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What is a Level 2 charger for electric vehicles?

How Level 2 charging stations deliver fast and reliable EV power at home and on the go
A blue electric vehicle charging at a Level 2 station

Pulling into a gas station, popping open your fuel door, and pumping some gas while you decide who’s buying what snacks are a long-standing part of automotive culture. But even after you’ve made the switch from fossil fuel to electric, you’ll need to partake in the proverbial pit stop. With a Level 2 charger, the process of powering up may feel comfortingly familiar.

So what is a Level 2 EV charging station? This guide will explain how these stations work, how much they cost to install, and how they compare to the other commonly available chargers. Whether you’re building an EV charging network or just turning your garage into the perfect charging bay, this explainer is for you. 

What is a Level 2 charger?

A Level 2 charger is a device that is designed to intelligently charge electric vehicles either via an industry-standard SAE J1772 connection (commonly called a “J Plug”) or Tesla’s proprietary charging cable and adapters. The J Plug is typically attached by cable to a utility-style box or pole that hosts both the electronics and software needed to communicate with your EV and the Level 2 charger’s network.

The box for a Level 2 charger draws power from a standard 240V outlet, the same type of outlet commonly used for clothes dryers and other devices that require a greater electricity flow than a standard 120V plug can provide. This greater voltage allows for faster charging compared to a Level 1 charger. 

How fast is a Level 2 charger?

A Level 2 charger can deliver anywhere from roughly 3kW to just under 20kW of AC power to an EV. In practical terms, this means it can deliver about 30 to 50km (20 to 30 miles) of range per hour of charging, and can completely charge a typical EV’s battery in the space of a night.

Compare this speed to the type of Level 1 charging station that is commonly included with the purchase of an EV, which tops out at 2.4 kW or about 5km (3.1 miles) worth of range per hour, and it’s easy to see why many EV owners prefer to “refuel” their vehicles at Level 2 chargers whenever convenient.

Thanks to their combination of fast charging and relatively easy installation, Level 2 chargers are a popular choice for businesses that are looking to add value for visitors, employees, and tenants. Fortunately, managing a fleet of Level 2 chargers can be even easier than installing them. Finding the right operating system for EV charging makes it possible to connect and control an entire network’s worth of EV infrastructure all in one place, managing users and even energy output to optimize your revenue.

How much does a Level 2 charger cost?

Determining the total cost of a Level 2 charger requires factoring in three variables:

  • The cost of the charger itself. Hardware costs can range from $300 at the lower end to more than $1,000, depending on brand and utility.
  • The cost of installation. Installation costs can vary greatly depending on the charger’s location and use case. If you’re installing a large volume of chargers, it’s best to work with a turnkey EV charging provider in your region. Though installing the box at home may be as simple as hanging it from a wall, you may need to hire an electrician to install a 240V outlet. Expect to pay at least $300 for their services.
  • The cost of electricity. Electricity costs may fluctuate based on location and sometimes even time of day. That said, the US Department of Energy estimates fully charging a typical EV at a typical electrical rate will cost about $6.

All in all, you should expect to spend at least $1,000 for installing your first Level 2 charger, though the cost of installation for subsequent chargers will likely be substantially lower after the electrical groundwork is laid.

How do Level 2 chargers compare to the alternatives?

Much like how owners of petrol-powered cars have the choice between three grades of gasoline, there are three common types of EV charging stations. What is a Level 2 charging station like compared to a Level 1 or a Level 3? Let’s break it down for each.

Compared to Level 1 EV charging stations

As we mentioned before, Level 1 charging stations are typically bundled in with the purchase of an EV, where they’re referred to as emergency chargers or portable charger cables. These cables plug into a standard household 120V outlet to deliver a maximum of 2.4kW of output to an EV. This is slow enough that it may take several days to reach a full charge for your battery.

Since they’re included with the purchase of an EV and frequently require no extra electrical work to operate, Level 1 EV charging stations are substantially cheaper than Level 2 charging stations. They’re also quite a bit slower, but their trickling speed may be plenty for commuters who live near their work or otherwise infrequently take longer trips.

Compared to Level 3 EV charging stations

Level 3 charging stations are also referred to as DC fast chargers, and their output of between 50kW to 350kW earns that speedy distinction by powering up a typical EV battery in as little as 15 minutes (though not all EVs support this standard). Assuming the driver doesn’t mind stretching their legs and shopping for a few snacks while their car sits at the station, a level 3 EV charger is the closest equivalent modern EV technology has to the in-and-out gas station experience.

The expense and electrical infrastructure required to operate a Level 3 charging station mean they’re most practical for installation at dedicated charging destinations located along major highways or other thoroughfares. For businesses that are considering installing EV chargers as a value add to their existing facilities, especially for places where people are likely to spend several hours, Level 2 chargers may be more practical.

If you’re looking for the perfect software to power an EV charging site or network ChargeLab has got you covered. We’re the back-end software behind North America’s leading EV charging networks, offering a white-label, hardware-agnostic solution. Contact us to learn more about what we do.

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