The Difference Between Level 2 and 3 Charging?

If you’re in the market for an electric vehicle (EV), or you’re looking to upgrade your EV charger to improve charging efficiency, understanding the difference between Level 2 and Level 3 EV chargers is a great place to start.

Each of these chargers greatly influences the time required to charge your EV and poses some major considerations around installation and whether they are available in a commercial setting.

So, if you’re looking to get a better understanding of which charger is best for you or you’re looking to optimize your EV charging practices, this comprehensive break-down of Level 1 (L1), Level 2 (L2), and Level 3 (L3) chargers is the perfect place to start.

Level 2 vs. Level 3 EV Charging: What’s Right for You?

Let’s start with the question you’re most likely here to answer, Which EV charger is right for you? To answer this question depends on a handful of factors such as your daily driving habits,  your preference in public vs commercial charging, whether you drive a hybrid or fully electric vehicle and some other key factors. 

Before digging into this question in more detail, let’s give a cursory overview of each charger.

up close of an ev charger plugged into an electric vehicle

The Level 1 charger – Also known as the trickle charger, the Level 1 charger delivers the lowest range per hour charging specs providing somewhere between 3-5 miles of range per hour. That said, the Level 1 charger is a great fit for hybrid vehicles, non-daily drivers, or drivers that only drive their EVs around 40 miles per day. At the end of the day, Level 1 chargers are going to be great as a first 

The Level 2 charger – The Level 2 charger is the most common charger for household charging as it uses the common 240-volt appliance outlet and can easily fully charge an EV in 6-10 hours. In fact, per a study from evadoption “79.7% of the 48,472 installed public charging stations are Level 2 and 14.9% are DC fast-charging stations, nearly 3 times the percentage of Level 1 charging stations (5%).” This makes the Level 2 charger the most popular charger by far, for most EV drivers. Keep in mind this charger may require installation for outdoor use, so it may be useful to consult with a professional. 

The Level 3 charger – Also known as the supercharger, the Level 3 charger is strictly only available for commercial use and can’t be installed in the home. The reason for this is the charging delivery mechanism of the Level 3 charger. The Level 3 charger delivers 480 volts via direct current (DC), whereas Level 1 and 2 chargers deliver charge via alternating current (AC). And unfortunately, today’s homes can’t be configured to deliver 480 volts of direct current.

Why Different Levels for EV Charging Stations?

The variance in EV chargers may seem pretty straightforward — different voltage tiers offer speedier charging — however, why then is there a use case for different charging stations? If Level 3 chargers provide the fastest charging times, one would think that all chargers would be Level 3 chargers, right? Interestingly, it’s Level 2 chargers that are the most ubiquitous. Let’s explore why. 

Level 1, 2, and 3 Stations

Just like the standardization for EV chargers, there are Level 1, 2, and 3 charging stations that can be found in a commercial setting for on-the-go charging. To better understand the unique differences between Level 1, 2, and 3 stations, let’s take a look at each in more detail.

Level 1 Stations

Level 1 charging stations, of course, make use of Level 1 chargers. Today, it’s actually quite uncommon to find a Level 1 charging station in a commercial setting, as it’s quickly being replaced by Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations. Since the Level 1 charging station is known to be quite slow, more and more EV drivers are opting for a Level 2 or Level 3 charging station – especially while out and about when charging time is important. This, in turn, has incentivized charger manufacturers and businesses to install more Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations.

Level 2 Vs. Level 3 Stations

Since Level 1 charging stations are becoming obsolete, we’re now seeing a majority of Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations commercially. It’s important to note that both Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations can be installed in a commercial setting, however, Level 3 charging stations are only available via a commercial station and cannot be installed in the home. And to fully understand why this is so, requires some deeper working knowledge of how Level 2 and Level 3 chargers operate. 

Level 2 Chargers

The Level 2 charger delivers 240-volts AC, speeding up charging times from three-five miles of range per hour seen in the Level 1 charger to 12 to 80 miles of range per hour! 

One consideration for EV owners looking to upgrade to the 240-volt charger is the installation requirement. To use a Level 2 charger in the home requires a special installation using a 240-volt supply commonly used for appliances such as a washer-dryer, refrigerator, or oven.

Level 2 Charger technical specs:

  • Rated at 240 volts
  • Delivers up to 80 amps of power
  • 12-80 miles of range per hour

Level 3 Chargers

The Level 3 charger commonly known as direct current (DC) fast charging, delivers 480 volts which can charge most EVs to 80% capacity in as little as 30 minutes. Although the Level 3 charger is the faster charger among the standard EV chargers, there are some considerations an EV owner should take into account when considering Level 3 charging. 

The Level 3 charger is only available as a public charger making it a great choice for on-the-go charging. Today, there are a handful of EV charger maps that can help you find the Level 3 charger that is most convenient for you. Keep in mind that there is some debate over long-term wear and tear on your EV battery due to consistent Level 3 charging, so you may want to consult your EV manufacturer before frequent and extended Level 3 charging.

So, for EV owners looking to make use of the Level 3 charger, they’ll have to make use of commercially available Level 3 chargers.

Lastly, Level 3 charging degrades the battery faster than AC chargers since it applies such a high current so rapidly. This results in increased battery temperatures accelerating battery strain and degradation.

Level 3 Charger technical specs:

  • Rated at 480 volts
  • Delivers 100+ amps
  • 150 miles of range per hour

Which One is For Me?

The best way to answer this question is to ask some key questions about driving and charging habits and to assess some of the pros and cons of each charger. To help you in this process, we’ve listed out some key questions to ask when assessing which charger to use. 

Do you drive long distances in between charges?

If you’ve answered yes to this question, you may want to consider using a Level 3 charger for a quick 30-minute charge before completing your ride. 

Conversely, if you only use your EV for a short daily commute to work, you may never need to use a Level 3 charger based on your daily driving habits. 

Do you have the ability to install a Level 2 charger in your home?

If you only have access to a Level 1 charger in the home, it may be necessary to access a Level 3 charger for a quick daily charge. Unfortunately, the Level 1 charger is so slow that you may not be able to get a full charge over a night of charging, making a quick day charge inevitable. 

Do you have access to free public Level 3 charging?

If you qualify for free Level 3 charging either through your manufacturer or employer, it may be advantageous to charge your EV via a free public charger over home charging. Since you could avoid paying for charging altogether, this could save you thousands of dollars a year in EV charging!

As noted, there are also some key pros and cons to consider between the Level 2 charger and the Level 3 charger.

Level 2 Charging Pros:

  • Much faster than the standard 120-volt charger
  • Can completely charge an EV overnight

Level 2 Charging Cons:

  • Must be installed, does not plug into a standard 120-volt outline
  • Requires a 240-volt outlet 

Level 3 Charging Pros:

  • Can charge up to 80% battery capacity in 30 minutes
  • Great for a quick charge on-the-go

Level 3 Charging Cons:

  • Cannot be installed in the home
  • Can degrade a battery more quickly than Level 1 and 2 chargers 

EV Charging with EV Connect

EV Connect is a popular EV charging app that enables drivers to easily locate and access EV charging stations, assess if EV charging stations are available, and pay for EV charging. While a recent study released by Plug In America (PIA) found that upwards of 90% of EV drivers charge at home, still a large percentage of drivers make use of in-city EV charging stations to charge on the go or support long-distance trips. 

Which Levels of Charging Are Available for Public Charging?

When looking for a public charger in most big cities you’ll really only have to decide between using a Level 2 charger and a Level 3 charger. The reason for this is Level 1 chargers simply aren’t in enough demand compared to both Level 2 and Level 3, making these public charging stations obsolete. Take, for instance, the popular platform ChargerHub that allows individuals to search for charging stations within their city. In nearly all cases, only Level 2 and Level 3 chargers are available.

Level 2 Public Chargers

By far the most common public charging station you’ll come across is a Level 2 charging station. Today, you’ll find a myriad of different charging station brands including Blink, ChargePoint, EVgo, and the infamous Tesla chargers/superchargers. In fact, in most cities, these Level 2 chargers outnumber Level 3 chargers by five, even ten times depending on the city. 

Level 3 Public Chargers

Today, Level 3 chargers are commonplace in any major city, and even many smaller cities around the country offer Level 3 chargers. A quick search of a platform like ChargerHub will verify if there is a Level 3 charger in your city, and show its location. Our suggestion is to search for Level 3 chargers in your city prior to making a big purchase on an EV! You don’t want to overly assume you can depend on quick on-the-go charging before verifying you have access to these types of chargers. 

Choosing the Right Level of Public Charging for Your Electric Car

When deciding which public charger is best for you, it really comes down to charging speed, cost, and proximity. First and foremost, keep in mind that Level 2 charging is going to be significantly slower than Level 3. So, if you have the luxury of charging while at work a Level 2 charger may work perfectly fine. However, if you’re in a rush, you may want to opt for the Level 3 charger. 

Another consideration is cost. Level 2 chargers typically charge by the hour whereas Level 3 chargers charge by the minute. However, when you break down the cost per kWh (kilowatt-hour) Level 2 charging is most commonly cheaper than Level 3 charging, this does however depend on the EV charger vendor.

Home Charging and Workplace Charging

Have access to a workplace charger? You may be in for some serious savings. However, before you jump to treating workplace chagrin as your primary method of charging there are some considerations to take into account. 

Of course, with home charging, you’ll always be on the hook to pay for electricity to charge your EV. There are several platforms out there that will automate charging schedules to optimize when your EV is being charged. However, at the end of the day, independent of the level of savings, you’re still looking to spend on energy each year to charge your EV.  

Unlike home charging, workplace charging can pose the major benefit of free charging (depending on how your employer has set up their on-premise EV charger)

Pros and Cons

At the end of the day, there are a few considerations one should take into account when developing a charging strategy that makes use of both home and workplace charging. We’ve listed out some of the common pros and cons associated with home and workplace EV charging to help you along your EV charging journey. 

Home Charging pros:

  • Nearly always available (unless someone else is chagrin or you encounter a power outage
  • Can build a routine around nightly charging

Home Charging Cons:

  • Does raise your electricity bill
  • Can require installation of a 240-volt Level 2 charger 

Workplace Charging Pros:

  • Can be free! (Depending on how your employer has set up the workplace charger)
  • A great option if you don’t want to set up home charging

Workplace Charging Cons:

  • Can be occupied by a coworker leaving you in a pickle if you are depending on that daily workplace charge
  • Days you’re not in the office require you to develop a different charging practice

Conclusion

Hopefully, this breakdown of the different chargers and charging stations you can leverage as an EV owner has been helpful. Be sure to check out other 365 Pronto pieces on other EV-related topics.

For any EV charger maintenance, repair, or installation, 365 Pronto’s easy-to-use platform connects you and your asset directly to a network of local, compliant, and certified service providers. To learn more about how to onboard and become a Pronto customer, contact the 365 Pronto Team for additional information or a platform demo.