Slow Charging to Ultra-Fast Charging — How Charging Technology is Influencing EV Adoption and Customer Behavior

A discussion on electric vehicles is never complete without a discussion on charging technology and the speed of charging that’s on offer. That EVs and the available charging infrastructure won’t able to provide uninterrupted lengthy trips or EV users having to face long waits to recharge while on traveling long-distance were among the top concerns raised by critics. How fast their vehicle can charge up and be ready for the road has been a major factor that would influence a buying decision when choosing between an EV and a traditional internal combustion engine car.

The rapid advancements in energy storage, battery and charging technologies have currently taken us to a stage where one does not have to be worried over the range of their EV or the speed of the charging infrastructure available in the market. However, why are there so many different types of chargers in the market? A typical slow-speed EV charger adds about 30 km of mileage per hour of charging. A fast charger can add about 120 km mileage in 30 minutes of charging. The fastest of the ultra-fast chargers can add up to 350 km of mileage in little more than 10 minutes. Why such differences in chargers that are supposedly doing the same thing?

Typically slow chargers are AC chargers. “Trickle chargers” (2–3 kW) that can be plugged into any power-socket are the slowest, offering up to 15 km of mileage per hour, and therefore the impact on the electricity grid would be minimal. Next up is the 7kW “wall chargers” that are typically used in office and residential blocks where vehicles can charge while parked. They offer slightly faster charging at about 40 km per hour of charging.

So what do you do when you have to get your battery topped up quickly while on a road trip?

Enter DC chargers that can provide anything between 50kW to 350kW charging rate. A 50kW “fast charger” can add around 40 kilometers of mileage in 10 minutes, while 150–175kW “rapid chargers” and 350kW “ultra-rapid chargers” can add up to 200 km and 400 km of mileage respectively with 15 minutes of charging. For these reasons, the price of charging at rapid chargers is a lot higher compared to charging at slow-chargers, which might even be free of cost (while charging at work or at a hotel)

Most EVs use Lithium-ion batteries, essentially the same technology used in smartphones or batteries. As with these devices, there are concerns that rapid chargers are not very good for the EV’s battery health or life; it is advisable to slow charge whenever possible.

If we are to go by the trends from Norway, the most developed EV market in Europe and in the world, where 95% of EV charging happens at home and work, we would have to be prepared for a scenario where, as EV markets mature, public urban charging would be used less rather than more. The consumer behavior would shift from refilling their tanks every couple of weeks or so to topping up their batteries every few days. Users would begin to consider EVs like their smartphones that they charge while not being used.

EV charging can happen anywhere and at any time, so any power socket can be refueling station.

This is definitely an advantage EVs have over traditional cars as the user does not have to drive anywhere to fuel, and most EV car users this way do not spend any time charging unless they are on a long road trip.

While the availability of ultra-fast charging infrastructure is an unavoidable requirement for EV users on long-road trips and for commercial vehicles that travel long distances frequently, the bulk of charging of EVs would happen over slow-chargers at work or home.

At Prospero Group, we are bringing together decision-makers from the leading European energy, automobile, and EV charging technology companies to brainstorm and discuss the strategic, regulatory, & technological aspects for effective charging infrastructure. Connect with me to know more about what is happening!

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