The Ultimate Guide to Electric Vehicles and Smart Charging

EVs are all the rage these days. Major automobile manufacturers world over are coming out with new EVs. They have also set commitments towards a partial or complete switch to EV production in the coming years. But what exactly are Electric Vehicles? What are the various types of charging? What is DC Charging and AC Smart Charging? Why are there so many charging standards? This article has got all your EV related burning questions covered.

How are EVs different from Internal Combustion Engine- ICE (Petrol/Diesel) Vehicles?

Did you know that EVs are older than ICE vehicles? Gustave Trouve introduced the world’s first Electric Car in 1881. This was before Karl Benz invented the first gas-fueled car in 1885 or the Ford Model T came out in 1908. But the early electric cars didn’t catch up because of the high cost, low top speed and short range of batteries.

Fast forward to the 21st century, thanks to innovators like Tesla, Electric vehicles are having their moment in the sun again. Research shows that the price of Electric cars is going to be comparable to fossil fuel cars as early as 2024. Not only are EVs going to be cheaper, they are also easy on the planet and energy-efficient.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Another major aspect to check when you compare EVs against ICE vehicles is the Total Cost of Ownership. While calculating the total cost of ownership of an EV vs ICE Vehicle, the factors considered are

  • Capital costs: Vehicle purchase cost, discount rate, financial incentives applicable, resale value etc.
  • Operational costs: Fuel/electricity, maintenance cost etc.

To calculate the cost, take the same vehicle holding period, average s driven per day, and the number of operational days in a year.

TCO for Electric two & three-wheelers and commercial four-wheelers are already lower than their gas-fueled counterparts. Four-wheelers for personal use will be economically viable soon, given the frequent increases in fossil fuel prices and the reduction in EV battery price.

What are AC and DC charging in EVs?

One can charge EVs on both using AC and DC currents. But the EV battery can store power as DC only. And the electricity from the grid (what we receive at home) is always AC.

So, to store energy inside the battery using an AC Charger, the current from the grid needs conversion to DC. For this, all EVs come with an ‘onboard charger’, which is really a built-in converter. This is like smartphones having an in-built converter to store power as DC in the battery.

Then there are DC Chargers. In DC chargers, the difference is that the converter is built inside the charger unit, even though it’s available in the vehicle. This way, it can feed power directly to the car’s battery and doesn’t need the onboard charger to convert it. For this reason, DC chargers are efficient, but bulkier and costlier.

What are L1 and L2 charging?

Within AC Charging, there are various levels of charging available based on the power output. These are Level 1 (L1) and Level 2 (L2) charging.

In L1 charging, the typical power available ranges between 3.7 to 7 kW. Most of the chargers provided by the vehicle manufacturers along with EVs are L1 chargers. These are typical 5-pin, Standard connectors which do not have any locking mechanism and mostly work only in Single phase only. These are low power chargers which use household current levels of 10-15A @ 230 V, which result in more than 9 hours of charging to completely replenish a drained battery of 30kW like in the Tata Nexon EV.

In L2 charging, the level of power output varies from 3.7 kW to 22 kW. It uses a 230V Voltage supply and a current level within the range of 5A to 80 A (Like in SemaConnect Series 7 plus charger) delivering almost 3 to 10 times faster charging in comparison to L1 charging.

L2 is by far, the most common connector on new cars and it comes with an inbuilt locking mechanism and can carry three phase power. They are commonly found in residential settings, public parking areas, workplace parking and commercial settings.

In India, the emerging plug standard for AC Type 2 charging is CCS Type 2 IEC 62196 Plug, which is used in most of the new EVs like Tata Nexon EV, MG ZS EV and Hyundai Kona.

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