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What does a level 2 Charger do and mean?

For years, the act of pulling into a gas station, opening the fuel door, and refueling while contemplating snack choices has been a ritual in the world of automobiles. However, even after making the transition from fossil fuels to electric vehicles (EVs), a form of “pit stop” is still necessary. Level 2 EV chargers provide a sense of familiarity during this process, making EV charging at home or on the go a breeze.   Level 2 residential EV chargers are becoming the most popular form of EV charging, with an estimated 75% of EV owners opting to invest in.

Demystifying Level 2 EV Charging Stations

But what exactly is a Level 2 EV charging station? This guide is here to shed light on how these stations operate, the installation costs involved, and how they compare to other commonly available chargers. Whether you’re in the process of building an extensive EV charging network or simply converting your garage into the ultimate charging hub, this article has you covered.

Understanding Level 2 Chargers

A Level 2 charger is a device designed to intelligently charge electric vehicles using either an industry-standard SAE J1772 connection (often referred to as a “J Plug”) or Tesla’s proprietary charging cable and adapters. The J Plug (J1772 or, increasingly, in the future, NACS) is typically connected by a cable to a utility-style box or pole, which houses the necessary electronics and software for communication with your EV and the Level 2 charger network.   The utility box is often referred to as the EVSE or the EV control box.  Level 2 is the highest power residential charging.  Level 3, used to describe commercial EV charging, is not an option for residential owners since the residential supply is alternating current (AC) rather than direct current (DC), which is used for any fast, commercial EV charging station.

The charging box of a Level 2 charger draws power from a standard 240V outlet, the same type used for appliances like clothes dryers, which require a higher electricity flow compared to a standard 120V plug. This higher voltage enables faster charging, setting it apart from Level 1 chargers.  Depending on local supply, the power can range from 208 volts to 240 volts based on conversations we have had with customers since we started EV chargers in 2018.  Our EV chargers work at lower voltages, and we know that some others do not.

Speed of Level 2 Charging

A Level 2 charger can deliver anywhere from approximately 3kW to just under 20kW of AC power to an EV. In practical terms, this translates to providing about 20 to 30 miles of range per hour of charging, allowing a typical EV’s battery to reach a full charge overnight.  The range will depend on the EV make, battery size, and weight of the vehicle (as well as the age of the car’s battery).   Occasionally, extremely colder temperatures can affect the range of level 2 EV charging.

This speed stands in stark contrast to Level 1 charging stations that often come with the purchase of an EV, which top out at 2.4 kW or approximately 5km (3.1 miles) of range per hour. It’s no wonder that many EV owners prefer to “refuel” at Level 2 chargers when convenient, given this stark contrast in charging speed.

Level 2 EV chargers typically come in 24, 32, 40, and 48 amp power settings.  Our EV chargers are adjustable so that you can match the ampere of the EV charger to the ampere that suits the battery.  Batteries have limits to the amperes they can accept, and a preference amongst some EV owners is to try not to overcharge the battery and customize the setting. 

Level 2 Chargers in Businesses

Due to their combination of rapid charging and relatively simple installation, Level 2 chargers are a popular choice for businesses seeking to enhance their amenities for visitors, employees, and tenants. Furthermore, managing a fleet of Level 2 chargers is often more straightforward than installing them. By selecting the appropriate operating system for EV charging, you can centralize control over an entire network’s worth of EV infrastructure, manage users, and optimize energy output to maximize revenue.  Solutions such as Pulsar Wallbox, a product we market, allows for centralized control, data management, and billing.  The chargers also come with integrated power balancing, so as one car stops charging, the extra charge power is shifted to another car.

Cost of a Level 2 Charger

Determining the total cost of a Level 2 charger involves considering three key factors:

  1. Charger Cost: Hardware expenses can range from $300 at the lower end to over $1,000, depending on the brand and utility.   
  1. Installation Costs: The installation costs can vary significantly depending on the charger’s location and usage. For large-scale installations, partnering with a regional turnkey EV charging provider is recommended. While installing the charger at home can be as simple as wall mounting, the addition of a 240V outlet may require an electrician’s services, typically costing at least $500.

Our service charges for installation in California and San Diego County range between $650 and $3000.  There are many variables that impact the cost of EV charger installation, such as the need for trenching, distance of the EV charger from your main electrical panel (think more cabling, materials, and opening up walls), quality of breakers, and electrical panel.  Sometimes, we find there is not enough space on the main panel.

  1. Electricity Costs: Electricity costs may fluctuate based on location and sometimes even the time of day. On average, fully charging a typical EV at standard electrical rates is estimated to cost around $6.

Even in California, at the time of writing in 2023, tariffs are available for 0.10 cents per kilowatt hour for off-peak charging.   Assuming an average battery size of 80 kWh, a charge can cost as little as $8 currently for a range of 220-250 miles depending on the vehicle, i.e., one-tenth of the expense of filling up a gasoline vehicle for the same cost.

In summary, you should anticipate spending at least $1,000 for the initial installation of a Level 2 charger. Subsequent installations are likely to be more cost-effective after the foundational electrical work is in place.

Comparing Level 2 Chargers to Alternatives

Much like traditional vehicle owners have options when it comes to gasoline grades, electric vehicle owners have three common types of EV charging stations to choose from. Let’s explore how a Level 2 charging station compares to Level 1 and Level 3 alternatives.

Compared to Level 1 EV Charging Stations

Level 1 charging stations, often included with EV purchases and referred to as emergency chargers or portable charger cables, plug into standard 120V household outlets. They provide a maximum output of 2.4kW to an EV. This charging rate is relatively slow, potentially taking several days to charge an EV battery fully.  For owners with increasingly large batteries, level 1 EV chargers are increasingly known as trickle chargers.  In our experience, level 1 EV chargers are most suited for older plug-in hybrid vehicles.

While Level 1 charging stations are considerably less expensive than Level 2 counterparts and significantly slower, their slower pace may suffice for commuters who reside near their workplace or undertake infrequent long journeys.

Compared to Level 3 EV Charging Stations

Level 3 charging stations, also known as DC fast chargers, offer output ranging from 50kW to 350kW, enabling rapid charging of a typical EV battery in as little as 15 minutes (though not all EVs support this standard). For example, plug in hybrid vehicles may not be used at commercial charging stations. Given the associated costs and electrical infrastructure requirements, these charging stations are best suited for dedicated charging locations along major highways and similar routes. 

One downside of level 3 or superfast commercial charging stations is the cost.  In our experience, the per charge cost can be as much as 2x the costs of charging on residential power.

For businesses considering EV charger installations as an added amenity, particularly in locations where people spend extended periods, Level 2 chargers, especially residential EV chargers, often present a more practical choice.

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1968 S. Coast Highway | Suite 639 | Laguna Beach, CA | 92651 | 888.399.6916 | [email protected]

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