Fast Charging: The Final Piece Of The Charging Puzzle

March 19, 2020

A version of this post by Mal Skowron was first published on the blog of Electrify Your Ride VA partner Green Energy Consumer Alliance. This is part 3 in a series of posts covering electric car charging. See part 1 here and part 2 here.

Most drivers have probably had at least one experience in which they asked themselves, “Am I going to run out of gas?” Range anxiety, or the fear a car will run out of fuel before it reaches its destination, is not unique to electric cars. It is, however, a commonly-cited reason that drivers use to justify driving gasoline-powered cars when their electric counterparts are cheaper to own, better for the environment, and more fun to drive.

Electric car owners consistently report the adjustment to charging is easier than expected and feelings of range anxiety dissipate quickly. Instead of making a detour to the gas station, drivers learn to plug in at their homes, workplaces, or parking lots. Level I and Level II charging is fast enough to meet the demands of these everyday trips.

But still, sometimes people will need to drive over a couple hundred miles in a day. As more people adopt electric cars, DC fast charging provides an element of convenience and security that can help displace the purchase of gasoline-powered cars. But how exactly does it work, how good is it now, and how much better can we expect it to be?

How DC Fast Charging Works

Unlike Level I and Level II charging stations, DC fast chargers are only available for public use (in other words: you cannot install one in your home) because of their higher voltage output—up to 500 volts. DC fast charging stations can reach significantly higher rates of charging than other stations because of this high voltage and because DC power can bypass the limitations of the car’s on-board charger.

The on-board charger in electric cars converts the alternative current (AC) power that comes out of wall outlets to direct current (DC) power the car can use. Charging speed is limited by acceptance rate, or how much voltage the car can take. (If you want to learn more about how this works, read our previous blog post.)

Energy from DC fast charging does not need to pass through the car’s on-board charger. The speed of fast charging is solely managed by a battery management system. Source

However, for the aptly-named DC fast charging stations, the on-board charger is not required to convert the power source from AC to DC. The power coming from these stations is already DC, so electricity from the station can flow directly to the battery, bypassing the limitations of the on-board charger to achieve much faster rates of charging without adding significant weight or complexity to the car.

How Fast Is Fast Charging?

The only cap on DC fast charging is the car’s battery management system, or BMS, which is a software that controls battery performance. BMS can achieve fast charging rates by optimizing charging conditions when the battery is between 20% and 80% capacity. It is in this window that EV manufacturers have the opportunity to achieve much faster rates of car charging.

(EV tip: Batteries degrade faster with frequent cycling between 0% and 100% capacity. If you want to maintain the health of your battery for as long as possible, try to avoid charging to 100% and draining it to 0% before recharging. It’s much better to keep your car around half full for the majority of your driving.)

The fast charging rate of the BMW i3, like all electric cars, depends on the size of the battery, its state of charge, and ambient temperature. Even if the fast charger is able to deliver 50 kW, the actual rate of charging is often lower than that. The graph illustrates that as a battery approaches a full charge, the speed of charging decreases. Source

Many DC fast charging stations available now can support charging rates of 24 to 50 kW, and the maximum charging rate allowed for many EV models is about 50 kW. Considering imperfect battery conditions, the actual average charging rate is around 43 kW for a 50 kW station, which is equivalent to gaining 90 miles of range in 30 minutes of charging.

While there are several EV charging platforms competing on the market today, Tesla’s proprietary network of Superchargers has excelled because of station abundance and power. Tesla Superchargers can deliver as much as 120 kW of power, and they’re getting better because Tesla can make improvements to its’ cars’ BMS through periodic software updates. The third iteration of Superchargers is expected to be capable of charging at a rate of 250 kW, which is enough to add 75 miles of range in 5 minutes of charging or over 200 miles of range in 30 minutes.

Traditional car-makers are designing their cars with the rapid evolution of DC fast charging in mind. The Audi e-tron, a luxury electric SUV to rival Tesla, has a maximum rate of 150 kW for DC fast charging. In the non-luxury class, the 2019 Nissan LEAF Plus is capable of charging at around 70 kW, with a peak rate of 100 kW; that’s twice as fast as the regular version of the 2019 LEAF.

Plugshare screenshot showing EV charging stations across the U.S.
If you’re considering buying or leasing an electric car, check out the closest charger to you on PlugShare.

Since traditional automakers do not own their own charging networks, there aren’t many stations available for charging at rates higher than 50 kW.  But if you look at PlugShare, there are more DC fast charge stations around than most people think. It’s a good sign that EV models will be compatible with faster DC fast charging stations as they appear in greater abundance in the next couple of years.

What’s The Future Of DC Fast Charging?

If fast charging becomes significantly faster, do cars need huge battery packs to support 400+ miles of range? Maybe not; the vision for Lucid, a new electric car manufacturer started by a former Tesla employee, relies on small, 30 kWh batteries, ultra-high efficiency, and widespread, 350 kW fast charging stations. As quickly as the industry is growing, it’s unclear how long such a breakthrough would take or how expensive it would be to develop the necessary infrastructure to make this vision possible. As of 2015, it costs between $10,000 and $40,000 to install a single 50 kW DC fast charging port. They’re not going to appear on every street corner overnight, and it can cost as much as $100,000 for a single charger with a 250 kW capacity.

In the short term, the installation of new DC fast charging stations should be prioritized along interstate and highly-trafficked routes to accommodate for long-distance driving. Data collected from drivers can help install DC fast chargers strategically to improve access to on-the-go charging and get the most out of investment dollars in cities. But if a driver has easy-to-access options for Level II charging at work, the grocery store, or the gym, then convenience can quell range anxiety without having to invest in as many expensive DC fast chargers.

In fact, there are more DC fast charging stations being built all the time. Billion of dollars of Volkswagen settlement funds are going towards the deployment of fast-chargers across the country. Many states are using large chunks of their VW allotment to build out charging infrastructure; on top of this, VW’s Electrify America is investing $2 billion into developing a fast-charger network accessible to all electric car brands.

At its simplest, DC fast charging is the best way to compete with the 5-minute refueling time of a gas-powered car. It’s a convenience that many long-distance drivers can’t sacrifice, and so more abundant fast charging will make it even harder to justify ever using gasoline. Still, long road-trips make up a small portion of our driving miles, and most electric car drivers will continue to find charging at home most convenient.


Ready to learn more about electric cars?

If you live in Virginia, head to for more information and discounts on the latest electric models.

Not a Virginian? Don’t worry, you can sign the Going Electric pledge as a first step—then head over to the PlugStar Shopping Assistant, a great place to learn more about electric models currently on the market.


Electric Car Charging 101

March 16, 2020

A version of this post by Mal Skowron was first published on the blog of Electrify Your Ride VA partner Green Energy Consumer Alliance. This is part 2 in a series of posts covering electric car charging. See part 1 here.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the role better battery technology could have in the proliferation of electric cars. Cheaper batteries will lower electric vehicle (EV) sticker prices while improving range.

But range isn’t the only figure that matters. Understanding charging is crucial to plan for this future and to make sure our infrastructure can meet the demand. As more consumers consider buying an EV, understanding the basics of EV charging will help assuage “range anxiety” and make the transition smoother. So, what’s important to know about EV charging?


Charging Basics

There are three levels of charging available for electric cars today: Level I, Level II, and DC fast charging.

  • Level I charging requires a standard 120-volt outlet. All electric vehicles come equipped with a cord that you can plug into a common outlet. It’s exactly like charging a smartphone or laptop.
  • Level II charging requires a 240-volt outlet and a charging unit. You can purchase a Level II charging unit and install it in your home with the help of a licensed electrician. If you don’t already have a 240-volt outlet in your home for a washer or dryer, an electrician can set that up, too.
  • DC fast charging is the fastest charging available for passenger cars. You cannot install a DC fast charging unit in your home, but they are available for public use for charging on the go.
Charging an electric car at home and in public
Most EV drivers charge at home as a matter of convenience. However, public charging makes it easier for drivers to charge on-the-go or when they need a little extra juice.

How Long Will It Take To Charge?

Charging is totally different from refilling gasoline. Most gas-powered cars are refueled when they are nearly empty. On the other hand, EVs are charged opportunistically; when there’s a plug available, drivers use it.

EV charging takes advantage of all the time cars spend parked, which is estimated to be 95% of the time. Even though it takes longer than pumping gas, charging is not time spent actively attending to the car—it’s time spent sleeping, eating, or working while the car is parked, so don’t be scared away by seemingly long charging times. In fact, since it takes less time to plug in at home or at work than to drive to a station and pump gas, EVs can save time that you would otherwise spend driving to and from the gas station. Here’s a chart showing average charging rates for each of the three levels of charging:

Different electric models have different sized batteries and can have different rates at which they can charge, but the above chart gives you a general idea.

What Happens When You Plug In

When most people say “charger,” they mean the cable that connects the power source to the device being charged, but that’s not quite accurate. An EV’s onboard charger is located inside the car and converts AC power from the wall outlet to DC power that can be stored in the battery. The speed at which an electric car can charge is limited either by the acceptance rate of the onboard charger or the power coming from the wall outlet—whichever is lower. Take a look at the diagram below to see how energy flows to the battery during charging.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) is just a fancy term for charging station. For Level I and Level II charging, the onboard charger determines the fastest rate that a car can charge. In the diagram, it’s clear that all energy has to go through the onboard charger before it can be stored in the battery. Source

Level I charging delivers about 4 miles of electric range per hour of charging for all electric cars because the maximum power that a common outlet can deliver is 1.4 kW. All new EV models have acceptance rates that exceed 1.4 kW, but since the power that comes from the outlet is limited to 1.4 kW, the charging rate of the car is too.

There is more variability in Level II charging speeds because different EVs have different acceptance rates. The EVs with similar charging rates, such as the Chevy Bolt, Kia Niro, and Hyundai Kona, all have a 7.2 kW onboard charger and charge at a rate of about 24 miles per hour. The Tesla Model 3 has a 7.7 kW charger, so it adds an additional mile of driving range per hour of charging on Level II.

However, having an onboard charger with a higher acceptance rate adds weight and cost to the car. That’s why plug-in hybrids tend to have lower acceptance rates than battery-electric vehicles – around 3.3 kW compared to 7.2 kW.


What To Look For In A Charging Station

Understanding how charging works is helpful for understanding your EV and for picking out a charging station that will suit your needs.

The maximum power output of a typical, 32-amp at-home charging station plugged into 240-volt outlet is 7.7 kW, which translates to a maximum rate of 25 miles of range per hour of charging. Cars like the Chevy Bolt have a 7.2 kW acceptance rate, so the actual average charging rate is a little lower – about 24 miles/hour. On the other hand, a Tesla Model S has acceptance rate of 11.5 kW, so it will charge at a rate of 25 miles per hour when plugged into the same charging station, but can accommodate a faster rate with a more powerful station.

Installing a charging station in your home can cost around $1,000, including the electrician’s time.

There are EV charging stations that can deliver more or less power from the same 240-volt outlet because they draw more or less current; charging stations can deliver 12 to 80 amps, so charging rates for Level II chargers can vary between 3.8 kW and 15.4 kW.

When shopping for an at-home Level II charging station, its power output should roughly match the EV’s acceptance rate. More powerful stations are more expensive. Here are a few factors to consider when comparison shopping for your EVSE.

  • Current: 30 and 32 amp chargers are most common since they deliver 7.2 and 7.7 kW of power, respectively. Many EVs on the market today have acceptance rates of about 7.2 kW, but check your car’s specs before buying a charging station; shelling out more money for a high-current station won’t necessarily make your car charge faster.
  • Cord length: The cord should easily reach your plug port from the station. Going with a longer cord offers you a little more flexibility; 25 feet is recommended for most people, but measure to make sure that’s enough. You cannot use an extension cord to give yourself extra length!
  • Physical size: Some charging stations are bulkier than others. Consider the space you have to install the station and the dimensions of the unit.
  • Smart features: If you’d like to monitor your charging, schedule charging sessions for off-peak times from your phone, or know exactly how much energy you’re using, you can opt for a smart charger with Wi-Fi connectivity.

For more advice, check out this buyer’s guide for home chargers.


Can We Charge Any Faster?

When it comes to overnight charging, Level I and II can deliver full driving range in the 6-8 hour window that most people are sleeping or working. Onboard chargers will likely stay as small as possible to optimize for other important factors like range and cost, but as batteries get more energy dense and lighter, faster charging could be on the way, too.

Although cars like the Chevy Bolt can only charge at a max rate of 7.2 kW using Level II charging, DC Fast Charging can add 90 miles in 30 minutes of charging, which translates to a rate of 50 kW.

And speaking of, faster charging is already here. DC fast charging stations are available for public use and can deliver as much as 50 kW of power to cars like the Bolt or as much as 150 kW for the new LEAF – much faster than their onboard chargers can accommodate. How is that possible? The third and final part of this series will focus on DC fast charging – what it is, how much better it can get, and how EVs can whittle hours of charging down to the time it takes to make a quick pit stop.

Ready to learn more about electric cars?

If you live in Virginia, head to for more information and discounts on the latest electric models.

Not a Virginian? Don’t worry, you can sign the Going Electric pledge as a first step—then head over to the PlugStar Shopping Assistant, a great place to learn more about electric models currently on the market.


Why electrify your ride? 17 damn good reasons

October 10, 2019

To promote the launch of the Electrify Your Ride VA campaign, we ran a #whyelectrify campaign on social media consisting of seventeen reasons to start driving an electric car. While they run the gamut from the pragmatic and tangible (“no more oil changes”) to the aspirational and intangible (“be proud of what you did when it mattered most”), all are worthwhile benefits of electrifying your ride. If you are already convinced, find a reason below that might be particularly relevant to a friend or loved one and share it.

So without further ado, here are all the posts collected in one place for your viewing pleasure (also click on any post to share it on Facebook):

Electric cars: no more oil changes

Just one of the many perks of driving electric.

Electric cars: flex some independence

Let’s make moves towards a transportation sector powered by clean, renewable energy made right here in America.

Electric cars: your kids will thank you

What story will you tell when your kid asks about the clean energy revolution?

Electric cars: get off the sidelines; get in the (clean energy) game

Driving an electric car is one real, impactful way you can take part in the electrification of everything—a key piece of the 100% clean energy puzzle.

Electric cars: stop spewing exhaust from your rear

It feels good—trust us.

Electric cars: driving on sunshine is a real thing

With a home powered by solar energy, you can actually power your car with clean, renewable, local energy. It’s pretty profound when you stop to think about it.

Electric cars: drive the solution—it matters

No caption necessary.

Electric cars: say goodbye to big oil

You vote with your wallet in other aspects of your life. Now, for the first time, millions of drivers can do the same with their personal transportation. To whom do you want your money going?

Electric cars: (unbelievably) quiet

You have to experience it to feel the difference.

Electric cars: "fuel" up while you sleep

80% of electric car charging happens at home. It’s pretty much like charging your phone, which is also *extremely* easy.

Electric cars: wars over oil not your thing?

Saudi oilfield attacks, anyone?

Electric cars: no more sketchy gas stations

No more late night, creepy gas station experiences 😒. Drive an electric car and forget about gas stations altogether. Except maybe for snacks 🌭.

Electric cars: be proud of what you did when it mattered most

Getting to a future powered by clean energy is going to take urgent action across ALL fronts, and from ALL of us. For millions of Americans, driving an electric car now makes economic sense and is one of the most impactful actions you can take to help drive the transition to clean energy. Your energy matters—now more than ever.

Electric cars: all the range you actually need

Each day, the average U.S. driver travels 29 miles. Electric car models are now hitting the 200–300 mile range, so…….you’re good.

Electric cars: way, way, way fewer moving parts

A Chevy Bolt’s powertrain has over 80% fewer moving parts than a comparable internal combustion engine’s. That means fewer trips to the mechanic and more money in your pocket.

Electric cars: get out of the 20th century

Gasoline is so last century.

Electric cars: lower total cost of ownership

The numbers pencil out on electric cars for millions of drivers. Go see for yourself on Kelley Blue Book.

Ready to drive electric? For those of you in and around Virginia, head over to to learn more and sign up for discounts on the latest electric models. Not in the area? is a great resource to learn more about available models. Happy driving!


It’s time to Electrify Your Ride, Virginia

September 6, 2019

Admit it, you’re curious about electric cars. It seems like they’re showing up in neighborhoods all over, they sound like something out of Tom Cruise’s Minority Report, and everybody who drives them love them.

Well, if you live in or near Virginia, you’re in luck: Generation180, in partnership with Green Energy Consumers Alliance and Virginia Clean Cities, is launching a new campaign, Electrify Your Ride VA, aimed at making electric cars more accessible and even more affordable than ever. Over the next nine months, we’ll be bringing easy-to-understand educational information, local events (that are actually fun), and dealership discounts to a Virginia city near you.

This is definitely your best chance to satiate that curiosity—and to start driving an electric car yourself.

Why electric cars?

As you may know, there’s more to electric cars then just cool new tech. Not only are they now an economical choice for millions of drivers, but they can make your life simpler: no more gas stations (80 percent of charging happens at home) and way fewer visits to your auto mechanic, for starters.

Best of all, though, electric cars enable you to play a part in Virginia’s transition to clean energy. Electric transportation is both a major reducer of carbon emissions and a critical piece of the puzzle that’ll get us to a future powered by renewables like wind and solar.

Two kids plugging in an electric car

With regard to emissions, over 45 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Virginia come from transportation. By switching from a gas car to an electric one, the average Virginia resident can reduce the emissions of their drive by 70 percent.

While that emissions impact is massive in and of itself, here’s the other half of the story: electrifying everything—especially our transportation—is a crucial part of getting to a clean energy-powered world. Electric vehicles are a huge part of how we get fossil fuels out of our lives.

Plug into the Electrify Your Ride VA campaign

So you’re officially ready to ditch last century’s technology and learn more about electric cars—that’s fabulous. Here’s a quick overview of what the campaign is offering:

  • Connect: Come to a local event near you to check out electric cars and meet the members of your community who drive them every day. During this year’s National Drive Electric Week (Sept. 14-22), we’re holding the following free events:

•  9/14 – Richmond
•  9/15 – Charlottesville
•  9/21 – Roanoke
•  9/22 – Fairfax

  • Learn: Visit the campaign’s educational pages to learn more about electric cars, including how to charge them, what incentives are available in Virginia, and more.
  • Make a pledge: Sign the “Going Electric” pledge to commit to making your next car electric. Driving electric is one of the most impactful actions you can take as an individual, and this is a way to take the first step.
  • Save: Use the campaign’s car-browsing platform to explore the latest models available in Virginia, take advantage of no-hassle discounts that we’ve already arranged, and sign up for a test drive at a local dealer near you.

We’re excited to help drive the awareness and adoption of a crucial clean energy solution in Virginia. Come out to an event this September and say hello—to us and to your neighbors who have made the switch. We’re pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

Don’t live in Virginia and bummed about it? Don’t worry, we’ve got plans to expand the campaign…

Check out the campaign website at


Electrify Your Ride VA events this September

September 6, 2019

Join us this month for a series of fun and educational events featuring electric cars!  To celebrate National Drive Electric Week, local community members will be bringing their own electric cars to share about the benefits of driving electric. In partnership with cities and a variety of local, regional, and national nonprofits, the Electrify Your Ride VA campaign will showcase currently available models of electric cars, provide access to information about charging stations and give residents an opportunity to check out the cars for themselves.

These free, family-friendly events are open to the public and will feature free refreshments, food vendors, activities for kids, and opportunities for community engagement.

Learn more and register to attend (or bring your electric car to) an event near you:

What’s Electrify Your Ride VA?

Three nonprofits—Generation180Green Energy Consumers Alliance, and Virginia Clean Cities—are showing up in cities across Virginia to raise awareness around the benefits of driving electric, connect local electric car owners with neighbors that want to learn more, and make discounts on the latest electric models available to communities across the state. Sign up for our email list below to stay updated on the latest from the campaign.