February 23, 2024

Are EV Charging Stations Universal?

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9 Min. Read

This article was originally published September 15, 2022 and was updated March 13, 2024

Upgrading a multifamily or commercial property with EV chargers will appeal to EV owners, a population that is rapidly expanding as more consumers look to make sustainable and cost-effective purchasing decisions, new electric vehicle models enter the market, and financial incentives for EVs continue to drive down the cost of buying electric.

Before installing EV chargers on your property, you should recognize that there are 3 different types, or levels, of EV charging stations available before diving into a project of this nature and scale. Compatibility with existing vehicles is a key consideration to ensure your project creates value for as many EV owners as possible, but it’s also important to plan ahead for future EV charging needs.

In this article, we will explore the different types of EV chargers, and uncover whether they are universal to all EVs. With a focus on charging speed and evolving connector standards, this resource will help you make an informed decision when selecting the type of EV charger to install at your commercial or multifamily property.

Are EV Charging Stations Universal?

The answer depends on the level of the charging station.

There are three levels of charging stations available for EVs: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. The first two types of charging stations vary in speed and capacity and use universal connectors, but there is more diversity when it comes to Level 3 EV charging.

Comparing the installation cost, speed of charging, and compatibility of the options available to you is one of the first steps you should take when planning to upgrade a property with EV chargers, as these can vary greatly between the different charging levels.

Level 1 EV Charging Stations

Level 1 charging stations are universal concerning connectors because Level 1 charging uses a standard 120V wall outlet. EV owners can connect their cars to a standard outlet via a J-1772 or “J-plug”, shown below.

Level 1 EV charging is relatively simple, with low to no installation costs. You can bypass installing an EV charging station and plug a vehicle directly into a wall outlet with this type of EV charger, however, this level of EV charging is not ideal for commercial or multifamily EV charging needs and even most EV drivers find this slow charger inadequate for their daily driving needs.

While Level 1 EV charging is a low-cost installation option, the downside of Level 1 EV charging is its slow charging speed. It can take 40-50 hours or more to fully charge an EV with Level 1 EV charging, which doesn’t make it a realistic option for meeting EV drivers’ daily needs—especially for commercial and multifamily applications.

Level 2 EV Charging Stations

Generally speaking, Level 2 EV charging stations are universal for electric vehicles, although charging speeds vary and EV drivers may need an adapter depending on their EV model and the connector. Most Level 2 EV charging stations will offer multiple connectors designed to meet the needs of various EV models

With almost 63.000 public EV charging stations already available in the U.S., Level 2 EV charging stations are the most popular type of EV charging, with the number of Level 2 EV charging stations in residential, public, multifamily, and commercial settings expected to grow rapidly in the future.

A Level 2 EV charger uses a dedicated 240V AC circuit. The power flows through a charging station that regulates the load to protect the EV’s battery.

Installation costs for Level 2 EV charging stations include having a licensed electrician install a dedicated 240V circuit for each EV charger, which may require electric panel expansion at an additional cost depending on the existing infrastructure and remaining electrical panel capacity. You will also need to install a commercial-grade NEMA 14-50 outlet for the 240V service or have the EV charging station hardwired, which is more often recommended for commercial EV charging stations.

While a majority of EVs sold in the U.S. have typically used the J1772 plug for charging, the U.S. charging standard is making significant changes with many automakers announcing the switch to the North American Charging Standard (NACS) for future EV models, and EV charging stations will need to offer both connectors or be equipped with adapters to meet the charging needs of all electric vehicles.

Level 2 EV charging offers a great compromise between price and performance, making this option the most realistic charging method for commercial and multifamily projects, as well as private homes.

Installation costs will vary depending on the complexity of your commercial Level 2 EV charger installation, the scope of work required, and any additional electrical work needed to support your EV charging stations so a licensed electrician can explore different options with you to determine the best options available that meet your property needs and budget.

A commercial Level 2 EV charging station will typically cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000+ depending on the specifications, features, and other manufacturing details, and you will also need to ensure your electrician applies for the correct permits for your project.

Keep in mind that many states and utilities offer cost incentives to acquire and install EV charging stations. On the federal level, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers substantial tax credits of 30%, up to $100,000 for qualifying businesses that install commercial EV charging stations on their property.

A Level 2 EV charger can charge a battery in 4 to 10 hours, depending on the vehicle model and the size or amperage of the charger. Charging should take under two hours for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), a type of vehicle that is also becoming more popular than traditional gas-powered vehicles, with solid sales growth in 2023.

Level 2 EV charging is a versatile solution that gives EV owners access to overnight charging as well as shorter charging sessions to top off their battery, all at a reasonable cost. They also make sense to install at commercial offices for employees to charge while they work. Overnight charging at home is also desirable and convenient for fleet vehicle drivers.

For multifamily and commercial properties, Level 2 EV charging is a wonderful solution for EV drivers who will be parked at the property for several hours. As Level 2 EV charging stations are generally universal and offer adaptations to ensure that all EV drivers can charge regardless of their EV model, they make a great option to meet the needs of employees, customers, tenants, and residents who will need to charge at your property.

Level 3 EV Charging Stations

Level 3 EV charging has traditionally not been a universal EV charging option for all EV models, but recent announcements by automakers are changing the charging standards and ensuring equitable EV charging access for all EV drivers.

There are currently three standards for Level 3 connectors (plugs) in use in the United States:

  • CHAdeMO, which was created by a company outside the Society Of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the organization that typically sets standards for the U.S. automotive industry, among other things.
  • SAE “Combo”, which was created by the SAE, this charging connector combines a J1772 “J Plug” with a DC connector.
  • North American Charging Standard (NACS), traditionally used by Tesla, this charging connector exclusively works with Tesla Level 2 and Level 3 EV Charging Stations and requires an adapter for other chargers.

In June 2023, SAE announced the Tesla connector as a new national standard, calling it the J3400 NACS Electric Vehicle Standard. Since that major announcement, a majority of U.S. carmakers have agreed to adopt this charging standard for their 2025 lineup. As a result of this major announcement and shift in the charging standard of the U.S., more EV models in the future will be able to universally use the same charging stations and it is likely that charging stations will also shift to support the J3400 NACS.

Meanwhile, EVs with other connectors will be able to use adapters at Tesla stations. As Tesla is currently the predominant EV in the U.S. and currently offers public EV charging stations across the country, this will help expand EV charging access for EV drivers who charge away from home.

All of this is good news for EV owners as they look for consistent and convenient charging options, and means that multifamily and commercial properties can install EV charging stations with the confidence that they will meet charging needs both now and in the future. It will also help the federal initiative to further encourage EV adoption and support EV charger installation with an investment of $7.5 billion to build an effective, extensive network of charging stations along national highways.

Level 3 EV charging, also known as DC Fast Charging (DCFC), delivers impressive current ratings of up to 300A and 480V. Depending on the EV model, drivers can fully charge their battery in 30 minutes to an hour with Level 3 EV charging. Additionally, while DC fast charging is a quick and convenient option, it should not be used as a regular daily source of charging since it can lead to battery deterioration over time. This level of EV charger is also not suitable for some PHEV models, which are not designed to utilize such a high amount of electricity.

With high voltages and dangerous levels of direct current energy, installing a Level 3 EV charging station requires utility involvement and a commercial electrical contractor with experience and additional training in DCFC EV charger installation.

Installing a Level 3 EV charger is the most expensive option, with installation depending on the property needs but generally ranging from $4,000 to $50,000+ and the DCFC hardware alone costing $10,000 to $40,000+. These high-powered EV chargers are not suitable for home use and the best application is commercial sites like shopping centers, EV fleet depots, or multifamily communities with a community charging amenity.

Which EV Charging Stations Should Multifamily and Commercial Properties Install?

Are EV charging stations universal? As of right now, the answer depends on the EV charging station, but the future is changing. The key obstacle for EV charging stations has been the absence of a universal standard for connectors for Level 3 DCFC, most commonly used in public charging stations.

Tesla’s recent standardization of connectors and SAE’s adoption of it as the J3400 NACS Electric Vehicle Standard cleared a major hurdle, and with many major automobile manufacturers agreeing to install this new standard by the 2025 model year, EV charging stations will soon require fewer adapters and be universal for all new EV models.

With different charging options and levels available and a deeper understanding of EV chargers and EV model compatibility, finding a qualified EV charger installer is crucial to safely providing EV charging at your property regardless of the level of EV charger you are wanting to install.

Qmerit Can Help with Your EV Charging Project

As the largest and most experienced EV charger installation network in North America, Qmerit’s extensive network of qualified electrical contractors has the experience and knowledge to simplify your choice of charging station and installer. Our dedicated team of professionals can take the heavy lifting out of selecting your EV chargers and budgeting your projects and will help you manage the EV transition from start to finish to mitigate risks all along the way and ensure your EV charger installation is seamless, safe, efficient, and completed on time.

Financial incentives at the state, utility, and federal levels are evolving all the time. With years of experience navigating the available incentives and evolving requirements for qualifications, we have the expertise to help you receive every benefit you are entitled to, without the stress.

With over 269,000 EV charging stations installed, along with over 18,500 battery storage systems, over 53,000 solar panel systems integrations, and more than 86,700 electrical panel upgrades, Qmerit leads North America in electrification and our team is here to help you navigate all your energy transition needs.

Learn more about our turnkey solutions for Commercial EV Charging or give us a call at (888) 272-0090 to see why we’re North America’s most trusted EV charger installer.

Author: Tom Bowen Tom Bowen President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification