An intro to electric vehicle (EV) charging: Everything you need to know

Get to grips with all things EV technology – from charging standards and infrastructural growth to driver benefits and the future of fast charging…

Electric vehicles (EVs) aren’t just the wave of the future; they’re here today, hitting the roads in greater and greater numbers. And, for us at Spirii, that’s really exciting to see. The electric transition presents a positive shift in our efforts to tackle climate change and a glimpse at a future where transport is fully sustainable.

But we know that for many people, this new technology brings with it a raft of questions.

How do you charge an electric car? What kind of charging infrastructure is available? How long does it take to fully charge an EV? And what are the benefits – and drawbacks – of making the switch? Luckily, as a leading charging solutions provider in the industry, we can help provide answers to all those burning questions – and a bunch more besides.

This is your no-nonsense guide to everything EV, starting with the technology behind the charge…

Types of electric vehicle chargers

Charging is obviously a super important part of owning any EV, so it’s wise to understand the different kinds of charging technology at your disposal. After all, the kind of charge you choose will affect how long you’ll have to wait.

Broadly speaking, there are three different systems or standards, each with varying speeds and infrastructural requirements:

Level 1 charging explained

The most basic kind of EV charging, Level 1 (also known as "trickle charging”), uses a standard household outlet to charge an EV's battery. This method is super slow, however, and not very efficient – it’ll add around 15 miles of range per hour, which means long charge times if you want to fill up fully. While somewhat convenient in that it requires no additional equipment, Level 1 charging is best for emergencies only.

Q. Can I charge an EV with a regular household outlet?

Yes, any household 120V outlet can provide Level 1 ‘trickle’ charging, but it’s a really slow way to do it. Faster charging requires a 240V outlet/wallbox, or a public charging station.

Level 2 charging explained

Level 2 charging is where things start to get serious – and in fact, this is the most popular kind of charger you’re likely to find in the wild at the moment. At home, Level 2 charging uses a 240V outlet and wall-mounted charging station to fully charge an EV battery overnight.

This alternating current (AC) delivers more power than a standard household outlet. Public Level 2 chargers are even quicker, as they’re built to handle higher voltages. If you come across a roadside EV charging station, it’s likely to be a Level 2 AC charger.

Level 3 charging explained

Level 3 is the new kid on the block and it’s the fastest of the three by far. That’s because it’s able to send direct current (DC) electricity right to the car at high voltages, which can take a car from zero to 100% in around an hour.

You’ll increasingly find these DC fast chargers at public service stations – they’re more expensive for charge point operators to deploy but much preferred by drivers; as those costs come down, you’ll see them proliferate across the charging landscape.


Electricity travels through the grid as an alternating current. That means larger, slower waves of energy that are more efficient at traveling long distances. When you charge an EV from an AC charger, the vehicle’s onboard converter will change that energy from AC to DC before passing it along to the battery. That’s the same for pretty much all battery-powered devices, including phones and laptops. DC fast chargers, on the other hand, can pre-convert that current, saving time and allowing for a higher wattage transfer.

A good way to think of it is to compare it to the protein in food. Here, AC chargers are the equivalent of eating a bunch of meat and waiting for your body to extract the protein. On the other hand, DC chargers are more like drinking a protein shake – you’re going to get a more concentrated blast of the good stuff much more quickly.

One thing to remember: DC chargers distribute power differently to AC. With Level 1 and Level 2 alternating current (AC) charging, the electric power is delivered at a steady rate throughout the charging session. With DC charging, though, the bulk of the energy transfer happens right at the start. This front-loaded power delivery allows the car to quickly get enough range for a typical journey. But that does mean that going from 80% to 100% will take disproportionately longer than any other 20% increments.

Q. How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?

Charge times depend on the charger type. Level 1 trickle charging takes 12-20 hours. Level 2 chargers take 4-8 hours. DC fast charging takes 15-45 minutes to 80% battery. High-powered DC chargers can usually add around 100 miles to a car’s range in around 15 minutes.

EV charging infrastructure: What are the options?

Now that you know what to look for in terms of charging options, the next obvious question is: where can you find an EV charge point? There are a bunch of options, with more opening up all the time. Here are the main kinds of charging facilities you’ll find:

Public charging stations

AC and DC public charging stations are never too far away – and you can use an app like Spirii Go to find and navigate to available ones nearest you. Service stations, parking lots, supermarkets, roadside chargers, and dedicated charging lots are all typical places to find a charge, with varying speeds depending on the hardware each charge point operator has deployed.

Public chargers have prices set by the owners – this will either be a set, fixed price, or dynamic pricing that fluctuates in line with energy costs. It’s usually the case that prices are higher during busier hours, and lower when there’s less demand – like at night time.

As businesses, municipalities,, and service stations adopt the technology in increasing numbers, you’ll only ever find more and more public charging stations available when out and about. Spirii’s network, for instance, boasts over 200,000 chargers across Europe, with that number growing by the day.

Q. How does public charging work?

Public charging stations require payment by credit card or a charging network membership card. In most cases, all you need to do is connect the charger to your car’s charging port and follow the payment instructions on the station screen.

Workplace charging

Many offices are finding that adding charging stations to company parking spots is a great way to incentivize greener commuting. There’s a mutually beneficial arrangement here: employees who drive their EVs to the office can charge it up while they work, and employers can make a bit of extra revenue by charging a fee for the electricity. Using a charge management software solution, they can even choose to open these spots to the public when not otherwise in use.

Residential charging

Most EV drivers choose to have an AC charger wall box installed at home to be able to charge up overnight, but there’s also an increasing appetite for residential property owners and developers to outfit residential homes and parking with electric chargers.

Q. Can I charge an electric vehicle in the rain?

Yes, you can safely charge in the rain! EV charging ports are weather-proofed and designed to operate in pretty much any condition you can imagine.

Depot and pantograph charging

Heavy transport, like trucks, buses, and vans require their own unique charging solutions. For many fleets, the solution is to put charging hardware in the depot so that vehicles can charge up when not in use.

As well as using standard cables, some heavy transport vehicles opt for a pantograph, which is a special adjustable arm on the top of the vehicle that can connect to a high-wattage power supply just by parking underneath it. This is great for ‘opportunity charging’, which – for example – lets buses top up quickly while stopping at stations along a given route.

The benefits of EV charging

EV charging and electric vehicle technology offer a ton of inherent benefits over its internal combustion-engine forebears. Here are just a few:

Environmental benefits

Petrol and diesel vehicles are responsible for an enormous amount of the emissions that cause climate change. In fact, transport currently accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. EVs are zero-emission by their nature, so they represent a huge opportunity for us to scale down the amount of pollution we put into the atmosphere on a global level.

Cost savings

Exactly how much it costs to charge up an EV varies depending on location, market conditions, and even time of day – but what’s usually the case is that on a per mile basis, electricity is cheaper than gasoline. And that looks set to stay the case, given that petrol and diesel are finite resources. On top of that, there’s the fact that EVs have hundreds – sometimes thousands – fewer moving parts, meaning there’s much less that can go wrong, and less overall maintenance needed.

Q. What are the costs associated with EV charging?

As a rough average, home charging costs around 3-5 cents per mile. Public charging costs around 15-35 cents per mile of charging time.

Convenience and flexibility

Charging up an EV doesn’t need to be done at a petrol station. It can be done while you shop, when you’re at work, during a meal, or while you sleep. Pretty much anywhere with electricity can be turned into a charging facility, which means there are near endless possibilities to make charging a convenient and flexible part of your day-to-day routine.

In summary…

It’s only ever getting easier and more convenient to charge up an EV. Whether you do so at home, at work, or in a public setting – or you’re in a sector that needs to charge fleet vehicles – charging tech is evolving and being deployed faster than ever.

Electric charging FAQs:

We’ve covered a bunch of them in this article, but here are answers to some of the most common questions we see out there around the ins and outs of EV charging…

How much does it cost to install an EV charging station?

Installing a home charging station ranges from €200-€800 for the equipment, plus additional costs for electrical work. Public AC and DC chargers cost considerably more, but these are excellent drivers of ongoing revenue for charge point owners. Contact us for details!

Can you charge an electric vehicle with a portable charger?

Yes, portable chargers that plug into a regular outlet can provide slow Level 1 charging. Faster charging requires installing a dedicated wall charger.

How often do you need to charge an electric vehicle?

Frequency depends on daily mileage. Today’s EVs have ranges exceeding 300 miles, but you’ll want to ensure you keep your car topped up towards 80%.

Are there any government incentives for installing EV charging stations?

Yes, many governments offer rebates on charging station costs. Incentives can cover 20-50% of equipment and installation.

How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle at a public station?

Level 2 public chargers provide a full charge in 2-10 hours. DC fast chargers can charge to 80% in 15-45 minutes.

Can I charge an electric vehicle overnight?

Of course! Overnight charging allows ample time for a full charge using a Level 2 home charger.

Are all electric vehicles compatible with all types of chargers?

No, charging compatibility varies based on plug and connector type.

How do I find electric vehicle charging stations near me?

Mobile apps – like the fully featured Spirii Go app – can help you locate and navigate to your nearest available charger or a charger en route to a destination.

Can I charge an electric vehicle at home without a dedicated charger?

Yes, any household outlet can provide Level 1 charging via the portable cord set included with the car, although this will provide a slow, inefficient charge.

Can electric vehicles be charged using solar panels?

Yes, EVs can be conveniently charged from a solar and battery storage system.

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