what you need to know before you buy

Everything you need to know about charging electric cars, from plugins to activation, before you buy a car

There electric car charging it’s not as immediate as refueling an endothermic car and, no matter how simple, requires a little knowledge to avoid adding extra lost minutes to the ones needed to recharge the vehicle. A world still chaoticalso made by the column producers themselves who, for unclear reasons, do not allow their activation with a simple debit or credit card as happens with distributors, but only through NFC card or application; and some manufacturers who make the exclusive columns, doing things their way.

Whether as a car tester or as the owner of a battery-powered car, he goes to the columns almost every day to meet. “Novices” of plug-in electric or hybrid car disoriented, who often fail to activate the infrastructure for various reasons; or wait hours without knowing that your car can charge faster. Let’s see everything you need to know.

Electric car charging: power and speed

There are different types of recharges, related to their power, that come divided into “AC”, alternating current, and “DC” or “DC”, direct current. The first has a slower power flow, while the second is the so-called fast recharge, depending on the intensity of the Fast and Ultra Fast columns.

In the case of AC charging the charging cable is always used, is usually supplied by car or standard (domestic) or as an option (with type 2 plug for public columns). The slowest load is on a normal household plug 120 or 240 volts, to which we also connect our smartphones and other appliances, which uses the standard system of a home among the 3 and 4.5 kW of power.

Often, without increasing the power level, it is possible they have a wallbox that through their artificial intelligence or the will of the owner they are able to do so adjust power, decreasing it to avoid overloading. The slowness of the domestic load makes it ideal to take advantage of when the car is not in use, and is best recommended for plug-in hybrids.

DC fast charging, on the other hand, is only found in public columns, because it uses power levels which ranges from 22 to 300 kW, with voltages ranging from 350 to 800 volts. Charging times, in these cases, are also reduced to just under 20 minutes in the case of cars such as Hyundai IONIQ 5, Kia EV6, Tesla and Porsche Taycan.

Keep in mind, however, that charging speed is not just defined by the station. In the case of AC charging, much is also given by the supplied cable, which it is almost never 22 kW: generally vague between 7 and 11, this is why the car will be recharged at the maximum power that the cable allows even up to 22 columns. Few cars have a 22 kW cable as standard, like the Renault Zoe, but it is still possible to buy it separately, going through versatile models like the Juice Booster 2 that we have recommended several times.

In the case of direct current load, on the other hand, the speed is given by the load power supported by the vehicle. Cars with voltage system between 350 and 400 Volts they support powers of 50 to about 150 kW, for that reason 80% recovery takes 40 to 60 minutes. Cars with an 800 Volt voltage system, such as those already mentioned, can withstand even more than 250 kW.

Finally, weather conditions also define speed. The ideal temperature to have the maximum power is between 18 and 25 degrees, above and below which there will be a slightly lower power flow. Please note that if there are several cars attached to a column, they will not load them all to the maximum, but the power will be divided according to the number of vehicles present.


The types of connectors

In addition to the load power, the connector must also be considered. Here the issue is made easier, especially because the institutions intervened to place bets. Basically, AC charging you have a cable equipped with a type 2 connector, characterized by a circular shape and five attachment points (pictured, plug at the top).

When it comes to direct current charging, the universal standard has become the Combined charging system (CCS Combo 2), a double connector that at the top has the same shape as type 2, but with 3 attachment points, and at the bottom has an ovoid shape with two attachment points. The CCS socket is present in all newly registered electric cars and some fast charging connectors, also because it is “space saving”, as with a single plug can connect two connectors.

There are a few exceptions: some cars on the Japanese side of the‘Renault-Nissan alliancelike the Leaf or the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV, on the other hand Socket CHAdeMO, which represented the old circular-shaped banner and four fixing points, two horizontal and two vertical. However, the two Japanese houses have moved away from this point of sale by homologating each other, so cars like the new Ariya are equipped with CCS for fast loading.


Payments

At the moment, the real problem with recharging electric cars is linked to payments, because at least in Italy the columns they are only activated by applications, or NFC cards issued by column manufacturers or car manufacturers when they have universal services. It’s not clear why they can’t be activated in a simpler way, using contactless card technology or putting a reader as is the case with dealers. Only Ionity gives the possibility to activate the service directly from the column with its touch screen, even if you need your smartphone to frame your QR code and enter your payment information. A solution halfway.

In fact, this is how it works at the moment, so you need to install the applications. Needless to say, almost everyone, including operators like Enel X and Be Charge, is able to activate the columns of others (apart from A2A), so sometimes one is enough. It can be requested from the same application the NFC card, which makes column activation more immediate, and activates some subscriptions if you travel a lot and therefore reload frequently. Then there are the same carmakers who buy one of their electric cars give free services that with a single application and card almost all the columns of Europe can be activated, often with reduced rates: personally, it’s the choice I made with Fiat’s My Easy Charge, which also has an app that works better than individual operators. There are similar services for everyone, such as Kia Charge, My Hyundai Charge, BMW Charging, etc.

When recharging is free, things are usually easier. For Tesla target charger, also quite common in some highway restaurants, just park your car and plug in without activating anything. In the case of Hyper, the service is activated by entering the health card. A different story is for Aldi, which instead allows activation only by supermarket staff.

The “exclusive” columns.

Finally, what you need to know about charging electric cars is that some of them have dedicated stations. This is the case with Tesla with its Superchargers, which although they have CCS Combo 2 connectors, are only compatible with Tesla. Things are changing and already in the Netherlands the Californian manufacturer has opened its Superchargers to everyone. The same goes for Porsche Destination Chargers, which are only for Porsche car owners.

We would like to mention more generous manufacturers, such as Kia and Volvo, who have instead started infrastructure projects in Italy with their own brand columns, but open to everyone.

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