One of the first questions you’ll likely be asking is this: how do I charge my EV? While filling up at the petrol station is as simple as picking between an unleaded and diesel bowser, EV charging comes with a few more considerations.
You need to know your EV’s range (a.k.a. how far it can drive before needing to recharge), what charging level suits your trip, where to charge your EV and what charging plug will work with your car. While it might seem daunting, electric vehicle charging follows a clear three-level system designed to help you figure out what electric vehicle charger is right for your ride.
Whether you’re in the early stages of researching EVs or tossing up between two EV models, we’re throwing jargon out the window with this beginner-friendly guide to everything you need to know about EV charging in Australia.
Specifically, we’ll cover:
- The difference between AC vs DC charging
- The three levels of EV charging
- A complete guide to EV charging plugs in Australia
- A comparison of at-home charging vs public charging stations
Want a simple side-by-side comparison of how EV charging compares to refuelling with petrol? Take this scenario. On a drive from Sydney to Melbourne, here’s how the costs stack up.
Electric Vehicle Charging Basics: AC vs DC charging
When it comes to EV charging, there are two types of power that can be used: AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current) power.
AC power comes directly from the grid and is the most common power you’re likely already using. Anytime you switch on your TV or turn on a light at home, you’re using AC power.
While you can plug your EV into any household power socket, your EV’s battery can only be recharged with DC power. That means your EV needs to convert AC power internally into DC power using your EV’s onboarding charger to recharge (which tends to be a slow process).
The other option is to head to a DC rapid charging station where this power has already been converted externally. DC charging stations offer much faster charging times, as these stations:
- Are purpose-built for charging EVs
- Are able to convert higher power levels at scale
- Deliver a higher current to your EV to reduce charge times
Slower charging speed (15 to 30 hours to fully charge using Level 1 AC Trickle Charging, depending on your battery size)
Faster, rapid charging speed (anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes to reach 80% charge)
Lower power level (1.4kW - 22kW)
Higher power level (25kW up to 350kW)
Internal conversions of AC to DC power using your EV’s onboard battery
External conversion of AC to DC power by the fast charging station
Available for home charging (Level 1 AC Trickle Charging and Level 2 At-Home Fast Charging Units ) and from public charging stations (Level 2 AC Charging Stations)
Available only from public, rapid DC charging stations
Charging can be done directly through existing outlets or affordable wall-boxes can be installed, making it better suited to personal, home use
More expensive to use and only available from public locations (such as highway rest areas)
Comparing EV Charging Levels
There are three different EV charging levels, meaning there are three different ways to recharge your EV.
Picking the right EV charging level (a.k.a. How much power is delivered to your car) depends on a bunch of factors, from how far you drive each day to whether you have an at-home charging station or not.
💡Tip from the author: Struggling to remember the difference between EV charging levels? Try this hack: the higher the charging level, the faster the charging time.
Want to see a charging time comparison in action? Take the MG4 Essence 64, offering a range of 450km.
- With a Level 1 home charger (3.7kW), this will be your longest charge, at 20 hours and 30 minutes
- With a Level 2 home charging unit (11 kW AC), expect to reach full charge in 6 hours and 45 minutes.
- However, using Level 3 rapid charging (140kW DC), expect to reach 80% charge in just 24 minutes.
Level 1 EV Charging (AC Trickle Charging)
- Power rate: 1.4kW to 3.7kW
- Charging speed: 15 to 30+ hours to fully charge
- Current type: AC
- Best for: Infrequent drivers who travel less than 40km per day and are able to charge their car at-home overnight.
Just like plugging your iPhone in to charge overnight, Level 1 Trickle Charging allows you to use a standard power outlet to charge your EV at home. As the name suggests, this is the slowest charging level and takes up to 30 hours to fully charge your ride (depending on your battery size and current charge level).
With no equipment to purchase or install, you can simply use your EV charging cable and an ordinary power socket to get started. We’d recommend chatting to an electrician first to make sure your home’s wiring has a dedicated circuit available specifically for charging your EV.
Typically, Level 1 charging adds about 10-20km of range for every hour of charge. This makes trickle charging a good option for EVs with a smaller battery or drivers who only travel short distances every few days.
Typically, it will cost .25c/kWH to use trickle charging (depending on your home’s electricity plan).
💡 Tip from the author: Want to calculate your EV’s charge time using Level 1 Trickle Charging? Simply divide the kWh of your car’s battery by two to understand roughly how many hours it will take.
Level 2 EV Charging (AC Fast Charging)
- Power rate: 7kW to 22kW
- Charging speed: 40km to 130km added per hour of charging, 2 to 8 hours to fully charge
- Current type: AC
- Best for: Drivers who travel roughly 40km per day and are able to charge their EV overnight at home, at their work or public charging stations (such as shopping centres).
Still want to charge your EV at home? With Level 2 AC Fast Charging, you can install a wall-box charger to boost your power rate to 7.2kW and reduce charge times to as little as two hours.
Wall-box chargers are an investment (setting you back up to $2,500 plus installation costs) and require an electrician to be installed, however, they significantly reduce charge times and are better suited to drivers looking to use their EV daily.
You can also find Level 2 chargers at public charging stations in supermarkets, shopping centres and commercial parking lots. Expect to gain 50 to 130km of range per hour of charging, making this one of the most convenient charging options available.
The cost of using a Level 2 EV charging station will range anywhere from 0 to 30 cents per kWH.
Level 3 EV Charging (DC Rapid Charging)
- Power rate: 25kW to 350kW
- Charging speed: 10 to 60 minutes to fully charge
- Current type: DC
- Best for: Drivers exceeding 40km of travel daily and covering large distances, either as part of their daily commute or a long-distance road trip and need to recharge quickly.
Planning to hit the road for hours at a time? Tackling a long daily commute? If charging speed is your priority, look no further than Level 3 DC Rapid Charging.
Available only from dedicated DC fast charging stations, Level 3 charging is the quickest option currently on offer in Australia. Expect to gain 150 to 300km of range per hour of charging, meaning your EV could be fully charged within as little as 15 minutes.
Generally speaking, the cost of using a DC rapid charging station is higher than a standard AC fast charging station, setting you back anywhere from $0.45 to $0.60 per kWh. For example, it would cost you $30 to fully charge an EV with a 340km range at a DC rapid charging station charging $0.60 per kWh.
What you need to know about EV charging plugs and sockets
The final piece of the EV charging puzzle is figuring out which charging plug is compatible with your EV. Depending on which power type you’re charging with (AC vs DC), there is a specific plug type to match:
- Type 1 is a single-phase AC plug commonly used in North American and Asian EVs, offering a charging speed of up to 7.4 kW. Due to its slow charging speed, Type 1 chargers are rarely used in Australia. This charger is commonly used in pre-2018 EVs, such as the BMW i3 and older models of the Nissan Leaf.
- Type 2 (Mennekes) is the Australian standard AC plug for EVs, offering a triple-phase plug with a charging power rate of 22 kW to 43 kW. This charger is found on common EV models such as the Nissan Leaf, Kia Niro and BMW i3s.
- Combined Charging System (CCS) is the Australian standard DC plug for EVs. Being a combined system means AC and DC chargers can use the same CCS plug. Common EV models that use a CCS plug include the BYD Atto 3, Kia EV6 as well as the Tesla Model 3, and Model Y.
Interestingly, most EVs in Australia are fitted with a Type 2 CCS (CCS2) port, meaning you can use an AC type 2 charger when charging at home and a rapid DC charging station in public.
There are other plug types used by certain EV models, such as the charge de move (CHAdeMO) for DC charging, often found in Japanese electric vehicles. This means that if you’re charging at a regular charging station that uses Type 1 or Type 2 plugs, you’ll need to bring your own adaptor.
In good news, from January 1st 2020, all new EVs sold in Australia are fitted out with AC and DC plugs as standard, allowing for both at-home and rapid charging options.
At-Home EV Charger vs Public EV Charging Stations: Which is better suited to you?
Where you decide to charge your EV really depends on how you want to use your ride and the style of property you’re currently living in.
- At-home charging through Level 1 or Level 2 charging offers the convenience, privacy and security of recharging your EV in your own garage. There’s no queueing for a charging station or waiting for your battery to recharge, as you can plug your EV in overnight to charge while you sleep.
However, trickle charging can take upwards of 30 hours to fully recharge. While you can install at Level 2 wall-box, this is only possible if you own your property and have a dedicated car space or garage. This is particularly tricky and expensive if you live in an apartment complex as you’ll need to obtain strata approval and the distance between your meter box and parking space can be significant.
- Public charging stations offer much faster charging times, with Level 3 rapid chargers allowing you to top up within as little as 10 minutes. This is ideal if you’re road-tripping or driving away from home or you live in an apartment where you don’t have the ability to recharge overnight.
However, rapid DC charging stations can be more expensive to use and are harder to find if you live in more regional areas (with over 73% of fast-charging stations located in Australia’s main cities and most populated states).
Overall, at-home charging is best for topping your EV up between short drives and your daily commute. On the flip side, public charging stations (specifically Level 3 fast charging stations) are perfect for road trips, extended drives or those who aren’t able to install an at-home charging station.
Final Word on Electric Vehicle Charging in Australia
With a few key terms under your belt, the world of EV charging is a lot less complex and intimidating. By learning about charging levels, plug types and charging options, you can make an informed decision about what EV and method of charging is right for you.
At Vyro, we aim to educate ourselves so we can better educate you, so we can help you make an informed decision. If you’re thinking about making the switch, get in contact today: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 8311 4239