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Level 3 EV Charging Explained

Level 3 EV charging is emerging as the king of EV charging levels; EV owners want to pull up at a charging station and plug in their electric vehicle, and within minutes, their electric vehicle battery is juiced, ready to conquer the road. According to a recent McKinsey survey, 42% of surveyed EV owners prefer charging their EVs on Level 3 EV chargers, as shown in the chart below:

It’s understandable why 42% of EV owners favour Level 3 fast chargers, as they significantly reduce charging times compared to Level 1 or Level 2 chargers, offering convenience, accessibility, flexibility, range confidence, and technological advancements, which are pivotal in driving electric vehicle adoption.

For Level 3 EV charging, you’ll need access to a Level 3 charger at a public station. You can easily use our EV charging station map to find a Level 3 EV charger near you. While less common due to installation and hardware costs, you can opt for a Level 3 home or work charger.

What is Level 3 EV Charging?

Level 3 EV charging, also known as DC fast charging, operates by directly converting three-phase AC power into DC power, which is then supplied to the vehicle’s battery, bypassing the vehicle onboard battery, making the charging process faster, unlike Level 1 and Level 2 chargers which rely on AC to DC conversion through the electric vehicle onboard charger.
An infographic detailing Level 3 EV charging, also known as DC fast charging, is depicted in the image. Here's a summary:


Level 3 EV Charging: The fastest charging option for electric vehicles.

Three Phase AC Power: Utilized for efficient charging.

Power Range: Chargers can output between 50 kW to 400 kW.

Recommended for Commercial Chargers: Best suited for public charging stations.
Key Features:

LEVEL 3: Identifies the charging level.

480V: Voltage specification for the charger.

Adds 60-100 miles per hour Charge: Approximate range increase per hour.

DC Fast Charger: Another term for Level 3 charging.

Full charge in approximately 30 minutes: General estimate for full charge time.

<125 amps (Typ. 60 amps): Amperage specification, typically around 60 amps.

Typ. 50-150 kW Charging Load: Power consumption range during charging.
Level 3 EV Charging Connectors:

CCS1: Common standard in North America and Europe.

CHAdeMO: Primarily used in Japan and some parts of Asia.

GB/T (DC): Standard used in China.

CCS2: Updated version combining AC and DC charging.
Overall, the infographic provides a succinct overview of Level 3 EV charging, highlighting its features, power capabilities, and compatible connectors.

As shown in the Level 3 EV charging illustrative image above, These chargers typically range from 50 kW to 400 kW in power output, making them suitable for commercial installations due to their high capacity. They utilize a 480V power supply and can add approximately 60-100 miles of range per hour of charge, with a full charge achievable in around 30 minutes.

Level 3 charging connectors commonly include CCS1, CCS2, CHAdeMO, and GB/T (DC) (shown in the image above). The charging process involves a high charging load, typically between 50-150 kW, and requires a current of less than 125 amps, typically around 60 amps.

EV Charging Station Schematics

Level 3 EV charging stations integrate with the electrical grid for swift power delivery.

Detailed schematic of a grid-integrated fast charging station for multiple electric vehicles (EVs). The system uses power converters to connect to the grid through a filter and transformer. EVs connect to a central charging point for fast charging.

As shown in the EV charging station schematics above, electric vehicles (EVs) are connected to the charging station. Power electronic converters manage power flow: the grid-side converter (GSC) links the station to the grid, while EV-side converters (ESCs) regulate charging for each vehicle. These converters use current-regulated voltage-source PWM technology for efficient power transfer. The charging station connects to the grid through an LCL filter and transformer. EVs are plugged into designated slots on the DC bus. An integrated control system oversees the charging process, optimizing efficiency and safety.

What are Level 3 EV Chargers?

Level 3 EV chargers, operating on direct current (DC), deliver power directly to the battery, bypassing onboard conversion and significantly speeding up charging. With outputs ranging from 50 kW to 350 kW, they can charge an EV to 80% or more in just 20–30 minutes, replenishing at a rate of 3–20 miles of range per minute, perfect for road trips and busy schedules.

Why Is a Level 3 EV Charger Charging Slow?

One of the frequent questions we get from EV owners is why is the Level 3 charger I’m using charging slowly. Well …

A Level 3 EV charger may charge slowly due to various factors, including the charging station’s power output, the vehicle’s type and charging capacity, battery charge level, temperature, battery state of charge, loads on the charging station, and the presence of dual charging.

The most common reason for slow charging with a Level 3 EV charger is the power output of the charging station. Below is a table outlining different charging speeds and the corresponding miles added based on the charging station’s power output.

50kW Level 3 Charger Power Output150kW Level 3 Charger Power Output200kW Level 3 Charger Power Output350kW Level 3 Charger Power Output
10 Minutes Charging TimeMiled Added: 20Miled Added: 60Miled Added: 70Miled Added: 125
(Sweet Spot)
15 Minutes Charging TimeMiled Added: 30Miled Added: 90Miled Added: 105Miled Added: 185
20 Minutes Charging TimeMiled Added: 55Miled Added: 125
(Sweet Spot)
Miled Added: 140
(Sweet Spot)
Miled Added: 250
30 Minutes Charging TimeMiled Added: 80Miled Added: 190Miled Added: 215Miled Added: 375
45 Minutes Charging TimeMiled Added: 120Miled Added: 270Miled Added: 305
1 hourMiled Added: 170
(Sweet Spot)
Miled Added: 360

This will help illustrate how variations in power output affect charging times and mileage gained, aiding in a better understanding of why the Level 3 charger you are using is charging slowly or charging speeds expected.

How Level 3 EV Chargers Work

Level 3 chargers operate on direct current (DC), directly filling your battery bucket much faster, unlike slower Level 1 and 2 chargers, which use a trickle-like flow of alternating current (AC); here is an illustrative diagram showing how Level 3 EV chargers work:

The Level 3 illustrative diagram above shows that Level 3 chargers operate on DC (direct current). This is crucial because most EV batteries store energy in DC form. With Level 1 and 2 charging, your car’s onboard charger converts AC to DC, adding an extra step to the process.

Level 3 chargers are built-in with offboard AC-DC converters (off-board AC-DC converters), allowing Level 3 chargers to perform this conversion themselves, delivering DC power directly to your battery, bypassing the electric vehicle onboard charger and accelerating the speed of EV charging.

Comparing Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 EV Charging.

This infographic compares three electric vehicle charging levels: Level 1, 2, and DC Fast Charging (DCFC).

What Is Level 1 EV Charging?

Level 1 charging uses a standard 120-volt AC outlet, similar to what you would find in your home. It’s the slowest charging option but requires no special equipment.

What Is Level 2 EV Charging?

Level 2 charging uses a 240-volt single-phase electrical supply, which can charge your car much faster than Level 1. These chargers are typically found in homes, businesses, and public charging stations.

Level 3 charging

Level 3 charging/DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations use a 480-volt three-phase power supply and require additional permitting due to the higher power involved. However, they can charge your car in minutes, making them ideal for long trips or quick top-ups.

Level 1 charging delivers a mere 1.4 kW, barely enough to keep your phone happy. Level 2 bumps it up to 3.3-19.2 kW, but Level 3 takes things to a new level (pun intended!) with outputs ranging from 50 kW to a mind-blowing 350 kW. That means adding 200 miles of range in just 15 minutes on some chargers!

FeatureLevel 1 (Slow & Steady)Level 2 (Home & Away)Level 3 (Fast Charge)
Charging Time6-22 hours (overnight)2-8 hours (faster top-up)30 minutes (quick boost)
Mileage Added per Hour3-5 miles20-60 miles100-300 miles
Power SourceStandard 120V AC outlet (like your home)208-240V AC outlet (common in homes & businesses)High-voltage 480V, three-phase AC
Power OutputLow (1.3 – 2.4 kW)Moderate (3 – 19.2 kW)High (50 kW – 400 kW)
Connector TypeJ1772 (common in North America)Varies (Mennekes, Tesla, etc.)DC Fast Charging (CCS, CHAdeMO, etc.)
AmpsLow (12-16 amps)Moderate (12-80 amps)High (<125 amps)
Charging LoadLow (1.4 – 1.9 kW)Moderate (typical 7-10 kW)High (typical 50-150 kW)
Ideal UseOvernight charging at homeHome, workplace, public charging stationsLong trips, quick top-ups on the go

Entities like SAE International and the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Partnership (NEVI) are actively involved in setting standards and ensuring the safety and compatibility of Level 1, 2, and 3 chargers.

Does DC Fast Charging Damage EV Batteries?

Due to the bypass of the electric vehicle onboard converter, high charging speeds, and high electricity requirements of Level 3 chargers, we have heard of concerns regarding the degradation of EV batteries, and unfortunately, the answer is:

Yes, Level 3 chargers can slightly impact the health of an electric vehicle (EV) battery over time. However, the average increase in battery degradation from DC fast charging is minimal, typically around 0.1% per charging session. This means you can utilize these chargers without worrying about occasional use or long trips.

Plus, advancements in battery technology are constantly improving, making them more resilient to faster charging. So, rest assured, you can enjoy the convenience of Level 3 charging without worrying about harming your EV’s battery.

Level 3 EV charging cost?

The expenses associated with Level 3 EV charging in California fluctuate based on factors such as the charging network, geographical location, and preferred payment method. This rapid charging option can charge your battery to nearly full capacity in as little as an hour, with costs ranging from $10 to $30 per session. The approximate cost per kilowatt-hour falls from $0.30 to $0.48.

The Future of Level 3 Charging

The future of EV charging infrastructure in the US hinges on the growth of energy production to meet surging demands. By 2050, national power production must double to align with projected rates of EV adoption.

However, challenges loom, including needing more energy while curbing harmful emissions, modernizing ageing infrastructure, and reducing power losses within the distribution network.

Microgrids offer a solution, decentralizing energy production and storage to support EV charging infrastructure at the local level.

Utilities play a crucial role in this transformation. Collaboration among utilities, businesses, and communities is essential to build and integrate additional microgrid systems into the EV charging infrastructure.

Government initiatives, such as the investment of $14.7 million in microgrids for underserved communities and allocations in the Inflation Reduction Act for clean energy and EV charging, further bolster this transition.

In terms of technology, advancements in EV charging hold promise:

  • Wireless or inductive charging could automate charging solutions, freeing EV drivers from traditional plug-ins.
An infographics image showing how Wireless EV Charging Works
  • High-speed charging enhances public charging convenience and supports evolving EV design standards.
  • Bidirectional charging allows EVs to become mobile power sources, especially within microgrids.
Bidirectional Charging
  • Dynamic charging explores smart road concepts to charge vehicles in motion.
  • AI-driven smart charging solutions promise user-friendly experiences and market expansion.
  • Portable charging addresses range anxiety with emergency chargers and mobile trailers.
  • Solar charging integration in parking lots demonstrates sustainable progress, poised to increase with microgrid adoption.
James Ndungu

About the Author: James Ndungu

James Ndungu, founder and editor-in-chief of Electric Vehicle Geek, brings over five years of hands-on experience in Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) selection, permitting, and installation. He specializes in assisting businesses and homeowners in the United States with a seamless transition to electric vehicles.

As a certified EV charger installer and holder of advanced certifications, including the EVITP (Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program), Diploma in Electric Vehicle Technology, and Diploma in Engineering Fundamentals of Electric Vehicles, I provide expert guidance and in-depth reviews on the latest EV charging equipment.

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