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Charging Basics: “Fast Charging and the EV Revolution”

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Sep 17, 2020

Jeremy Whaling, EV Systems Engineer at EVgo

Fast Charging ushers in a new phase of the EV Revolution — and economic opportunities for businesses and policy-makers nationwide.

We all know the future of electric vehicles is inevitable. As with all major technological revolutions, the road is paved with innovative breakthroughs to speed the transition. The shift to EVs creates economic opportunities for forward-thinking businesses and policy-makers with the advent of something called “fast charging” (formerly referred to as “Level 3” charging). Here’s how it works.

Remember when “the internet” became a thing? It all started a few decades ago with dial-up (and those AOL CDs!) — and today Wi-Fi is so fast and ubiquitous that most people don’t even think about it. EV charging infrastructure is experiencing an even more rapid transformation. As vehicle battery technology continues to improve, charging options have expanded – and speeds are increasing.

Let’s break down the various charging levels found today.

EV Charging Levels:

Level 1 Charging: Using a standard wall outlet, any electric vehicle can be charged at around 3 – 5 miles of range gained per hour. Despite this slow speed, around a quarter of the EV population uses Level 1 because outlets are common in garages, and all EVs come with a cord that can let them use it. Think of Level 1 as dial-up internet of yore.

Level 2 Charging: Using a 240V outlet (think electric dryer plug), Level 2 steps up the power and delivers 15 – 30 miles an hour of charge. This works well for overnight and workplace charging. This is like broadband internet service in terms of speed.

DC Fast Charging (Level 3): Using a charging station that charges your vehicle’s battery using DC current at high power allows for fast charging in minutes instead of hours. This is perfect for extending your driving range during road trips and enables those who do not have home charging to have an electric vehicle. This is the revolutionary technology that allows for EVs to truly replace internal combustion engine vehicles. Think of fiber internet – very high speed!

*The EV controls the speed of the charging and once charging begins and the battery warms up, EVs typically draw the maximum flow of kilowatts available from the charger. The charger will hold this rate for as long as possible, though it may drop to a more moderate speed if the vehicle tells the charger to slow down so as not to compromise battery life. Once an EV’s battery reaches a certain level of capacity, usually 80%, charging slows to what would then become Level 2 operation. This is known as the DC Fast Charging curve.

While the majority of current EV drivers charge at home at night, fast charging options are rapidly expanding. EVgo is the forefront of fast charging infrastructure. It is important to keep up, too.

Electric Vehicle Sustainability and Outlook

Within 20 years, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that half of all cars sold will be electric. Fossil fuels and the combustion engine are on the way out. EVs are better for the environment. They improve human health (think less smog and air pollution), they are cheaper to maintain, and they are very fun to drive! But right now, there are only about a million EVs on US roads.

Why aren’t there more? EVs have a perception problem. Consider the two following sentences:

Gasoline vehicles are fueled up in minutes at a gas station.Most EVs are recharged at home or at work while the car would otherwise be parked.

Barriers to EV Adoption

If you asked someone who drives a gas car what they would want to see in an EV, it would probably be high range, and five-minute recharge speeds. While EV ranges and charging speeds are getting faster, the perceived notion that “EVs take forever to charge” is shattered when illuminating the fact that it is more convenient to charge an EV than to refuel a gas car.

You heard that right. More convenient than a gasoline car. But how?

Gasoline vehicles set the bar high in terms of range and refueling times. But many people’s actual requirements much lower. The average distance a vehicle drives per day is 39 miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration and vehicles are parked 95% of the time. Further, most people do not walk away from their gas car when they are refueling. That is thought to be negligent or worse when it comes to gasoline. But in the EV world it is the norm.

The Reality of EV Charging

We talked about Level 1 and Level 2, which are common for work and home. When charging overnight, charging speed does not matter much as long as your vehicle is full in the morning.

But what about fast charging?

EVgo places fast charging stations where people want to go anyway – shopping centers, grocery stores, places with things to do for a bit while your car charges. Charging becomes a perk of that experience – and often drive customers to shop at certain businesses because they have convenient charging. Gasoline vehicles simply have no analog here.

Too many people believe we are on the “dial-up internet” even though “fiber internet” is being built all around them. Fast charging is speeding up the transition to electric vehicles because it can be built in more places than a gas station can, and the technology is improving very rapidly.

EV Fast Charging – Now and in the Future

Right now, thousands of fast chargers are already installed in metropolitan areas across the country, in places like grocery stores, malls, and parking lots. For people running errands, all they have to do is plug in, do their shopping, and in thirty minutes their cars are good to go. EVgo currently has more than 800 fast charging locations in 34 states and more than 600 cities. In fact, more than 115 million people already live within a 15-minute drive of an EVgo fast charger. And a whopping 80% of Californians live within a 15-minute drive. While California is leading the charge in electrification, many states are vying for a spot on the Forbes top EV states list.

Fast charging allows drivers who can’t charge at work or at home to own an EV, and it allows extending EV range for EV drivers on the go. And as fast charging grows in importance, “Level 1” and “Level 2” charging will remain important – helping match customer dwell time with adequate charging to meet their lifestyle needs.

With a forecast need of 50,000 fast chargers over the next five years or so, EVgo is investing in rapidly expanding our fast charging network across the US, creating convenience and peace of mind for EV drivers and assurance to policy makers that cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gas emissions are indeed achievable. The transition to EV driving is a technological revolution—and just like the Internet was a few decades ago, we are in the early stages of the clean transportation transformation.

As the nation’s largest public fast charging network, EVgo is committed to helping current and future EV drivers understand the increasing accessibility of EV charging and helping the policymakers and business leaders accelerate adoption. If you’d like to learn more from EVgo’s industry leaders, please download our recently published whitepaper, “The Costs of EV Fast Charging Infrastructure and Economic Benefits to Rapid Scale-Up”. And then get in touch!

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