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Electric Vehicles 101

Get Acquainted with Electric Cars

If you’re new to plug-in electric cars, and are thinking of investing in electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, start here. Get to know the types of electric cars and charging level options, and learn who to get in touch with as you prepare to get plugged in.

Types of Electric Cars

Illustration of a Plug-In Hybrid

Plug-In Hybrid

The type of electric car illustrated on the left above is the plug-in hybrid model. If you choose a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle—including extended range electric vehicle—you’ll fuel your car with both electricity and gasoline. Plug-in hybrids typically have a combined electric/gasoline range comparable to many internal-combustion engine cars today but travel many more miles per gallon of gasoline and are less expensive to fuel.

Illustration of a Battery Electric Vehicle

Battery Electric Vehicle

The battery electric vehicle illustrated above on the right uses no gasoline at all. Battery electric cars are powered 100% by electricity, have shorter driving ranges than most gasoline-powered or plug-in hybrid cars, but emit fewer pollutants and do not require trips to the gas station.

Installers reading a power meter

Charging: Levels & Times

Currently there are 3 charging levels—or voltages—for charging electric cars. As you might expect, higher voltage levels charge batteries faster, but often require an additional investment in equipment and electricity wiring upgrades. Depending on your business needs, you may need minimal upgrades, or a more substantial infrastructure upgrade.

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Level I (120 volts): 3 to 20 Hours Charge Time

A full charge at Level I can take as little as 3 hours—depending on your type of vehicle—using the familiar 3-prong, 120-volt outlets found in every home and business. It is recommended that charging at this level be on a dedicated 20-amp circuit.  Typically there’s no need for equipment installation since the charging plug provided with your car will use a 120–volt outlet. Prior to charging a vehicle at your business you’ll want to consult a qualified electrician to check that your existing wiring can safely support electric car charging.

Level II (240 volts): 1 to 8 Hours Charge Time

Level II charging is faster and may take as little as 1 hour, again depending on your specific vehicle and state of charge. If you want your own Level II charging stations at you’re business, you’ll need a 240-volt line installed by a qualified electrician.

DC Fast Charging (480 volts)

This charging level often requires significant installation and electrical infrastructure upgrades; it uses 480 volts or higher and can charge a car’s batteries up to 80% of capacity in as little as 5 to 30 minutes. This level is only used in certain commercial settings and is not available for residential use.

Close up of electric vehicle charging

Charging Equipment Plug Standards

You might be curious whether—like a cell phone charger—you’ll need to invest in a unique charging system for each electric car. Good news: most electric cars on the market now or due to launch over the next several years comply with a uniform “connector” standard (J1772) established by The Society of Automotive Engineers for Level I and Level II charging. A nationwide standard for DC fast charging is currently under development.

Installer holding a tool with a fuse box in the background

Your Team of Experts

We’re here to help you get started. But we’re not alone: several other service providers are available to assist and support you as you plan for and implement electric car charging in your business. You’ll ensure a more seamless and cost-effective process if you contact each party early in the planning process. Get to know the “who’s who” of electric vehicles for your business before you invest and install.

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Your Electric Utility
We provide infrastructure planning, assistance in selecting rates, energy management solutions, and other support to help you prepare your business for electric car charging.

Auto Manufacturers & Dealers
In addition to selling or leasing vehicles, automakers and dealers can provide information about charging capabilities and requirements for specific electric car models.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Manufacturers & Vendors
These firms offer the charging stations and other equipment required to deliver electricity safely to electric cars. Many manufacturers and vendors also offer installation, maintenance and billing services.

Equipment Installers (including electrical contractors)
These professionals obtain required permits, perform the necessary installation work, and request local government inspections.

Local Government Agencies
These agencies inspect your electrical work, develop construction codes, and may offer financial incentives for charging stations.

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