargers that use 208/220/240-volt AC (similar to that used by your oven, dishwasher etc) are your ideal bet. Since such EV charging increases the charge power by almost five times, the time taken typically to give your vehicle full charge reduces to 4-8 hours. In cold temperatures, the charging time can go up a little. This makes it clear that speed is the key advantage for Level 2 charging. To power your Level 2 charging station, you will have to set up a dedicated 220-Volt grounded separate circuit (single phase), which is similar to the circuit of a 220-Volt electric dryer.

If you use your car frequently and drive it over a long distance, Level 2 charging station or charger is what you need. And this becomes all the more important when you need your car to be juiced fast. This brings us to the question that we began with. The answer is yes, you can charge your electric car safely with Level 2 220volt charger.

Tips while buying Level 2 charger

Now that you know you can use a Level 2 220volt charger safely to juice up your electric car, you would probably buy one. But you have to keep in mind certain factors as listed below.

1- Plug-In vs. Hardwired

Hardwiring refers to the charger being permanently connected to the electric supply. This means you won’t be able to remove it unless you open the charger up and remove the wiring. In case you need to be able to carry your charger with you, investing in a plug-in unit is better. Since it isn’t connected to the electric supply permanently and just needs to be plugged into an electrical receptacle, you can use it at home or carry it with you when you go on a long ride. While buying a plug-in Level 2 charger for your electric car, make sure that it won’t need any expensive wiring and can easily connect to your electric dryer outlet.

2- Charger compatibility with your car

Most chargers offered by reputed companies are likely to be compatible with various models like Toyota, Tesla, BMW, Chevrolet, Volkswagen Fiat, Mercedes, Nissan, Hyundai, Ford, Renault, Jaguar, Mitsubishi, Kia etc. in case your car doesn’t belong to any of these brands, some companies may still help you get a Level 2 220volt charger that would support your car’s make and model. So, it becomes important to check the charger’s compatibility with your car and ask questions regarding this, if you have any, before buying one.

3- Amperage options

Level 2 220volt chargers are made available in a variety of amperages. Their typical range is from 16 Amps to 40 Amps. Though 30 and 16 Amps chargers are most commonly used, you will also find chargers of 32 and 40 Amps. A 220-Volt Level 2 EV charger rated at 30 Amps will deliver 6.6 kilowatts (220 x 30/1000). This means in one hour, it will send 6.6 kWh of electricity to a plug-in vehicle. So, if your electric car has on-board chargers rated at 6.6 kW or less, you can use a 30 Amps Level 2 220volt charger. You may wonder why you should buy a 30 Amps charger when your car can accept just 16 Amps. It’s true that though a 16 Amps charger would work fine for your present car, you will have to buy a more powerful unit once you buy a new electric car that can accept 30 or higher Amps. So, buying a more powerful charger is a way to make your investment future-proof.

4- Cord length options

The cord length of Level 2 chargers may vary from one company to other. However, 25 feet is usually the cord length that reputed companies offer. But a handful of companies bring you 30 to 50 feet long cords, which would be ideal if you need a longer cord length than what the standard norm is. So, it’s important to decide what cord length would be the most suitable for your car and then buy a Level 2 charger accordingly.

5- Plug options

A wide variety of plug types could be available for Level 2 220volt chargers such as 10-50P, 10-30P, 14-50P, 14-30P, 6-50P, 6-30P, 6-20P, L6-30P, European, L14-30P etc. Before you invest in a charger, it’s important to know which plug type would work with your electric car.

6- Tested devices to ensure their safety

 

EV charging is a somewhat new industry. As a result, you will find several smaller and start-up companies that are bringing EV chargers to the market. But unlike their bigger, more established counterparts, these smaller companies don’t have the money or time to invest to get their chargers’ safety certified. Since you are likely to use such a charger to deliver a high amount of power to your electric car regularly and for several continuous hours it needs to be tested and certified. That’s why it pays to buy your charger from companies that have a good track record of delivering safe and efficient chargers.  

7- Check terms for replacing/repairing defective unit

Despite being cautious, your charger may malfunction or start giving troubles soon after you buy and start using it. It’s important that you check whether a defective unit will be replaced in case it’s under warranty or if there are any riders to get it replaced. Also, check if the manufacturer will help you with the repairs, if any, which may be needed to fix the glitches of your charger. Efficient and prompt after sales support is crucial to ensure your charger works fine and serves the purpose it was bought for. And in case you notice any red flags with your shortlisted company’s after sales or customer support services, it’s better to take your business somewhere else. 

Final words

It’s important to get the right charging solution for your electric car. After all, there’s no use of having an environment-friendly car if you can’t drive it around. And to ensure your car serves you well, keeping it juiced up and that too on time, is crucial. That’s why while buying a Level 2 220volt charger, you should weigh your options well, compare prices and other factors as mentioned above, check customer testimonials, and ask questions that you may have. This way, you would have a fair idea of who offers what, and decide which product would offer you value for money. Thus, you would be able to make an informed choice rather than being taken for a ride as the gullible customer and ending up buying the first product that you come across.

 


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