Can I Fast Charge My Electric Car? How to Avoid Battery Damage

Can I Fast Charge My Electric Car

Fast charging an electric car is a welcome benefit to the average driver who needs to quickly charge their car battery before work or during their always-too-short lunch break. Knowing that fast charging is an option for an electric car battery can help drivers who are short on time and eager to get back on the road. 

Most electric vehicles have the ability to be fast-charged using a compatible cable at a public charging station or at home. DC fast chargers can charge in 30-minutes while 240-volt chargers (home and public) can charge in 2 to 4-hours. However, charging times can differ widely.

Electric car drivers may feel inconvenienced by the amount of time it takes to charge their car battery compared to the time it takes to stop at a gas station and fill up the tank of a traditional vehicle. But there are different charging options to utilize depending on how much time is available. 

How Long Does it Take to Fast Charge an Electric Car?

Factors like how much power the battery can hold, the power of the charge point, and the battery’s current charge level impact the amount of time it takes to completely charge an electric car battery. 

It’s important to know these factors to accurately gauge how long it will take. 

The amount of mileage a car can get on a full battery also impacts the amount of time spent charging. In some ways, the mileage may be a better indicator of how efficient charging speeds are. Cars that take longer to charge but get more miles per fully charged battery may help drivers spend less time charging in the long run.

Every battery has limits as to how much power it can take in from the charger at a time. If the rate of power output for the charger is more than the rate of charge the battery takes in, then the battery will only draw the amount of power up to its maximum limit, not the amount that the charger will put out. 

Therefore, if an electric car battery isn’t charging as fast as you thought it would because you’re using a fast or rapid charger, the battery’s energy capacity or speed might be the cause. The efficiency of the charger can only cut down on charging times as much as the battery will draw the energy from the charger. 

While there’s not much you can do to change how fast your battery can accept power or how much mileage you can get, one thing drivers can control is the type of charger they use. 

Different types of electric car chargers allow for faster or slower charging speeds depending on the driver’s needs. 

It’s helpful to maintain a habit of keeping an electric car ‘topped off’ or recharging it little by little rather than waiting for the battery to get low enough for a long charge. However, it’s good to know the different options for charging stations and compatible cables for longer road trips. 

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3 Types of Electric Car Chargers 

There are three main types of charging options for electric vehicles: 

  • Level 1: Slow Charge – takes approx. 7-12 hours for a full charge
  • Level 2: Fast Charge – takes approx. 1-4 hours for a full charge
  • DC (Direct Current) or Rapid – takes approx. 20 minutes – 1 hour for a full charge

These options help meet the lifestyle and needs of different drivers. 

Level 1 is the slowest of the options. Also referred to as trickle charging. This is how I charge my electric vehicle from home.

Level 1 charging is ideal for overnight charging since it takes 8 to 12-hours. Slow charging is best for drivers with consistent schedules who know they’ll have access to their home charger every night. 

Level 1 charging uses a standard home power outlet, 120-volts. Plug into a garage electrical outlet and you are good to go.

One can simply plug in when they come home from work each day. This helps keep the car at a consistent charge, and drivers don’t have to worry about where the nearest charging station is.

Level 2 chargers provide a significantly faster charge. These are often the types of chargers that you see at public charging stations. Electric cars are able to fast charge their vehicles on the go and at home as long as they have a compatible cable. Level 2 chargers use a 240-volt power supply. These can be installed in your home for $1,000 to $2,000. Speak to an electrician before you purchase a Level 2 home charging station.

DC Rapid chargers are even faster than level 2 but not as common because some models are not compatible with this type of charging. DC Chargers also require transformers and other industrial electrical equipment that the city or county would have to install in a public area. 

Therefore it’s a less reliable option for many drivers. DC Rapid charging provides direct energy to the car battery because they convert the energy (or current) before it enters the vehicle as opposed to other chargers that require the battery’s onboard charger to convert the energy inside the vehicle before it enters the battery. 

For images of different charging cables and more details about each charging option, click here for rapid charging adaptors.

What is the Fastest Charging Electric Car?

Tesla is one of the most recognizable brands of electric cars. Tesla holds the record for charging speeds with the Tesla Model 3 being the fastest charging electric vehicle. Using a Tesla supercharger, it charges at a rate of 15 miles per minute.  

However, Lucid Motors, a Tesla competitor, announced that they’re coming out with a luxury electric sedan that would surpass Tesla’s rapid charging times. This new vehicle can reportedly charge at a rate of 20 miles per minute. 

Does Fast Charging My Car Hurt the Battery Life?

While fast and rapid charging is a great option for drivers who are short on time and need to charge their electric car battery as fast as possible, it’s not a method of charging that should be overused. 

Fast or rapid charging an electric car too often can reduce battery health over time

Similarly to a typical phone battery, car batteries tend to get hotter quicker when they’re fast or rapidly charged. This quick change in the battery’s temperature too often can reduce the longevity of the car battery over time. 

The impact of excessively using Level 3 DC Fast Charging stations is limited. A study done on two identical 2012 Nissan Leafs by Idaho National Laboratory found using Level 3 chargers isn’t a pronounced issue. 

For 50,000 miles they charged one leaf exclusively on a Level 2 240-volt home charger and the other Leaf on public Level 3 chargers. The Level 3 charged car had a 4% decrease in capacity compared to the Level 2 charged car.  

Research has shown all these play a part in battery health but long-term, real-world performance data has only started to be collected. As EVs on the road reach a decade old, more data on range loss over time will paint a clearer picture of battery performance and improvements needed to maintain the battery’s health and range.

It’s recommended to use Level 1 and Level 2 charging most often and keep fast and rapid charging to only when necessary. This shouldn’t be an issue as Level 3 DC Fast Chargers are harder to find and are usually only used on long road trips. 

Cost of Charging an Electric Car

Although it may take a while to charge the battery sometimes, using electric cars can bring significant financial gains compared to driving a traditional car. 

“The average cost to operate an EV in the United States is $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle is $1,117.”

EnergySage: Costs and benefits of electric cars vs. conventional vehicles 

On average, the cost of electricity compared to the cost of gas is usually lower. Meaning, on average, it costs less to charge the battery of an electric vehicle than it does to fill up a tank of gas. 

The motor of an electric vehicle versus an engine of a traditional vehicle also helps cut down on traditional maintenance costs. Electric vehicles don’t require oil changes, transmission fluid flushes, coolant, and other maintenance like a combustion engine.

Using Public Electric Charging Stations

As more electric cars take place on the roads, more charging stations have popped up in public parking garages and parking lots. 

The charging stations are a welcome perk for drivers that need a fast charge during their lunch break or right before work. 

Most public charging stations are easy and convenient to find using apps like Google Maps or PlugShare, which provides locations and even the current status if a station is out of order. 

Using the charging station company app or subscription, electric car drivers can pay to charge up based on how much time or charge is needed, or they can pay per session

While charging at home is often the most convenient, it’s helpful to know where there are public charging stations in your city just in case.

Faster Charging and Better Mileage for Future Electric Vehicles

While saving money on gas, reducing the carbon footprint of transportation, and easier maintenance are major benefits to driving an electric car, the time it takes to charge up the battery can range from being an inconvenience to a major downside.

Electric car manufacturers are thinking of new ways to reduce charging times and improve the mileage with each new model they put out.

Car manufacturers like Tesla know that drivers would rather spend time on the road than waiting for their car battery to charge enough. 

Photo by CardMapr on Unsplash

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

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