Electric Car Charging Capabilities -- Comparison of 27 Models −

100% Electric Vehicles

Published on September 8th, 2015 | by Zach


Electric Car Charging Capabilities — Comparison of 27 Models

Something not often recognized by non-EV drivers is that the charging capabilities of current electric cars vary greatly. Numerous models are simply not capable of charging on “fast chargers,” which greatly limits their use on long-distance trips and, depending on your circumstances, perhaps even for regular use.

Furthermore, the importance of fast charging is only one piece of the pie when it comes to convenience and practicality — how much you would actually charge at home as well as how much driving range you have on a full battery are also very important pie pieces. Someone who almost never strays more than 20 miles from home may not care about fast charging (or public charging at all), while someone who regularly drives long distances or who wants to take long-distance trips in their electric car without stopping every 50 or so miles for a 20- to 30-minute charge may be much better off with a plug-in hybrid or Tesla than any of the other electric cars on the market at the moment. (For more discussion on these tradeoffs, see the section at the bottom of this article.)

I’ve heard a number of people say that they don’t consider an electric car a serious offering (not just a compliance car) unless it has “level 3 charging” (aka “fast-charging”) capability, while others won’t consider a car unless it has what we’re going to term “level 4 charging” (aka “Supercharging”). So, which cars have level 3 charging, and which have level 4 charging? And what exactly do the others have?

First off, via EV Obsession reader and Mercedes B-Class Electric + Nissan LEAF owner Kyle Field, here’s a quick summary of 4 basic types (or “levels”) of charging:

  • Level 1 or 110V charging using a normal wall outlet at 10–15 amps. (Every electric car has level 1 charging capability.)
  • Level 2 charging, which takes advantage of 220V or 240V power typically operating between 30–50 amps @ 3.3–10 kW (depending on the car and its capability).
  • Level 3 (“fast”) charging is intended to quickly deliver as many miles as possible at higher amperages and from 10–50 kW.
  • Level 4 “Supercharging” is the Tesla proprietary high-speed charging option, which can pump up to 400 miles of driving capacity per hour directly into the batteries.

Below are the charging capabilities of the electric cars currently on the market.

Level 2 Charging Only

Audi A3 e-tron (31 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Cadillac ELR (37 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Chevy Volt (50 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Fiat 500e (87 miles of electric range):

The 500e, sadly, doesn’t offer fast-charging capability, but it does include a standard 6.6 kW onboard charger.

Max charging rate 6.6 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~22

Ford C-Max Energi (21 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Ford Fusion Energi (21 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Ford Focus Electric (76 miles of electric range):

Despite having a standard 6.6 kW onboard charger, the Focus Electric doesn’t come with fast-charging capability, not even as an option.

Max charging rate 6.6 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~22

Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid (13 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Again, despite having a 6.6 kW charger, this vehicle has no fast-charging capability.

Max charging rate 6.6 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~22

Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid (22 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Mercedes B-Class Electric (84 miles of electric range):

Let’s first note that the inaugural electric offering from Mercedes comes with an onboard 10 kW charger (thanks, Tesla!), which is well above the 6.6 kW norm and allows for faster level-2 charging… but you’ll need a a 40-amp, 240-volt wall charger (aka EVSE) to take full advantage of that. That said, the B-Class Electric doesn’t offer fast-charging capability. “Mercedes engineers told PluginCars.com that they preferred to use the existing fuel door on the back left side of the vehicle, rather than changing the car’s sheet metal to accommodate a bigger port for faster charging.”

Max charging rate 10 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~29

Mercedes S550 Plug-in Hybrid (20 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Mercedes C350 Plug-in Hybrid (20 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid (14 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

A 3.6 kW onboard charger is standard in this plug-in hybrid electric SUV, while you can get a 7.2 kW onboard charger for $840 more.

Max charging rate 3.6/7.2 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~12/24

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid (22 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

The Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid comes with a lame 3 kW onboard charger… nothing else in the charging realm on this model.

Max charging rate 3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~10

Smart Electric Drive (62 miles of electric range):

It’s hard to call this fully electric car “smart” when it has no fast-charging capability and just a 3.3 kW onboard charger. This means it can fully recharge its 17.6 kWh battery in 5 to 6 hours (rather than half that time if it had a 6.6 kW onboard charger). The i-MiEV is the only other fully electric car with such a weak onboard charger, but the i-MiEV at least offers fast-charging capability.

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Toyota Plug-In Prius (11 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Volkswagen Golf GTE* (31 miles of electric range, + a gasoline engine):

Max charging rate 3.3 kW
Miles of charge per hour ~11

Of course, extended-range electric cars and plug-in hybrids have less need for fast charging. But I imagine plenty of owners would love the option to charge quickly and move on their way on electric juice. It’s too bad none of them offer that. The only fully electrics on this first list are the Fiat 500eFord Focus ElectricMercedes B-Class Electric, and Smart Electric Drive, greatly limiting their appeal to people who want to go beyond a small radius with their electric vehicles.


Cars With Level 3 Charging Capability

For level 2 charging, all of the cars in this section have a 6.6 kW onboard charger — so, can get about 22 miles of range back in an hour — unless otherwise indicated. The outliers are the BMW i3 (7.4 kW), Chevy Spark EV (3.3 kW), Mitsubishi i-MiEV (3.3 kW), base-trim Nissan LEAF (3.3. kW), and VW e-Golf (3.6 kW for the base trim or 7.2 kW for the upper trim).

BMW i3 (81 miles of electric range): The i3 has fast-charging capability by default, using the SAE Combo DC fast-charging standard (source). The i3 can charge 80% in 20–30 minutes using a fast charger. For some reason, BMW USA doesn’t highlight this huge benefit on its i3 webpage. The i3 also comes with a larger-than-normal 7.4 kW onboard charger, which offers slightly faster home/level-2 charging than most electric cars (~25 miles of charge per hour versus ~22 miles of charge per hour).

Chevy Spark EV (82 miles of electric range): This compact EV doesn’t come with fast-charging capability standard, but it’s an option you can add on when purchasing/leasing the car (source). SAE Combo fast-charging stations can recharge the Spark EV’s battery 80% in ~20 minutes. Unfortunately, the Spark EV only has a 3.3 kW onboard charger.

Kia Soul EV (93 miles of electric range): CHAdeMO DC fast-charging capability comes standard with the Kia Soul EV (source). Nice.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV (62 miles of electric range): This early electric car option now comes standard with CHAdeMO DC fast-charging capability, allowing 80% recharging of the battery in just ~30 minutes at a fast-charging station (source). For home or level-2 charging, the i-MiEV just has a max 3.3 kW charge rate, though, as noted above.

Nissan LEAF (84 miles of electric range): A fast-charging port doesn’t come standard with the Nissan LEAF. However, you can get CHAdeMO DC fast-charging capability with the optional $1,630 “LED Headlights and Quick Charge Port Package” with the SV trim, or standard with the SL trim (source). The fast charger allows an 80% charge in ~25 minutes. Also worth noting is that the low-end Nissan LEAF S comes with just a 3.3-kW maximum onboard charger, so you have to either pay more for the 6.6 kW option on the S trim or get the SV or SL trim for that faster home/level-2 charging (source).

Volkswagen e-Golf (83 miles of electric range): The e-Golf comes with SAE Combo DC fast-charging capability standard. Its more expensive trim (SEL) comes with a 7.2 kW onboard charger, while its cheaper trim (SE) comes with a 3.6 kW onboard charger (source).

Volkswagen e-up!*: The e-up! comes standard with SAE Combo DC fast-charging capability as well, which allows an 80% charge in ~30 minutes using a fast-charging station (source).

So, as we can see, the only (non-Tesla) electric cars that come with DC fast-charging capability as a standard option (i.e., “for free”) are the BMW i3, Kia Soul EVMitsubishi i-MiEVVolkswagen e-Golf, and the Volkswagen e-up! (which is not available in the US). However, other electric models include it as an option or at higher trim levels. Those would be the Chevy Spark EV, and Nissan LEAF. Again, the fully electric models that don’t offer fast-charging capability at all include the Fiat 500eFord Focus ElectricMercedes B-Class Electric, and Smart Electric Drive. In my opinion, that immediately makes those models “compliance cars.”

Supercharging (“Level 4 Charging”)

Tesla Model S (230–270 miles of electric range) & Model X

Naturally, Tesla’s models have the best charging options of all. In addition to level 1 and level 2 charging, they can “supercharge” using Tesla’s proprietary Superchargers… for free. This allows a pumping in of ~170 miles worth of range in just ~30 minutes. Many of us think that other automakers — to stay or become competitive — will have to partner with Tesla down the road so that their customers can get access to this great Supercharging network… but we’ve seen no indication so far that any of them are planning to do so.

Tesla also offers a CHAdeMO adapter for $450, allowing level 3 fast charging on non-Tesla networks at a rate of ~150 miles of range per hour (source). However, such stations are not nearly as ubiquitous and don’t offer free charging, of course.

Regarding slower charging options, Tesla’s models come with a 10 kW onboard charger, which means ~29 miles of range can be added to the car in one hour of charging on a 240-volt source vs ~22 miles from a 6.6 kW onboard charger (which is what is typically included in other fully electric cars) or ~11 miles in a 3.3 kW onboard charger. Tesla also offers a more expensive 20 kW option, which doubles the miles you can add in an hour to ~58 miles! That’s not too shabby for level 2 charging.

Summary Table

Fully Electric Model Fast Charger Network Compatibility Comes Standard or As An Option Time To ~80% Charge
BMW i3 SAE Combo Standard 20-30 minutes
Chevy Spark EV SAE Combo Option 20-30 minutes
Fiat 500e
Kia Soul EV CHAdeMO Standard 20-30 minutes
Mercedes B-Class Electric
Mitsubishi i-MiEV CHAdeMO Standard 20-30 minutes
Nissan LEAF CHAdeMO Option 20-30 minutes
Smart Electric Drive
Tesla Model S Supercharger & CHAdeMO Standard / Option Varies, ~170 miles in ~30 minutes
Tesla Model X Supercharger & CHAdeMO Standard / Option Varies, ~170 miles in ~30 minutes
Volkswagen e-Golf SAE Combo Standard 20-30 minutes

Long-Distance Travel In An Electric Car

The discussion regarding how easy or difficult long-distance travel is in a fully electric car is all over the place. Some argue it’s not a challenge, just takes planning; while others argue that it’s not practical in anything but a Tesla. Even within the world of electric car owners/lessees, this discussion is widespread.

Without a doubt, though, long-distance trips are more challenging (or a lot more challenging) in fully electric cars that don’t have large batteries (a lot of range) and/or don’t have the capability to recharge quite fast.

EV Obsession reader and Smart Electric Drive owner Ted Kidd summarizes it like this:

Remember, cars with tiny batteries make the charging-stop to charging-energy-received ratio a pretty high effort-to-return event. I’m often frustrated by the fact my car only charges at 3.3 kW at public stations. If I’m stopping because I NEED a charge, it’s for that extra 10-20 miles to get home.

Keep in mind, while the energy is free everywhere around me, the effort of stopping for a charge is not immaterial. One of the things I’m seeing is that, with so little range and such slow charging, the value of “opportunity charging” is basically non-existent. The times when I stop where there is charging AND I’m below 70% charge, I might stop long enough to pick up 20% — and that’s a whopping 10 miles or 30 cents worth of electricity. My buddy Todd, with his Mercedes B-Class Electric (which, remember, has a 10 kW onboard charger), can pick up 29 miles worth in the same time window. After the novelty wears off, you end up charging mostly at home.

While I would like faster charging, there is a point where more speed doesn’t make up for lack of range. I have trouble imagining that saving 5-10 minutes on a 30-minute stop on these range-constrained cars has a huge amount of value. I suppose if you did it every day it would, but if you have to stop every day to charge aren’t you missing out on one of the main reasons for getting an EV? For most, getting AWAY from regular stops for fuel is wonderful!

In real-world use of EVs, that manufacturer description of “fast” charge doesn’t really illustrate what happens well. The car is rarely “empty” when you reach a charge station. Most plan in a buffer (you simply are not showing up at a charge station with a flat battery). And due to taper (charging slows considerably at 50%), your charge rate is going to be lower than advertised and therefore charge time will be higher.

These are things Tesla travelers understand. A taper that starts at 150 miles of charge that starts slowing charge rate from 400 mph is a lot different than a taper that starts at 40 miles of charge and slows from 150 mph.

For cars with geometrically smaller batteries than Tesla’s that are charging on much slower “fast” chargers, these issues become orders of magnitude more significant. Stopping for 35 minutes every 50 miles is MUCH different than stopping for 25 minutes every 150 miles.

Great points. But going further, Ted highlights how he thinks the future of EV charging will play out:

Level 3 is expensive to install, it is not a residential solution. Optimized to these range-constrained compliance cars, they are quickly headed the way of the Dodo due to battery prices dropping. When longer-range cars come out, level 3 will be mostly irrelevant except for long-distance travel. For that, it will not be fast enough or wide enough, and it needs to be both. There is a huge difference in the travel experience having to wait 25 minutes every 150 miles vs 60-80 minutes. One is the time it takes to go to the bathroom and stretch your legs — something you’d want to do anyway. The other is a huge inconvenient slice out of your forward progress.

And that 60-80 minutes is purely hypothetical — because there is no built infrastructure for true nationwide long-distance travel, and none on the horizon. And we haven’t hit on the fact there are two competing standards.

Any talk about building a nationwide level 3 network is just that — talk. It’ll never happen. I don’t think competition comes into a marketplace and succeeds by offering a lesser product at greater cost than the incumbent and survives. Tesla “level 4” charging is better, and the network is built.

Another area of confusion is home charging. I think people want the ability to charge their cars at home in under 8 hours. When 200 mile cars come out, they better have 10 kW AC charging or they won’t be able to fully charge in under 8 hours. If you are installing 220-volt charging, run 50-amp service. Your current car may not be able to fully use it, but your next car likely will.

CONCLUSION: I would much prefer manufacturers focus on putting 10 kW AC chargers in their cars over DC charging (unless they’re partnering with Tesla…). Faster ALL THE TIME charging would be much more beneficial day to day than having the ability to charge using infrastructure that is never going to get adequately built out, and may be obsolete by the time you get your next car.

If all of this is indeed the case (and a good argument has been presented), it looks like only one company has been headed in the direction of a practical, convenient, realistic electric car future. Of course, that company needs to produce affordable electric cars, but that has been its long-term goal for nearly a decade, and its path is clearly outlined. Whether all of the world’s large car manufacturers will unveil similar goals and paths as Tesla has, is yet to be seen — but how can they not?


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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009.

Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity.

Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, SCTY, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply had a lot of faith in these companies and felt like they were good companies to invest in as a portion of his retirement strategy.

To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

  • Zoomit

    The Spark EV has only a 3.3 kW charger, not a 6.6 kW.

    • Hmm, thanks, adding that info.

      • Zoomit

        Good summary though! The Spark EV is a great cheap car, but it would be more useful with a faster onboard charger, especially since the Level 3 SAE Combo installations are so rare (nonexistent for me).

        • I’m surprised I made that slip considering how long this took and how many times I went over it. 😛 😀 But it happens.

          And I agree on the Spark EV. That basically a deal-breaker, imho.

          • SparkEV

            If SparkEV cost more to have 6.6kW, that might be more of a deal breaker. I’d rather have DCFC and 3.3kW and lower cost than 6.6kW higher cost. Seeing how EV are second cars for many, low cost is more relevant than how quickly the car stops charging while plugged in overnight or at work.

          • A 6.6 kW charger greatly speeds up Level 2 charging for when you need that in public. That’s important for me, but yeah, not for everyone.

          • SparkEV

            I guess it’s matter of opinion, but L2 for anything other than home and work is useless, so 3.3kW is perfectly fine. I’m not going to sit around for 2 hours at a restaurant to have my car charged. DCFC is the only way to use public charging, and driving an EV without DCFC infrastructure is not practical, 10kW, 6.6kW or 3.3kW IMO.

            Then 6.6kW only makes it stop charging faster while you’re sleeping or working while it adds cost to the car and adds cost to install thicker wires for home EVSE. It’s a matter of preference, but I think lower cost wins for me and probably lots of poor people who happen to own gross polluting gas cars.

          • Yes, it’s a very individual matter. I’ve got at least a few (maybe 4?) locations where I’d be spending a lot of time anyway — often hours — and there are Level 2 charging stations. Super useful, but especially with a 6.6 kW onboard charger.

            Potentially living in a condo where home charging isn’t possible (and working from home), this would be a big deal.

            But I also wouldn’t get an EV without DCFC capability.

  • jack8trades

    Kia Soul EV has CHAdeMO DC port, not CCS

    • Hmm, I thought so too when writing another article, came here to check and saw I had CCS… so now I’m wondering where I got that if it’s wrong. Correcting.

      • jack8trades

        I think I’ve also seen the DC charge type listed as CCS somewhere(s,) but since your source, Kia, states it to be CHAdeMO (you have to click the, “Charge Port – DC Fast Charge,” line to get that info,) you can be pretty certain that’s right.

  • The Renault Zoe with R240 motor can not ‘fast’ charge, but is capable of charging up to 3x32A (22 kW). That means a full charge in about an hour.

    The Chameleon charger is awesome. In places where there is a 3 phase grid (most of Europe) you can charge your car at home in 2 hours. Many public chargers (non-fast charge) offer 3x32A which is nearly as good.

    • Hmm, thanks, interesting. That wasn’t explained to me by the salesperson in the UK (iirc). I just figured the “quick charging” option was like the ones in the US.

      • Erik Corry

        I have a Zoe in Denmark. My home charger is 11kW (three-phase 230V 16A), which gives me about 80% ~100km in 2 hours. This is a reasonably normal thing to install at your house since most Danish houses have three-phase power.

        There are many 22kW (32A 3-phase AC) chargers in Denmark, which gives you 80% in about 1 hour for a ~60mph charge, but now the motorway service stations are getting 63A AC chargers, which will charge at twice that speed. I recently charged from 34% to 76% in 15 minutes on one of these, a charge rate of about 120mph! The fan comes on (to cool the Chameleon charger, I guess) and Renault add a little fee on your battery lease for extra wear and tear!

        On the downside I have the Renault adapter for normal 230V plugs and I’m not very happy with it. It’s very fussy indeed about the quality of the house electrical system, and I’ve had several places where it refused to charge. That means you can’t rely on it :-(. It didn’t seem to have trouble in the UK, but in Denmark it’s been more miss than hit.

        As I understand it, the Mercedes B-class has 16A 3-phase AC charging, but not 32A or 63A, so if your house is in the UK or anywhere else without 3-phase power you won’t be able to charger much faster than 10mph.

        • That’s awesome regarding the Zoe’s home charging! Wow.

  • Dragon

    You didn’t mention that all L2 chargers are not the same. Based on comments on plugshare.com, some public L2 chargers are limited to around 6kW so those cars with higher L2 capability may rarely see it utilized with today’s infrastructure. Of course, there are so few 10kW cars that it’s hard to be sure which chargers will support it… It’s useful for home charging with the correct charger, of course.

    I disagree with Ted that L3 charging is irrelevant. For trips of 125-300 miles in a car with over 100 mile range it is essential. I can tolerate charging for 30 minutes 1-3 times on such trips, but I can’t tolerate charging for 5-10 hours at L2 rates. For longer trips, it becomes too much of a burden for most to charge 30 mins every 80-100 miles, and the issue of L3 chargers being unevenly distributed and sometimes being broken becomes insurmountable for most trips. Thus, Tesla is the only game in town for trips over ~300 miles.

    • 1- Indeed. Didn’t want to get into the weeds too much.

      2- I’m with you. Level 3 is a critical purchase decision for me, but “Level 4” is what will be needed by any serious EV competitor for long-distance travel. Let’s hope someone follows Tesla’s lead soon… and the only legitimate option I can see for them at this stage is to partner on the Supercharger network.

      • Would be neat for PS to differentiate the two, huh?

      • You mistakenly listed supercharging as an “option” on Tesla cars. It hasn’t been an option since the Model S 60 two years ago. All Tesla cars now have it by default, and Tesla sells their used inventory with it enabled as well, regardless if the original car was enabled. Also, the Model X is always enabled right now, there is no option to avoid getting supercharging.

  • Raymond Ramírez

    Level 4 doesn’t exist in the SAE standard because it is a Tesla Motors propietary charger only. Model S and X owners will need a custom installation that can cost thousands. I did my own Level 2 for about $200 because I bought a EVSE as a kit and I did all the labor myself (I am a licensed EE). It is listed at PlugShare.

    • $200 — Wow.

    • Thousands!? LOL!! Try $100 for me, as Tesla includes a fully functional 40 Amp / 240 V capable portable charging cord (aka “UMC”) with the car that works off a standard NEMA receptacle. It’s easily the best OEM charging cord provided with any EV right now.

  • Friso S

    The Smart ForTwo (mkIII) can charge up to 22 kW which results in an entire charge within 50 minutes. I’ve driven this model a few weeks and it’s provides great range and flexibility.

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