August 6th 2022 – BRANDON MS – Electric Vehicle (EV) charging that is. With Tesla coming to our area, we thought we’d provide an overview of electric vehicle charging. First, some ground rules. This article is not intended to be a definitive guide to, or even a deep-dive into, EV charging. There are many nuances to EV charging from the manufacturer of the charging equipment to the make and model of vehicle being charged. We will not attempt to cover all that ground in this one article. Factors such as speeds, costs, and ranges will be based on generally-accepted values in the industry. For the purposes of having a baseline vehicle/battery for this article, we will use a Tesla Model 3 Long Range which has an 82 kWh (Kilowatt Hour) battery and is rated for about 350 miles of range. This is one of the best-selling EVs on the market so it is a good representation.
Also, consider the technology behind EV charging and batteries is evolving at record paces. Much like the computer chips in the 90’s and 2000’s, the technology is improving so quickly that a concerted effort must be made in order to stay current. Research and development costs are coming down and capacity and range are going up. We are on the cusp of one of the most significant industrial advancements in history. What an exciting time! Let’s get started!
There are several approaches we can take when it comes to discussing EV charging. The easiest way to frame the conversation is to organize the information based on the charging “level.”
Charging is charging, right? Not exactly. There are different “levels” of charging which are intended for different purposes and have different costs.
Level 1 Charging – The slowest charging is Level 1 and uses a regular 120 volt outlet. This is the same outlet you would plug your toaster into or a living room lamp. Nothing special about his outlet and they can be found everywhere! Vehicles can typically gain up to 5 miles of range per hour of charging on a Level 1 outlet. For the reference vehicle we are using in this article, that would take approximately 70 hours or almost 3 full days to charge!! Not ideal for sure. But, here are some things to keep in mind. Rarely are you charging from 0 all the way to 100. For day-to-day use, it is recommended to maintain a charge of between 20% and 80%. If your daily driving activity is only 30 or 40 miles, then you can easily plug in when you get home and have the used range replenished while you sleep. This is a great solution for a commuter vehicle and does not require any charging hardware to be installed – simply plug into an outlet.
This is also a good solution for businesses that want to provide a perk to employees. A Level 1 charging in the parking lot uses minimal power (typically uses a 20 amp breaker) and would allow the employee to trickle charge their vehicle while they’re at the office. For an 8 hour day, the employee would regain approximately 40 miles of range which may compensate them for their commute.
As far as the cost of Level 1 charging, it would be billed at the same rate as your regular electric bill. Look at your most recent utility bill and determine what your rate is. For example, my utility company charges 11.5 cents per kWh. Using our reference vehicle, if we charged it from completely empty (0%) to a full charge (100%), it would cost $9.43 to fill up. A daily commute of 45 miles in our reference vehicle would consume about 10 kWh of charge. If it were plugged in each night to reclaim that range, it would cost approximately $1.15 per day or $34.50 per month.
Level 2 Charging – Level 2 charging is typically what folks install at home. It uses a 240 volt power source and can charge a vehicle at around 40-45 miles of range per hour using a 60 amp breaker. They also make charger which can plug into dryer outlets (NEMA 14-50 outlets) and charge a vehicle at a rate of 30+ miles of range per hour. Charging our reference vehicle from 0% to 100% would take between 9 and 12 hours at this rate. If you drive a lot of miles each day, this would be a better option. Most people drive less than 50 miles per day on average. That range would easily be recovered in under 2 hours each night so you start the next day with a “full tank.”
This is also a popular option for businesses such as hotels and restaurants that want to attract customers. Many hotels provide Level 2 chargers for their guests who can top off their battery (usually for free) while they sleep. Many restaurants install Level 2 chargers so their customers can conveniently recharge their vehicle and themselves over a 30-60 minute meal. It is a minimal expense to the business and a great way for the customer to recover some charge for their day.
As for the cost of charging, the Level 2 charging at home is at the same rate as Level 1 charging discussed above. The difference with Level 2 charging costs is that you may need to have additional charger hardware installed. This can range from a simple dryer outlet or a dedicated EV charger. EV chargers for home use can cost between about $300 and $700 depending on the brand and model. This does not include installation and it is recommended to have a professional perform the install.
The cost to businesses is the same for similar charger hardware but may have additional installation expenses due to the locations where they are installed. We note “similar charger hardware” because this covers what is called “non-networked” chargers. Non-network chargers are simple EV chargers which do not typically have any communication capability (Bluetooth, wi-fi, or hardwired). Businesses that would like to charge for the electricity used in order to recoup their costs would want to choose a “networked” charger. The caveat here is that networked chargers are more expensive with costs as much as 5 times that of a non-networked charger. Additional processing fees may also be required with a networked charger.
In Mississippi, both Entergy and Mississippi Power offer incentives to residents and businesses that install EV chargers. Entergy offers a $250 cash incentive to residential customers who install a Level 2 EV Charger (https://entergyetech.com/electric-vehicles/). Businesses should contact Entergy for available commercial incentives.
Mississippi Power also offers residential customers a $250 cash incentive to install a Level 2 EV Charger (https://www.mississippipower.com/content/dam/mississippi-power/pdfs/residential/ev-rebates/2022/2-22-MKT-RESIDENTIAL-EV-rebate-form.pdf). MS Power also offers a cash incentive for the purchase of an EV ranging from $500 – $1,250 depending on the EV type (topic for another discussion). Business customers can claim a $2,000 cash incentive per Level 2 EV Charger installed at their commercial location (https://www.mississippipower.com/content/dam/mississippi-power/pdfs/residential/ev-rebates/2022/2-22-MKT-Commercial-EV-rebate-form.pdf).
Level 3 Charging – Level 3 Charging is also known as “DC Fast Charging” or “DCFC.” This is the charging stalls that people see at shopping areas or along the interstates. These chargers are high voltage, direct current (DC) chargers and are intended long distance traveling. They can typically charge a vehicle from 0% to 100% in about 45 minutes. However, distance traveling in an EV requires a slightly different charging strategy in order to reduce the time you spend at charging locations. This is because the vehicles battery will charge extremely fast from 0% to 50%. It will charge slower but still very fast from 50% to about 80% and then it will slow down a good bit from 80% to 100%. Depending on the vehicle, it can be charged to 50% in 5-10 minutes or 80% in 15-20 minutes. If you are stopping to eat and will be at the location for 30+ minutes anyway, then it will charge to a higher level anyway. Otherwise, to maximize your travel time, it is recommended to simply charge to about 75%-80% and then resume your travel. This is enough time to stop for a quick restroom break and maybe grab a snack. And in that time you will charge enough to get another 250+ miles, or 3+ hours, of driving.
Costs for charging at a Level 3 charger vary based on vendor and, in some cases, by state. The average cost is currently accepted to be approximately 28.5 cents per kWh. Using our reference vehicle above, charging from 0% to 100% would cost approximately $23.37. Again, these are intended for distance traveling and most people would simply charge at home or at work and rarely use a Level 3 charger unless they were on a trip.
Additional Resources – One final note on charging is to mention a few resources that are available to help find charging locations when traveling. Most modern electric vehicles have an interface in the vehicle that will automatically show, and map navigation to, compatible chargers. Additionally, a couple of apps (and related web sites) that are used by many in the community are “PlugShare” (https://www.plugshare.com/) and “A Better Route Planner” (https://abetterrouteplanner.com/). These apps/sites allow you to filter results based on various criteria so you can locate compatible chargers. With the ever-growing charger infrastructure and intelligent mapping software, the days of range anxiety in an EV are in the past!
Contributing Author – Josh Hazel, President of Tesla Owners’ Club of Mississippi