Level 1 vs. Level 2 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Part of the reason why so many vehicle owners in 2020 are making the switch from fuel-powered to electric vehicles is convenience.

On the surface of it, a car that runs on electricity and that you can charge from home without the mess and smell of petrol or diesel sounds much easier to deal with. 

However, with the transition from fuel to electric comes a fair bit of learning. Between the many types of EV currently available on the market, including the nuances of hybrid vehicles, and the multiple charging accessories often required for use, there’s a lot to get your head around. 

One of the most specific and frequently asked questions surrounding electric vehicle charging is what the difference is between Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations. 

This article will provide an overview of both types of charging stations, including how they work, and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

By the end of the article, we hope you’ll have a clearer understanding of the differences between Level 1 and Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, as well as an idea of which type might be better suited to your vehicle, your schedule, and potentially your home! 

Level 1 vs. Level 2 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

An Introduction to Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

An electric vehicle charging station is a station (either in public spaces or installed directly inside or outside your home) that can be plugged into your EV to supply its battery with electricity. 

Charging works by plugging an electric vehicle into the charging station using 

This all sounds pretty straightforward, and it is! However, confusion can arise when manufacturers label their charging stations as either ‘Level 1’ or ‘Level 2’. What is this leveling system, and what does it mean in real terms? 

Well, the key differences between these 2 charging levels primarily come down to amperage, efficiency, cost, and time. Let’s take a closer look! 

Level 1 Charging Stations 

Level 1 Charging Stations are the ‘standard’ option for EV charging. It’s the kind of charging that uses a normal household outlet, and you’ll typically receive a Level 1 EV charging cable with the purchase of an electric vehicle. 

Power

The first significant thing to note about Level 1 EV charging stations is that, as we just mentioned, they use household-level power outlets, meaning that they run on 120 volts and put out enough power per hour to power your vehicle for about 4 or 5 miles.

Now, that isn’t a lot of power, especially over a significant period of time, which leads us onto our next point: speed.

Speed

Level 1 charging will fully charge a 100-mile car battery in roughly 21 hours on average. Now, for drivers who only drive short to moderate distances each day (or less than each day), this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

However, for those of us who have errands to run and many miles to cover on a daily basis, needing almost an entire day to fully charge an EV battery is far from ideal. This is one of the major reasons why more and more EV drivers are opting for Level 2 charging over Level 1.

Efficiency

Charging times aside, the other aspect of Level 1 electric vehicle charging stations that often frustrates EV owners is the energy-efficiency - or, unfortunately, lack thereof. 

Efficiency in EV charging is measured by calculating the percentage of electricity from the power grid that actually gets transferred into the vehicle’s battery as opposed to wasted power. 

The average energy-efficiency of Level 1 charging, according to scientific calculations, is roughly 84%.

This might not seem too bad as a number in itself, but that’s still about 15% of total wasted power, which isn’t ideal in terms of the environmental friendliness EVs have been designed to promote.

It’s also significantly lower than the energy-efficiency calculated for Level 2 charging, as we’ll see later. 

Cost

In terms of buying an electric vehicle charger for your home, a Level 1 charging station is definitely going to be the cheaper option.

This is because Level 1 chargers are less technologically advanced, and provide less power over longer periods of time than Level 2 chargers so, of course, they are sold at a more affordable price.

They also don’t normally require specific professional hardwiring for installation, so this is another area in which cost is diminished.

However, when it comes to using public charging stations, you’re likely to find that you’re spending more money on Level 1 charging due to the fact due to the prevalence of by-the-minute EV charging at public stations. 

Overview

Advantages

  • Less expensive to purchase 
  • Provided with most electric vehicles 
  • Easier to install 

Disadvantages

  • Lower power output 
  • Takes longer to charge 
  • Less energy-efficient

Level 2 Charging Stations

Level 2 Charging Stations are a more recent development in the EV charging industry. They deliver higher levels of power to electric vehicles of all kinds and are increasingly becoming the more popular choice for EV charging. 

Power

Because Level 2 EV charging stations connect to 240-volt outlets, they are able to put out more power than Level 1 chargers.

Compared to the average of 4 to 5 miles per hour of charging enabled by Level 1 stations, an hour of Level 2 charging should be enough to power your EV for up to anywhere up to 60 miles (depending on the amperage of the individual station).

Speed

Due to the increase in power output that comes with Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, the charging speed for these charging stations is also increased. 

As we just mentioned, an hour of Level 2 charging can yield, in some cases, up to 60 miles of battery power, which is up to 15 times faster than some Level 1 chargers. 

A Level 2 EV charger can charge your battery in as little as 4 or 5 hours, which is much more convenient for those drivers who don’t have time to leave their vehicle on charge for up to 24 hours at a time for a full battery. 

Efficiency

Another important benefit of Level 2 charging stations over Level 1 chargers is energy efficiency. 

Level 2 chargers are much more energy-efficient than Level 1 charging stations, with their efficiency being rated at around 89% compared to the 84% efficiency level of Level 1 chargers. 

This 5% increase in efficiency can make a lot of difference, both in terms of environmental sustainability and your wallet, and this is one of the main reasons why Level 2 charging has gained so much popularity of Level 1 stations recently. 

Cost

The only real drawback to Level 2 EV charging stations over their Level 1 counterparts is (in some cases) the expense.

It will cost you significantly more to invest in a home Level 2 charging station, for example, than it would to purchase a Level 1 station. These stations usually also cost more to install since they normally require professional electrical hardwiring as opposed to a simple plug-in method. 

However, if you can do all your charging from home, spending more on a one-time Level 2 charging investment compared to daily stops at a public charging station is likely to save you a significant amount of money. 

Of course, charging rates at public charging stations will vary depending on many factors. However, because most charging stations charge by the minute rather than by power units, the faster charging speeds of Level 2 stations will usually work out cheaper due to the shorter charging times. 

So, the cost-efficiency of Level 2 charging stations ultimately depends on whether the station is for home or public use, as well as other personal factors such as how often you charge your vehicle. 

Overview

Advantages

  • Higher power output 
  • More energy-efficient 
  • Faster charging times 
  • Normally cheaper to use publically 

Disadvantages

  • More expensive to purchase 
  • Require professional installation 

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s pretty clear that in terms of power and time taken to charge, Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations come out on top against Level 1. 

From a purely statistical point of view, Level 2 electric vehicle chargers put out significantly more power (of which approximately 5% less is wasted) than Level 1 stations, yet they take a much shorter amount of time to charge your vehicle. That’s a win whatever way you look at it. 

If you regularly drive long distances in your electric vehicle and want to do all of your charging at home, then you definitely need a Level 2 charger to see you through long road trips. 

Nonetheless, there are instances where a Level 1 charging station might actually serve you better than a Level 2.

If you only drive short distances every day and are able to do all your charging from home, you’re likely to find that Level 1 charging is currently the cheapest and most convenient option for you - for now, at least. 

With constant developments in technology, we may soon see Level 3 EV chargers available for personal as well as commercial use, and this will have an impact on the way we view both Level 1 and 2 charging stations in the future. 

Ultimately, whether you feel that Level 1 or 2 electric vehicle charging will suit your vehicle and lifestyle best will come down to your personal discretion. However, if you want fast and energy-efficient charging, we recommend Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations as your best option. 

Michael Schuck
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