Electric vehicle sales are on the rise worldwide. With a 35% projected sales increase, EVs will likely make up 18% of the automotive market sometime in 2023. But just as gas-powered cars need specialized infrastructure to be viable in mass markets, EV charging stations must comply with relevant regulations and meet the latest standards.
Anyone installing or managing these stations—electricians, auto technicians, or city planners—can address these concerns by reviewing EV charger specifications before deployment.
Understanding EV charger specifications
Most EV charger specifications and requirements are based on an expected charging level. These levels determine how quickly it can charge an EV and the necessary infrastructure to facilitate charging. We’ve broken down the essential details of EV charging levels below, but be sure to read our complete guide to Level 1 vs. Level 2 vs. Level 3 charging for EVs for even more detailed information.
Connection: Standard 120V outlet
Charge speed: 5 km or 3 mi per hour of charging
Average time to full charge: 20 hours+
Level 1 charging is the simplest to manage because it uses existing electrical infrastructure. It uses a traditional 120V electrical outlet, which means drivers can charge their vehicles using a standard nozzle cable. This light infrastructure is ideal for residential or emergency use, but it doesn’t meet the commercial need to charge multiple EVs simultaneously. Check out our post, “What is a Level 1 charger for electric vehicles?” to learn more.
Connection: 240V outlet
Charge speed: 30–50 km or 20–30 mi per hour of charging
Average time to full charge: 6 to 14 hours
Since Level 2 chargers rely on higher-voltage electrical outlets, they charge EVs much faster than Level 1 equipment. It typically connects a standard nozzle cord to a Level 2 charger, which uses software to adjust power levels and automatically bill customers intelligently. These chargers are more expensive and require specialized installation, but they are excellent options for parking lots at apartment complexes, retail chains, and university campuses. To learn more, read our article, “What is a Level 2 charger for electric vehicles?”.
Connection: Direct current
Charge speed: 200 km or 124 mi per hour
Average time to full charge: 20 minutes to an hour
Level 3 chargers bypass standard electrical outlets and provide a direct current (DC) to charge EVs quickly. They require specialized hardware and electrical infrastructure but excel at charging high volumes of EVs. They often present on thoroughfares and along major highways to serve as waypoints for long-distance travelers and electric vehicle fleets. Read our article, “What is a Level 3 charger for electric vehicles?” to learn more.
One sign that EV markets are maturing is that the industry is consolidating around international connector standards. These devices connect the EV to a charging station or outlet, but the specifications can vary by charging level and region. Here are the most common connector types:
- SAE J1772: A common connector in North America, sometimes nicknamed the “J Plug.” It supports Level 1 and Level 2 charging systems.
- Combined Charging System (CCS): A direct current connector for Level 3 charging systems in North America and Europe. It uses elements of the SAE J1772 design but adds high-speed charging pins.
- NACS (North American Charging Standard): Formerly a proprietary connector for Tesla EVs, NACS opened for broader use in 2022. Automakers, including Ford, GM, Nissan, and beyond, have announced plans to adopt the standard.
- CHAdeMo: A direct current connector for charging systems designed by the Tokyo Electric company. This connector is a competitor for CCS models and is popular in Japanese EV markets.
- IEC 62196 Type 2: The European standard for EV connectors. It supports Level 2 chargers since all European outlets deliver 240 volts by default.
- GB/T: China's standard connector family for charging stations, one of the world’s largest EV markets. Different connector models are available for all three charging levels.
For more details on connectors and the politics of NACS, check out our post on Tesla’s big announcement.
Safety & installation requirements
Once an organization settles on charging station specs, it must consider installation requirements. All equipment must comply with SAE International standards, such as using the correct connectors and chargers. Next, the setup process cannot be managed in-house. Regional governments typically require a licensed electrical contractor to install charging stations and make any necessary electrical infrastructure changes. Finally, all charging stations must comply with local, state, and federal regulation codes.
These requirements aren’t just vital to charging station operations but also to ensure public safety. For example, all EV equipment should be certified under programs like Energy Star, Intertek, or the Underwriter’s Laboratory. These systems test charging stations and equipment to ensure they are safely grounded, temperature-controlled, and meet energy-efficiency standards.
EV charger interoperability
While some EV chargers are “universal,” many solutions are closed systems. Such systems pair proprietary hardware and software and effectively lock customers in—switching to another software provider could require ripping and replacing chargers. End-to-end solutions also have tradeoffs in terms of both cost and quality. The package is typically more expensive than matching open software with your chosen hardware. Moreover, you can’t reap the benefits of choosing a reliable manufacturer with a proven track record.
Universal chargers also allow more flexibility to meet evolving EV charging standards and regulations. For example, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure insists on these compliance regulations for chargers receiving funding:
- Starting in 2024, all funded charging stations must comply with OCPP version 2.01, an open-source communications standard. These stations must also conform with ISO 15118 hardware that enables communication between EVs on the network.
- The Joint Office of Energy and Transportation will create a national database for aggregating data for these stations. As such, these stations must share data using a process that anonymizes personal information and any confidential or proprietary data.
- Broadly speaking, networks will not need to be interoperable—meaning EV drivers will need to seek stations with the correct connectors for their vehicles. However, all stations must remain operational and continue charging, even if there are disruptions in the network connection.
Implementing the right solution
These are just a few considerations when choosing EV charging equipment, but a partner can help you successfully navigate each step. At ChargeLab, our hardware-agnostic solution scales with your charging business to meet the needs of local operations or nationwide networks. If you’re looking to build an EV charging business that meets all EV charging specs, contact us today.