DC Fast Charging:
A concern you read a lot about when it comes electric cars is how to get faster charging when you need it. There are 3 speeds for charging, Level 1, Level 2, and DC Fast Charging. You could read up on the overviews we gave of Level 1 and Level 2. In this post we are going to be covering DC Fast Chargers (DCFC).
What is DC Fast Charging (DCFC) for an EV?
DC Fast Charging from a power standpoint is usually with an input of 208/480V AC three-phase. Currently, the amperage of most the stations in the ground can range anywhere from 150 -200 amps with the kWh output being anywhere from 50-120 kWh. (Note, this higher speed is not called “Level 3” technically as the term “Level 3” has not yet been defined or standardized by the organized body, SAE).
Does DC Fast Charging (DCFC) work with every car?
No, it does not. First, not every car is capable of DCFC. In addition, there are 3 different standards for the connector of DC Fast Charging; Tesla, CHAdeMO, and SAE Combo. Tesla Super Chargers have a max output of 120 kWh but note, if 2 drivers are using both charging ports on the same charger, they will each be getting 60 kWh (that’s why you usually see one car per charger, even though the charger has 2 connectors). Currently for sale, CHAdeMO stations have a max output of 60 kWh, and SAE Combo stations on the market right now have a max output of 50-60 kWh. So what are each of the 3 about?
CHAdeMO DC Fast Charging
On the cars that take CHAdeMO, you will actually have 2 ports, one for Level 2 charging:
(The left port in the first, top picture is the DC Fast Charging CHAdeMO port and the right port in the first picture above is the Level 2 port. The lower picture on the bottom is the CHAdeMO connector from the station that plugs into the port)
SAE Combo DC Fast Charging
With cars that can charge using SAE Combo, it is much simpler as the car only has one port in contrast to CHAdeMO capable electric vehicles. The same port that uses Level 2 charging has two openings right below it. The DCFC connector uses that entire port to connect (the Level 2 connector would just use the upper circle of that port). See the images below:
(The image on the top is what the SAE combo port looks like. The image on the bottom is the SAE Combo connector from the station that plugs into the port)
Tesla DC Fast Charging
Tesla’s Supercharger locations can only be used for Tesla cars. In addition, Tesla cars can take advantage of CHAdeMO fast chargers through a separate adapter that can be purchased directly from Tesla here.
Below, is a table of which cars have DC Fast Charging, and which standard they use:
How long will it take to charge my car using a fast charger?
This is a really common question- how long until my car goes from empty to fully charged? The answer is this really depends on the size of your battery. Think of it this way: with a gas tank in your gasoline powered car, if I would ask you, “How much gas do I need for a full tank in a gas car?” You would say, the bigger the tank, the more gallons, and in turn fuel, it could hold. Different cars have different size “fuel tanks”.
With electric cars, think of the battery as your fuel tank. Different cars have different size batteries. The 2017 Chevy Bolt, which is a pure electric car, has a 60 kWh battery that can take you 238 miles. The Tesla Model S Sedan and Model X SUV, as of a new announcement a few months ago, now have an option to be bought with a whopping 100 kWh battery pack which give them a range of ~380 miles. You can check out the battery sizes and the range of all electric cars here.
So how long will it take to charge a car on a DC Fast Charger?
A Nissan Leaf, with a battery size option of 30 kWh and a full range of 107 miles, can get a full charge on a fast charger in less than 30 minutes according to Nissan.
The fast charging time for 2017 Chevy Bolt with the 60 kWh battery, according to the Bolt review by Motor Trend’s Christian Seabaugh will: “…gain 90 miles worth of range in 30 minutes, 160 miles worth in 60 minutes, and a full 238 miles of range in about two hours.”
The Tesla Model S or X with the larger 100 kWh battery pack which has a range of approximately 380 miles can give you 170 miles of range in 30 minutes.
Get the point? Smaller battery, less time to fill up. Larger battery, more time to fill up.
An interesting note from Tesla that applies to other cars as well when using a fast charger:
“Charging from 10% to 80% is quick and typically provides ample range to travel between most Superchargers. Charging from 80% to 100% doubles the charge time because the car must reduce current to top off cells. Actual charge times may vary.”
Want to know how much you drive a day? Take a look at our range calculator use the tool here under the “Daily Roundtrip” section.
When should I use a DC Fast Charger for my EV?
Fast Charging is meant for longer trips and typically not meant for urban, every day driving. You will usually find them on the highway, or some stores may have them as a convenience here and there.
Check out our posts on Level 1 Charging and Level 2 Charging and our full listing of featured home (residential) and public charging stations. There are also a range of guides on internet, such as this one from Million Mile Secrets, which explain these details, benefits, and differences between the types of charging in hopes of allaying the wary of driving long distances in an EV.