How Long Does it Take to Charge an Electric Car?

By laura.cox

Posted in: 

On a road trip or just driving to and from work, you’re likely to see an increasing number of electric vehicles on the road now. And, if you’re like more and more drivers these days, you own an electric vehicle (EV) yourself; after all, EVs have many benefits, emit no pollutants, and are cheaper to operate than gas-powered cars. 

What’s more, they’re quieter than gas cars and need no oil changes or tune-ups. A lot of drivers are choosing electric cars over gas powered ones every day. 

But when you have an electric vehicle, things are different from a gas-fueled car in one significant way: Refueling. With an EV, you’re not just spending 10 minutes at the gas station to refuel. You have to know how long it takes to charge an electric car because the time you spend charging an EV can be a significant part of your day. 

That is why electric car drivers charge up when they’re at work or home or running errands. Electric car charging stations are popping up all over these days, starting with installation right at home. EV charging stations can also be found increasingly at gas stations, malls, parking garages, office buildings, and more. 

But it would help if you still had an idea of how long your car will have to spend plugged in. 

How long does it take to charge an electric car? Anywhere from about 30 minutes to a full day. That’s a vague answer, so let’s get into the particulars that will impact the actual time it takes to charge your electric vehicle.  

You’ll get used to making calculations for your car as you get more driving experience, so don’t be intimidated by all of this. Soon charging an electric car will be as comfortable to you as your old gas-powered car ever was. 

EV charging stations’ capacity 

The most critical variable in charging an EV is your charging station. There are three levels of charging available to electric car drivers today.  

Level 1: The slowest EV charging station is Level 1, using a standard 120-volt household outlet. This is called a “trickle” charge. It delivers power at about one to three Kilowatts (kW). A Level 1 charging cable is included with the car. 

A Level 1 charging station can charge an electric car in 8 to 30 hours. Obviously, this is not ideal, but it pays to plug in your car to a Level 1 EV charger whenever it’s not being used at home, rather than not plugging it in at all. 

Level 2: A Level 2 electric car charging station uses a 240-volt outlet like the one used by your clothes dryer. This type is the most common charging station you’ll find in public places at the moment, and it can charge an electric car in four to eight hours. Most installed home electric car charging stations are also Level 2, meaning you can be sure to have a charged car waiting for you every day. 

Level 2 EV charging stations deliver from seven kW to 22 kW of power, making them ideal for topping up (more on that later). You have to buy this separately, though usually at the same time as the car and have this charging station installed in your home by an electrician. Some dealerships handle this for you as part of the purchase price. 

Level 3: Level 3 or DC Fast Charging is the fastest charging option, available only at public EV charging stations. This charging option relies on direct current (DC) rather than the alternating current (AC) used by Level 1 and Level 2 charging options. Power goes straight to the car’s battery. It uses a 480-volt outlet and delivers 43-50 or even 150 kW, and it can charge an electric vehicle in 30 minutes to an hour. DC Fast Charging is not compatible with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. 

Level 3/DC Fast Charging stations are harder to find than Level 2 stations, and they’re not compatible with every electric car. Your car’s navigation system can help you find the EV charging stations equipped with DC Fast Charging, or you can use an app to find them.  

Note: Electric vehicle charging at Level 3 is the toughest on your battery. Check your user’s manual, where you may find a warning stating that frequent use of Level 3/DC Fast Charging can negatively impact battery performance and durability. 

A big question for EV drivers is how many public electric car charging stations are available these days, knowing that electric power delivery is not nearly as common as gas stations are. Here are the numbers of public charging stations available in the U.S. currently, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center: 

All U.S. Charging Stations: 

  • Number of Stations: More than 48,000 

  • Number of Chargers: More than 119,200 

DC Fast Charging Stations: 

  • Number of DC Fast Charging Stations: 4,343 

  • Number of Fast Charging Units: 6,094 

Level 2 Charging Stations: 

  • Number of Level 2 Charging Stations: 44,132 

  • Number of Level 2 Charging Units: 91,608 

The number of EV charging stations with DC Fast Charging is growing considerably, with more than 4,000 added to existing U.S. public stations in 2021. 

charging an EV

Charging an electric car: Battery size and charging capacity 

Other variables affecting the EV charging times are battery size and capacity to accept a charge. First, smaller batteries, of course, can be charged faster than larger ones, though they also give you a shorter driving range than large batteries. 

Additionally, each car has a charging capacity that limits even the fastest charging station to what the car can accept. 

The charging capacity is based on an onboard charger that converts AC power from the power source to DC matched to the battery’s voltage. The onboard charger’s charging rate is measured in kW. These vary from model to model, so you will want to check the details on the manufacturer’s website or your user manual. 

While some older electric cars only have a 3.3 kW onboard charger, today, most onboard chargers have a rating of at least 7 kW, with many EVs having even more powerful chargers. 

You can calculate the time it will take to charge your EV by dividing the battery size (measured in kWh) by the power rating of your car’s onboard charger. For example, if your electric vehicle has an 11.5-kW charger and a 75-kWh battery, doing the math shows that it would take about 6.5 hours to fully charge the car using a Level 2 EV charging station. 

The point is that if your car has a low kW rating, a faster charging station is not going to help you charge an electric car faster. This is a consideration when choosing an EV to buy. Conversely, using a Level 1 charging station with a high-level onboard charger on your car won’t make up for the low level of charge the charging station can deliver. 

Charging an electric car: Battery fullness 

No matter how fast your EV charging station is, the charging speed is significantly less when the battery is under 20% capacity or over 80%. This is by design: It keeps the battery from overcharging and keeps it operating at peak efficiency. Many manufacturers gauge charging times by how long DC Fast Chargers can get your battery charge to 80%. 

Charging an electric car: Weather conditions 

The battery charging pace slows down in cold weather. Conversely, it speeds up when the weather is warm, or the battery is warm from lots of driving.  

Note: Excessive heat can be a problem. Many manufacturers discourage charging batteries in scorching weather. This is to prevent the combination of charging and excessive heat from adversely affecting your electric car’s thermal management and internal resistance systems. Overheating the battery can harm your vehicle's performance over the long haul. 

EV charging station at home

Charging an electric car: Topping up 

Most electric car drivers rely on charging their car overnight on a Level 2 EV charging station and on topping up the battery in between. Of course, topping up the gas tank is something most of us have done – many people don’t let their gas tank get to “E.” 

But topping up your car battery is slightly different from topping up your gas tank, largely because of the above-mentioned 80% optimum battery charge. 

You do not want to top up your electric car to a maximum 100% charge because of the risk of overcharging. Also, remember that charging once the battery hits 80% is significantly slower. In any case, the battery is meant to perform at peak efficiency between 20% and 80%. 

So, most EV drivers charge their cars at home and top up their batteries in between, when a charging station is available, and they have the time, up to that 80% mark. That allows you to get to your next charging stop and takes advantage of the fastest portion of your car’s charging curve, saving you time.  

Charging an electric car: Range 

With all the above noted, most EV drivers worry less about the percentage of their battery they are charging up and more about the driving range they are getting from the charge. This is how you make sure you can get to the next charging station, especially if you are on a road trip. 

Here is a look* at how much range you can expect to get from charging up for one hour at different charging stations. 

  • Level 1 Slow/3.7 kW: up to 15 miles 

  • Level 2 Fast/7 kW: up to 30 miles 

  • Level 2 Fast/22 kW: Up to 90 miles 

  • Level 3 Rapid/43-50 kW: up to 90 miles in 30 minutes 

  • Level 3 Rapid/150 kW: up to 200 miles in 30 minutes 

Once you know this and know how far you need to go before your next charge, you will have clarity on how long it takes to charge an electric car and ensure it’s ready to drive when needed. It is a change from calculating gas mileage, but with time it will become second nature to you as a proud EV driver. 

EV charging stations’ reliability 

It can significantly increase your charging time if the charging station is not available. Unfortunately, this is much more common for electric charging stations than gas stations, where an attendant usually monitors the equipment. 

One study** of the Greater Bay Area, the largest EV market, found that almost 23% of 657 DC Fast Chargers were out of order because of: 

  • unresponsive or unavailable touchscreens 

  • payment system failures 

  • charge initiation failures 

  • network failures 

  • broken connectors 

Charging an electric car: Summary 

Now that you know all of this about electric vehicles, how long does it take to charge an electric car most efficiently? Here’s a summary, with the caveat that exact times will vary with the conditions listed above: 

  • DC Fast Charging/Level 3 charge station: You can get your battery to about 80% in 30 to 60 minutes. 

  • Level 2 charging station: You’ll be able to charge in four to eight hours. 

  • Level 1 charging station: Eight to 30 hours to charge. 

Charging an electric car: You’re not alone 

While all this can confuse the new electric vehicle owner, there is an option that can resolve any mysteries. It’s good to know there’s someone available who has all the answers! 

JustAnswer has verified professional mechanics with years of experience – and, more importantly, experience with the new EVs – who can answer all your questions. 

You only have to ask: How long does it take to charge an electric car? Simply ask the question, and a verified mechanic will answer you in minutes, getting your specific details and answering the question just for you. You can also get information on charging station kits for the home, plug types, and much more. 

Additionally, you can keep asking questions until you’re satisfied with the answer, so you never leave without getting all the information you’re looking for. 

Mechanics at JustAnswer can also help you maintain your electric vehicle, which can be important because the new EVs are different from the gas-powered cars you’ve always had in the past. 

Finally, if you’re up for it, mechanics at JustAnswer can guide you in repairing your EV, again, a different kettle of fish from what you’re used to. Rely on JustAnswer’s verified, professional mechanics to always steer you straight with your new electric vehicle. 

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APPENDIX 

* https://pod-point.com/guides/driver/how-long-to-charge-an-electric-car 

** https://www.kbb.com/car-advice/ev-charging-stations/