AC and DC Chargers are one of the most crucial aspects of Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure is understanding the types of charging stations namely, AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current) chargers. In this blog, we’ll discuss these two charger types to help you better understand their differences and use cases in the Indian EV ecosystem.
AC chargers, short for Alternating Current chargers, are the most common and widely distributed charging stations in India. Even though they are referred to as ‘AC Chargers’, they are not chargers in the sense the actual charging of the battery is done by the onboard charger situated within the vehicle. The ‘AC Charger’ facilitates a safe conduit for the AC supply from the grid to the onboard charger which converts the AC to DC to the Battery Management System (BMS) for storing it in the EV battery.
AC Charging Standards
AC charging plug is standardised in 4-wheelers with all electric vehicles which came out after 2019 using Type-2 Plug (IEC 62196).
In 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers, different OEMs provide different plug types and the accepted charging standard prevalent in India is to plug the charging cable into a 5A/15A 3-pin socket or the Industrial socket (IEC 60309).
AC Charging Time
AC chargers typically offer a slower charging rate compared to DC chargers. They are commonly found in homes, offices, and public locations like malls and parking lots, where vehicles are idle for 2 hours or more. A standard AC charger for an electric car can take several hours to fully charge a vehicle.
Types of AC Chargers
AC chargers in India come in various power ratings. The most common ones include 3.3 kW, 7.2 kW, 11 kW, and 22 kW chargers. Generally, EV 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers in India can handle AC Charging speeds up to 3.3 kW and are referred to as L1 or trickle-down chargers. EV 4-wheelers on the other hand charge at a speed of 3.3- 7.2 kW with few high-end luxury EVs capable of charging at 22 kW.
The power rating determines the charging speed. Higher power chargers are faster but require a compatible vehicle. Ultimately, the charging speed of the EV is limited and dependent on the onboard charger rating. So even if you have a 22 kW charger, if your EV has an onboard charger rating of 7.2 kW, the battery charging will take place at 7.2 kW.
AC Charging Use Cases
Many EV owners in India install AC chargers at their homes/apartment complexes, allowing them to charge their vehicles overnight. This is ideal for daily commuting and ensures that the vehicle is fully charged every morning. A similar use case is for employers and commercial establishments like malls, supermarkets, educational institutions, hospitals, and hotels where vehicles can be charged through the day when it is parked for long hours.
AC chargers are more cost-effective to install and operate compared to DC chargers. They are a practical choice for those looking to set up charging infrastructure at home or for commercial spaces and don’t require any additional infrastructure cost.
Most electric vehicles sold in India are equipped with onboard AC chargers, making them compatible with standard AC charging infrastructure. The only exception would be a few 3-wheeler models which come with an off-board charger and 2-wheelers that use battery-swapping.
DC chargers, or Direct Current chargers, are the high-speed charging stations that you’ll often find along highways and major routes. They are designed to offer rapid charging and are particularly useful for long-distance travel and hence are also referred to as “Destination chargers.”
DC chargers are significantly faster than AC chargers. They can provide an 80% charge in as little as 30 minutes, depending on the charger’s power rating and the vehicle’s compatibility.
Types of DC Chargers
For 4-wheelers, DC chargers in India are available mainly in DC001 (standard created for smaller batteries) and CCS (Combined Charging System). DC001 supports charging up to 25kW and uses the Chinese GB/T plug standard while the CCS2 standard is an adopted standard in India, originally from the European market with charging speeds ranging from 25 kW to 350 kW, and uses the CCS2 plug standard.
DC Charging Use Cases
DC fast chargers are strategically placed along highways and major routes to support long-distance travel. They are vital for reducing range anxiety among EV drivers. DC chargers also find great acceptance amongst Fleet operators who would want to keep their EV utilisation high and charging turn-around times low. Another use case for DC charging is for large commercial vehicles with battery capacity to the tune of 150 kW where AC charging would reduce the utilisation.
DC chargers are available in various power ratings, starting from 25 kW, 50 kW, 100 kW, and even 350 kW. The higher the power rating, the faster the charging speed.
DC chargers are generally expensive compared to AC chargers. They also require additional sanctioned load and support infrastructure like transformers.
Not all EVs support DC fast charging, so it’s important to check your vehicle’s compatibility before planning a long trip. In EV 4-wheelers, some models with smaller batteries don’t support DC Charging. Check out our blog on a comprehensive list of EV 4-wheelers in India here.
In India, the availability and choice between AC and DC chargers largely depend on your charging needs and the type of electric vehicle you own. AC chargers are more accessible and suitable for daily charging routines, while DC chargers offer rapid charging for long journeys and for fleets and large vehicles.
Understanding the differences between these two charger types will help you make informed decisions when it comes to charging your EV. As India continues to expand its EV charging infrastructure, both electric vehicle owners and prospective buyers need to stay updated on the latest developments in the charging ecosystem.