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What is a Level 1 charger: Sometimes You Just Need a Snail’s Pace Charge for Your EV

July 3, 2023

When it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), their charging system is often a mystery to many. Unlike gas-powered cars, EVs have their own set of charging levels denoted as Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. These levels determine the energy output of a charging station and the rate at which an EV will charge. But what is a Level 1 Charger?

Level 1 charging is the most basic and most affordable option for EV owners. It involves using a standard 120-volt household outlet to charge the car. While it takes longer to charge compared to Level 2 and 3 chargers, Level 1 charging is still a viable option for those with shorter commutes or who have access to charging at work.

On the other hand, Level 2 and 3 chargers are ideal for those who need a faster charging solution. Level 2 chargers use a 240-volt outlet and can charge an EV up to six times faster than Level 1 chargers. Level 3, also known as DC fast charging, can charge an EV up to 80% in just 30 minutes, making it ideal for long road trips.

While Level 2 and 3 chargers are more powerful, they are also more expensive to install and maintain. Level 1 chargers, on the other hand, are the most affordable and the easiest to set up. All you need is a standard outlet, and you’re good to go.

Level 1 charger

What is a Level 1 charger?

New to electric vehicles (EVs)? The concept of Level 1 charging may seem foreign. Essentially, a Level 1 charging station is the most basic type of charging and involves using a standard 120-volt household outlet to charge your EV.

Compared to Level 2 and Level 3 (DC fast charging), Level 1 charging is the slowest option. However, it’s also the most affordable and easiest to set up. In fact, you can recreate a Level 1 charging station in your garage or parking structure with little to no special equipment, making it a convenient option for many EV owners.

To use a Level 1 charger, all you need is a nozzle cord and a standard household electrical outlet. This simplicity makes it a popular choice for passenger EVs and an easy-to-use alternative to more comprehensive EV charging stations.

How do Level 1 chargers work?

If you’re curious about how Level 1 chargers work, it’s actually quite simple. Most passenger EVs come with a built-in SAE J1772 charge port, commonly known as the J port. This port allows you to plug your EV into a standard electrical outlet for Level 1 charging or use Level 2 charging stations.

When you purchase an EV, you’ll also receive a nozzle cable, sometimes referred to as the emergency charger cable or portable charger cable. To set up your own Level 1 charging station, simply connect the nozzle cord to the J port on your EV and then plug it into a standard 120-volt electrical outlet, the same type you would use for a laptop or lamp.

No additional hardware or software is needed, making Level 1 charging a convenient and affordable option for many EV owners. Your EV’s dashboard will indicate when the battery is fully charged, so you’ll know when it’s time to unplug and hit the road.

It’s worth noting that Teslas have a different charging port, but Tesla drivers can purchase a J port adapter if they want to plug into a standard outlet or use a non-Tesla Level 2 charger.

How fast is Level 1 charging?

Wondering how fast Level 1 charging is? It’s important to note that it’s the slowest of the three charging levels. A typical Level 1 EV charger will output between 1.3 kW and 2.4 kW, which translates to roughly 5 km (or 3.11 miles) of range per hour of charging.

This means that an overnight charge of about 8 hours will get you about 30-40 miles of range, assuming the battery is not empty. However, if the battery is completely empty, it may take up to 24 hours to fully recharge using a Level 1 charger. Charging times will also vary based on the battery size and EV model.

It’s worth noting that Level 1 chargers are not commonly found at public EV charging stations because they are the slowest option. Faster and more convenient charging requires specialized hardware and software components.

Where is Level 1 charging most useful?

If you’re still wondering what the point of Level 1 charging is, despite its slower charging times, there are several reasons why it’s still a useful option. For one, Level 1 charging is affordable and easy to use, making it a popular choice in residential settings. Some worksites may also offer 120-volt outlets for employees to use with their own charging cables.

Level 1 charging is also a good option for plug-in hybrid vehicles, which tend to have smaller batteries and charge more quickly. For drivers with short commutes or those who don’t use their personal vehicle often, Level 1 charging may be sufficient for their needs most of the time.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to Level 1 charging besides the slow charging time. One of the main challenges is remembering to plug in your EV every night, especially if you don’t have a garage. Setting up at an outlet with a charging cord can also be a hassle for those without a dedicated charging station.

How much do Level 1 chargers cost?

It’s worth noting that most single-family residences with garages already have 120-volt plugs available for use, and the charging cable comes with the purchase of an EV. For multi-family properties, adding 120-volt outlets inside a parking garage can cost between $125 to $300, depending on the outlet location.

Since Level 1 charging typically happens in or near people’s homes, the cost of charging becomes a part of their electricity bill. The cost will vary depending on a variety of factors, including location, current energy prices, and the EV model.

How does Level 1 charging compare to Levels 2 and 3?

There are some key differences to consider. Level 1 charging is much slower than Level 2 and Level 3 charging and is used primarily in residential settings where drivers have plenty of time to wait for their car to charge.

Level 2 charging stations provide around 40 km (~25 miles) of range per hour of charging, but they require the installation of a Level 2 EV charger with a 240-volt outlet. This can be expensive and may require an electrician to install a higher-voltage outlet.

Most public EV charging stations are Level 2 because most EVs can connect to them via a J port, just like they would for Level 1 charging. Passenger EVs can use Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations interchangeably.

Level 3 chargers, also known as DC fast chargers, output between 50 kW and 350 kW and can fully charge an EV battery in 15 to 45 minutes. However, they are too expensive for most people to install at home and are primarily found along highways and major thoroughfares.

It’s worth noting that not all EVs can use DC fast chargers, and some compact models, such as the Fiat 500, should not use them because the high electric current could overwhelm their smaller battery.

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