Tom Adamich: Take charging into consideration if buying EV or e
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Tom Adamich: Take charging into consideration if buying EV or e

Oct 13, 2023

When thinking about adding an electric vehicle and/or an e-bike to your transportation inventory, charging should be one of the most important considerations in your decision. Making sure that your home, workplace and travel destinations have adequate, working charging locations/equipment is vital to successful e-vehicle adoption. Michigan-based companies and local governments are working hard to make sure that happens.

Charging for both EVs and e-bikes requires some understanding as to the different levels available and the equipment needed to accomplish the task. We’ll start with looking at EVs, and to help us Jackson-based Consumers Energy provides a great overview of EV charging levels on its corporate website.

According to Consumers, A Level 1 charger uses 120 volts of power and is the slowest way to charge. It comes with most EVs for free as a basic charger for standard 110-volt AC outlets. Depending on the EV, it can take more than 24 hours to reach full charge from empty.

Consumers lists a Level 2 charger as using 240 volts of power and charging an EV from empty to full in around 8 hours. For comparison, your home's electric dryer runs on 240-volt power. Level 2 chargers are available for private home charging and are also found as public charging stations.

A DC Fast Charger (DCFC) is described by Consumers as using between 200 and 600 volts of power and is the fastest way to charge an EV. This charger is only available at public charging (usually for a price or as part of an EV manufacturer's service plan) — not for the home. DC Fast Chargers can typically charge a car from 20% to 80% in around 20-40 minutes.

For e-bikes, according to the Battle Born Batteries website, an e-bike lithium-ion battery will require 500-800 watt-hours for a full charge, since it is smaller and requires less power. Charging from a regular 110-volt source normally takes 3.5-6 hours to reach full charge (significantly less for lower percentages).

If you use your e-bike while camping and would need to connect your charger to an available charging source, like a regular 12-volt DC car/truck battery, an inverter is recommended to safely charge and reduce the possibility of fire or explosion. You can also use your vehicle's charging ports (often used to power smartphones and other devices) with the proper adapters and following vehicle instructions for use.

Still, e-bike charging using vehicle battery/charging drains those resources. Hopefully, your campsite or e-bike destination would be equipped with regular 110-volt electrical outlets and/or solar-powered electric hookups to use to enable the charging over that multi-hour period.

It is important to note that many experts recommend not charging either EV or E-bike batteries to 100% in order to optimize battery life.

Once you understand the basics of how your EV and/or e-bike gets its "electrical fuel" to operate, you can then determine the status of your own "charging setup" and the availability of charging along any routes you may be traveling.

As I mentioned earlier, charging for both EVs and E-bikes at the most basic level is Level 1 charging – plugging your authorized charging cord into a standard 110-volt AC outlet. This will enable charging of 30- to 50-mile range overnight (3-5 mph).

For EV charging, Level 2 charging equipment will decrease the time to charge to the 30-50 mile range (depending on environmental conditions) to 2-3 hours. Of course, charging to 80% or 90% charge will reduce any times accordingly.

Installing a Level 2 charger at home requires purchasing an approved Level 2 charger and paying electrical installation costs (the 220-volt access discussed earlier). Mobile Level 2 charging apparatus are also available to be plugged into authorized connections at workplaces, etc. They are still relatively rare and not widely used yet.

Efforts are being made to connect EV and e-bike owners with public charging locations. PlugShare is a popular charging app, and EV charging networks like ChargePoint and EVgo also have locator tools for use.

Additionally, Michigan utilities like DTE and Consumers have locator apps on their websites. Furthermore, major automakers like Ford and Tesla include charging locator information as part of their service plans.

As more areas throughout Michigan add public charging, locations within city and county areas will continue to be identified by government agencies and the businesses that operate/maintain the charging equipment – with the goal of building a functional and robust network of charging for use.

Tom Adamich is president of Visiting Librarian Service, a firm he has operated since 1993. He also is project archivist for the Greening Nursery Co. and Family Archives and the electric vehicle awareness coordinator at Monroe County Community College.

EV and E-bike Charging 101 Residential/personal charging Public charging