A DC Fast Charger (left) and Level 2 pedestal charger (right) from Eaton Corporation.

When it comes to options for purchasing charging stations there are more coming all the time.

The Basics:

There are three “levels” of charging that electric vehicles can use to charge at different rates.

  • Level 1: Your standard, three-prong household outlet. Rated at 110-120 volts. Can add a maximum of about 6 miles of driving range per hour of charging. Most electric cars come with an included adapter that allows you to charge from a household outlet.
  • Level 2: A specialized faster charge that uses a new industry standard called the “J-1772″ connector. Requires special equipment that is sold separately from the vehicle. Rated at 220-240 volts. Adds between 15 and 30 miles of driving range per hour of charging, depending on the vehicle.
  • DC Fast Charging: Also referred to as “Level 3″ in many places, although this isn’t technically correct. Requires special, more expensive equipment that relies on high voltage to deliver a direct “dump” of electricity into a vehicle’s batteries. Rated at very high voltages (400+) and amperages (80+). Generally meant for commercial/industrial installations. Vehicles have to be specially equipped to be able to take advantage of DC Fast Charging. Adds about 80 miles of driving range in 20-30 minutes.

Keep in mind that every vehicle and manufacturer is different when it comes to what type of charging is supported and at what rate. For instance, the 2011 Nissan LEAF supports all 3 levels of charging, however Level 2 charging is currently only supported at the slower 15 miles of range added per hour of charging and DC Fast Charging is only supported as an add-on option. Be sure to ask questions about what kinds of charging is supported when you do your vehicle research.

List of Available Charging Equipment

Plug In America, an electric vehicle advocacy organization, keeps a detailed and frequently updated list of available charge stations and their prices (when known). Keep in mind that as of December 2010, only a handful of manufacturers are currently delivering equipment, with the vast majority of them expected to ship product in early to mid-2011.

Examples of Charging Equipment:

The Level 1 adapter that comes with the Nissan LEAF. One end is a standard 3 prong plug, the other is the new J-1772 plug to connect to the EV.

A commercial Level 2 pedestal charging station from ECOtality.

An example of what commercial ECOtality Level 2 chargers might look like in a parking lot installation.