How long does it take to charge an electric car?

Here’s what you need to know

Recharging an electric car is not like filling up a tank of gas. It takes more than a few minutes to get yourself going again. That might be an obstacle depending on how far you tend to drive.

But how long does it take to recharge an electric car? That’s not an easy question to answer, on account of how different every electric car battery is. It all depends on how big the battery is, and how much power it can actually take in one go

Electric car charging types and speed estimates

Level 1 (Slow): 40kWh battery8h 53m14h 39m
Level 1 (Slow): 82 kWh battery18h 13m30h 3m
Level 2 (Fast): 40 kWh battery3h 48m6h 17m
Level 2 (Fast): 82 kWh battery7h 48m12h 53m
Level 3 (50kW Rapid): 40 kWh battery0h 32m0h 52m
Level 3 (50kW Rapid): 82 kWh battery1h 5m1h 48m

There are three different kinds of electric car chargers out there at the moment: Slow, Fast, and Rapid. While the names are fairly self-explanatory, it’s important for any prospective electric car owner to understand the difference between them all.

Car charging speed is measured in kilowatts, which is also written as kW. Classifying a charger as slow, fast, or rapid all depends on that speed, and naturally the higher the number the faster your car will recharge.

Slow, Fast, Rapid?

Level1 (slow) charging: Slow charging means your charging speed is under 7kW. Typically these chargers are around 3kW, though 5kW slow chargers do exist. Slow chargers utilize alternating current (AC), and can take anything from several hours to a few days to fully recharge a car.

Level2 (fast) charging: This covers the 7kW to 22kW range, and can recharge your car’s battery much faster than a slow charger. While they are not particularly “fast”, they will typically recharge your car in a few hours. Though, as ever, it’s all dependent on which car you have. Fast chargers also use AC power.

And, Level-3 (rapid) charging:  Rapid charging is the fastest type of electric car charging available, and includes speeds upwards of 50kW. There’s no hard limit on what constitutes a ‘Rapid’ charger, and there are chargers out there that can offer up to 350kW speeds. They are rare, and very few cars can actually handle that much power.

Most rapid chargers you encounter will likely be between 50kW and 150kW. That said, Tesla owners will be able to take advantage of the company’s 250kW superchargers, which have been built across the United States. Rapid chargers can usually recharge your car in around an hour. They utilize Direct Current (DC) power.

It’s also worth noting that while chargers can offer certain maximum speeds, your car’s recharge speed will fully depend on the car itself. So an 11 kW fast charger will only dish out 7 kW speeds if the car it’s plugged into can’t handle anything faster. So you need to be familiar with your own car’s capabilities, and the recharge specs provided by the manufacturer.

Level 1Level 2Level 3
Tesla Model Y10 miles per hour29 miles per hour162 miles in 15 min
Tesla Model 311 miles per hour30 miles per hour175 miles in 15 min
Tesla Model X5 miles per hour20 miles per hour175 miles in 15 min
Tesla Model S7 miles per hour23 miles per hour200 miles in 15 min
Chevrolet Bolt4 miles per hour25 miles per hour100 miles in 30 min
Ford Mustang Mach-E3 miles per hour28 miles per hour59 miles in 10 min
Audi e-tron100% in 129 hours1000% in 10.5 hours80% in 30 min
Nissan Leaf100% in 60 hours100% in 11.5 hours80% in 45 min

Slow charging

Slow chargers are, as the name suggests, slow. Very slow, in fact, because they don’t use a very high voltage, and are often referred to as “trickle chargers.” These chargers are usually glorified mains sockets, and the speeds you’ll be getting are comparable to purchasing a special adapter and plugging your car into the wall like you would a phone or a TV.

As an example, recharging a 40 kWh battery from 20% to 80% on a 3kW charger will take you around 9 hours. But if you tried to go from 1% all the way to 100%, it could take almost 15 hours. Meanwhile, an 82 kWh battery takes over 18 hours to slow charge from 20% to 80%. 1% to 100% would take you an insane 30 hours to complete.

Those figures are only rough estimates, but it gives you an idea of just how slow it is to slow charge a car.

So these are the chargers you will want to avoid out in the world, unless you have a considerable amount of time to kill while your car recharges. Thankfully, you’re not likely to come across any, and their painfully slow recharging speed is to blame.

You may be able to get a slow charger installed at home, though you’re better off either installing a fast charger or seeing if your car’s manufacturer sells an adapter you can plug into a wall socket.

Fast charging

In most situations your car is going to be plugged into a fast charger. Not only are they significantly faster than slow charging, they recharge slowly enough to minimize degradation in the battery. So you get a healthy balance, ensuring your car is always topped up and ready to go, while maximizing the lifespan of the battery. 

That’s going to be especially useful if your car has a large battery. An 82 kWh battery takes roughly 13 hours to fully recharge on a 7kW fast charger, or just under 8 hours to go between 20% and 80%. Meanwhile, a 40 kWh battery will take just over 6 hours to fully recharge, or just under 4 hours to go from 20% to 80%. Again these are estimates, and actual cars may differ in practice.

Rapid charging

Rapid charging is the fastest way to recharge your car, but it’s not something you should do regularly. Lithium batteries are pretty fickle things and tend to degrade a lot faster when regularly exposed to high voltage.

Or, at the very least, when regularly exposed to the excess heat faster charging speeds can produce. Battery degradation affects the amount of charge it can hold, so the more it degrades, the worse your range is going to get.

A lot of cars are coming with better and better cooling systems to stop the battery overheating and lessen degradation these days. But it’s still good practice to avoid rapid chargers whenever possible. That’s not to say you should never use a rapid charger. Just make sure that it’s either your absolute last resort, or you’re mid-trip and need to recharge as fast as physically possible.

Rapid chargers do make long trips possible as well. They’re pretty commonplace, and even the slowest 50kW chargers can bring an 82kWh battery from 20 to 80% in an hour. Recharging from 1% to 100% takes about double that time. The 40kWh battery should take around an hour to go from 1% all the way to 100%, or just over half an hour to go from 20% to 80%.

Electric car charging: How much recharging should you do? 

Your instincts might tell you to try and recharge your car back to 100% every time, but you should try and avoid this. Why? Because it’s not good for the battery. So if you want to maximize the lifespan of your car’s battery, avoiding a full charge is one of a number of things you can do.

The general advice given to EV owners is to keep your car’s charge somewhere between 20% and 80%. Because sitting around with too much charge isn’t good for it, and neither is having too little. That’s true of all lithium ion batteries, whether they’re in your car, your phone or your laptop. 

Simply put, a lithium battery is filled with lithium ions that move around between two different layers: lithium-metal oxide and graphite. If all the lithium ions are in the metal-oxide layer, it means you have a 100% charge, and if they’re all in the graphite layer it means you have 0% charge.

The problem is having too many ions in one layer causes it to expand, which puts strain on the battery and increases the speed of degradation. It doesn’t matter which extreme you’re talking about, they’re both bad. So you want to avoid these situations as much as possible.

50% charge is the real sweet spot, since it means the ions’ positioning is evenly split, but that’s not really practical. So good practice is to keep everything between 20% and 80% unless absolutely necessary, like you’re about to take a long trip and need every last kWh of power to get you there.

The good news here is that charging to 80% is a lot easier than charging to 100%, and not just because you’re adding less power to the car. 

Have you ever noticed how a lot of tech companies advertise fast charging speed up to the 80% mark? That’s because the more power your battery has, the slower it charges, and 80% is the point where charging speed nosedives. Even rapid chargers, which can offer insanely fast recharge speeds, slow to a near-trickle as you edge closer to 100%.

Trying to reach 100% can add a few extra hours onto your total recharge time, so it’s just not worth doing unless you absolutely have to. The fact you’re keeping the battery in better health is just an added bonus.

Electric car charging: Your options

If you’re thinking about buying an electric car, there are two main options. The first, and most inconvenient, option is to rely on public chargers. The other is to do it at home, if you can.

As we’ve discussed before, public charging should only really be your go-to charging method if you can’t recharge at home. Whether that’s because you have to park on the street, your garage doesn’t have power  or some other reason.

Not only is public charging more expensive than charging at home, but its viability depends on how good the electric car charging infrastructure is in your local area. If you can charge at home, then you should. Even if you can’t get a dedicated home charger installed. 

Electric vehicles can be recharged from a standard wall power socket, provided you have the right adapter, but this process is very slow. As we mentioned earlier, even the smallest electric car batteries can take a dozen or so hours to recharge. That’s not the kind of thing you want if you need to use your car regularly.Advertisement

When it comes to balancing speed and convenience, installing a fast charger at home is the most appropriate course of action. You can expect to pay between $400 and $700 for a basic wall-mounted Level 2 charger.

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