How does EV charging work, anyway?

Once you understand the basics, EV charging is easy – like charging your phone… but bigger. The main themes are voltage, charging speed, where to charge and costs. 

Voltage | Charging | Batteries | FAQs

Powering up: BEV vs Plug-In vs HEV

What’s the difference between charging a hybrid (HEV) vs a plug-in hybrid (PHEV)?
Here’s what you need to know about all your EV charging options, from how and where to charge to how long it takes. 

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Since it’s fully electric, you have to plug in a BEV to charge it. You can either charge it at home in a regular outlet, which is a Level 1 charger (120 V), or you can install a Level 2 charger (240 V), which is the same level of voltage as your oven. Or, while you’re on the road, you can find a Level 3 or DC fast-charging station that can replenish a battery to 80 percent within 20–60 mins.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

PHEVs have a gas engine and a battery motor. If you want to take advantage of the electric battery – and you likely do – you need to plug it in to recharge. Otherwise, you need to fill the gas tank as you would with a gas vehicle. Most PHEVs charge on Level 1 AND 2 chargers, but there are a couple PHEVs that can recharge using DC fast charging, like the Outlander PHEV.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

No need to plug in – an HEV powers itself. Literally. The battery recharges with the kinetic energy captured from braking, and with power from the gas engine. Because it only needs to be able to deliver power for a short period of time, it also has the smallest battery (1-2 kWh).

Voltage

The higher the voltage level, the higher the power and the faster the charge.

Level 1: 120 V

Fair warning, Level 1 is the slowest out of the three. But, it's convenient when charging at home and for EV owners who only drive small distances. A charge to 80% can take anywhere from 5–12 hours (perfect for overnight charging). How do you know if you need to go up a level to Level 2? If you’re driving more than 64 km per day, Level 2 is going to be your better option.

Level 2: 240 V

You can’t go wrong with Level 2 charging. It’s the voltage that EV drivers choose when they install their home chargers. For a BEV, you’re looking at a few hours to charge (4–10 hours). A PHEV will take 1–2. And to save time and money, charge your EV in the evening or overnight when electricity is at a lower rate.

Level 3: DC Fast Charging: 400 V to 800 V

DC Fast Charging is the fastest EV charging option that you’ll find at highway service stations, shopping centres or other convenient locations while you’re on the road. It’s the most expensive charging option, but it can get you an 80% charge in around 20–40 minutes, depending on the battery size and charging rate. Flo, Petro-Canada EV Fast Charging Network and ChargePoint are some examples of DC Fast Charging Stations.

Not a big reader?

Here’s a video that explains the differences between the EV charger types.

EV tip

Wait until your battery is at 10–20% before charging, and then only charge to 80% to keep your EV battery in good health. The good news is that you’ll probably spend more time enjoying the ride than charging up your EV. Most EV drivers tend to only charge once a week and just “top up” rather than doing a full charge. 

Home vs. station charging

Home charging is the most convenient and affordable option, but there are associated costs you need to be aware of. Depending on where your electricity panel is located on your property, or if it has the capacity to handle 240 V, installing a home charger could cost hundreds or a couple thousand dollars to install. Before buying an EV, talk to an electrician who has experience in Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) to get an idea of your options and costs.  

Station charging is another great option, but is more expensive than at home. Charging session prices are set by site, so they may vary based on location, speed or time. You can use a charger app like FLO App to see a list of nearby stations with their prices outlined, as well as free charging sites nearby. 

 

Charging your EV

Tips & tricks

  1. Charge at home during off-peak hours or holidays to save on electricity costs. 
  2. If available on your EV, use the “Eco” Mode to reduce acceleration and save you on charging. 
  3. Remove any bulky, heavy items you don’t need in your vehicle to reduce the weight.
  4. Check your tire pressure frequently. EVs are heavier than traditional gas vehicles (by about 20%), so the type of tire and the air pressure it needs are important. When it comes to an EV, tires use up to 16% of energy, which impacts your range.
  5. Regularly inspect your charging cables, connectors and charging station for any signs of wear or damage.

Battery breakdown


Lifespan

Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)
8–15 years or 150,000–200,000 kilometres 8–10 years or 150,000 kilometres


Service

Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)

Bring it to an authorized dealer or service centre for replacement or service.


Cost

Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)
C$5,000 to C$20,000, depending on vehicle and battery size. C$2,000 to C$8,000, depending on the vehicle and battery size.


Repair

Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)
Some components may be repairable depending on the issue.


Replacement

Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)
Generally replaceable

The time it takes to charge an electric car can range from 30 minutes to 12 hours. This depends on the power source (Level 1, Level 2 or DC Fast Charging), charger capacity, battery size and type of EV.

Level 2 chargers usually cost $1.00/hour or $2.50/charge, while DC Fast Charging usually costs $15–20/hour (but often takes less than an hour). For EV owners with home chargers, the average charging cost for Canadians in 2022 was around $277 for the entire year.

Yes, you can charge your EV in the rain. EV charging equipment is designed to be weatherproof and safe to use in various weather conditions, including rain.

Using your EV charging equipment (EVCE) is usually safe in wet conditions. It has been designed and tested to ensure safe charging in almost any weather conditions. An EV’s electrical system is also engineered to be resistant to rain and water intrusion. 

If your EV battery dies, you will need to have the vehicle towed to the nearest charging station or service centre. Some roadside assistance services also offer mobile charging.

Regenerative braking is a system that allows an EV and some PHEVs to recover some of the energy that is usually lost during braking. This energy is converted back into electricity and stored in the battery, helping to extend the vehicle’s range.

No, most hybrid cars can’t run without the hybrid battery. The battery is essential for the operation of the electric motor, which assists the internal combustion engine.

Yes, EVs and hybrid cars are designed to start and operate in winter conditions. However, cold weather can reduce battery efficiency and range, so it’s important to keep the battery charged. In extreme cold, with temperatures below freezing, EVs may have trouble starting or may not start (just like ICE vehicles). 

Yes, EVs can be charged at home using a standard 120 V outlet (Level 1) or 240 V outlet (Level 2) with a home charging station for faster charging.