As an owner of a plug-in hybrid vehicle, I’ve suddenly become very interested in how battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids are charged, and where you can charge them.
In Part Two of my series on everything you need to know about electric cars, I explore the three ways to charge BEVs or plug-in hybrids.
Level One charging refers to using a standard household outlet, and BEVs and plug-in hybrids typically come with a cord. Level One charging is simple and versatile – you can charge anywhere there’s power – but it’s also slow. My car requires about 12 hours for a full charge – but since that’s how much time it typically sits idle overnight anyway, it’s sufficient for me.
Level Two and Level Three chargers are permanently installed terminals with a cord that plugs into your vehicle; picture the electrical equivalent of a gas pump and hose.
Level Two chargers are the type usually installed at businesses, hotels, parking garages or homes. They supply power at 240 volts, so they replenish vehicle batteries significantly faster. A Level Two charger fills my plug-in hybrid in 4.5 hours; it would fill most BEVs overnight.
Level Three charging stations – also called DC fast chargers – are the heavyweights of vehicle charging. Typically located near major highways, they pack 400 volts of power, and can charge most BEVs to 80 per cent full in just 30 minutes – essentially, a coffee stop on a road trip.
At present, Level Three chargers can’t be used by plug-in hybrids like mine; they’re exclusively for BEVs, which have much larger batteries and are wired to handle intense, rapid charging. (That may change, as vehicle manufacturers are developing plug-in hybrids that can handle the oomph of Level Three chargers.)
If you drive a plug-in hybrid, you’ll probably need nothing more than a standard wall outlet to charge your car at home. If you drive a BEV, you’ll probably want to install a Level Two charging station.
How do you locate chargers
It’s becoming much easier to find charging stations across NB. Last year, NB Power launched the eCharge Network, a province-wide, easy-to-access, easy-to-use network of Level Two and Three charging stations.
Using the network is pretty straightforward. BEV and plug-in hybrid drivers can register by visiting www.echargenetwork.com. They receive a card by mail, which they load with money at the eCharge Network website. They then use the card to access any of the network’s stations, and the applicable charging fees are deducted from their card.
Level Two chargers cost $1.50/hour or $3/session. Level Three chargers – the heavy-duty ones – cost 25 cents per minute.
The network is expanding steadily and now includes over 25 Level Two and Level Three charging stations around the province. Chargers can be found using an interactive map on the network’s website, or by app. A nice bonus: eCharge Network members can use their card to access over 1,500 charging stations on sister networks in other provinces.
If you’re a business owner, you might want to consider joining the network and installing a charging station on your premises. As a new plug-in hybrid owner, I’m already finding myself seeking out restaurants and other businesses that have such stations.
Beyond the eCharge Network, Sun Country Highway, a charging station manufacturer, operates a demonstration network of 20 free (for now) Level Two stations from St. Stephen to Sackville to Caraquet to Clair.
Popular apps for locating all chargers, regardless of network affiliation, include PlugShare, ChargeHub and CAA. In most cases, they even indicate whether a station is in use or available (and in the future, drivers will be able to reserve a charging station in advance of arrival).
Three levels of charger, more locations regularly and easy ways to find and use charging stations. It’s getting easier to own and operate electric vehicles.
But are they really cleaner and cheaper to operate? That’s coming in Part Three.
Carl Duivenvoorden (www.changeyourcorner.com; @CDuivenv) is a speaker, writer and sustainability consultant living in Upper Kingsclear, New Brunswick.