What Is a Level 2 Charger, and Should You Get One?

It’s five times faster than a Level 1 charger, and you can install one at home, unlike Level 3 chargers.
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Written by Kurt Woock
Lead Writer
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Level 2 charging refers to a hardware standard used by most electric vehicles. An electric vehicle, or EV, plugged into a Level 2 charger can add about 25 miles of range per hour, which is about five times faster than a Level 1 charger, and it’s the most powerful EV charger you can install at a residential location. More than 3 in 4 public chargers are Level 2 chargers. 

What is a Level 2 charger?

Level 2 chargers are the fastest available at-home charging method for electric vehicles. They’re able to fully charge most batteries overnight. 

Most EVs are compatible with three different levels of charging. The biggest difference among them is speed. Level 2 charging represents a middle ground between Level 1 and Level 3 charging:

  • It attaches to your car with the same connector as Level 1 charging, but it charges about five times more quickly, due to the more powerful connection on the other end of the charger: 240 volts to Level 1’s 120.

  • A Level 2 connector is a universal standard: Nearly every new EV can connect to the same Level 2 charger. The outlier is Tesla, which uses a proprietary connector. You can use an adaptor to charge a Tesla with a standard Level 2 connector. 

  • Level 2 chargers can be installed at residential locations, but they’re also popular public chargers: Nearly 100,000 Level 2 charging ports are available across the country at public locations.

  • Public chargers appear in a variety of places, including parking decks, retailers, downtowns and workplaces.

Other EV charging levels

Level 1 charging is the slowest, adding about 5 miles of range per hour. But it is highly flexible: Nearly every new EV comes with a Level 1 charger, and you can plug it directly into a standard electrical outlet. Charging at home is usually cheaper than charging at a public charger, so it’s also a budget-friendly option.

Level 3 charging is fast. You can add hundreds of miles in less than an hour. It is usually the most expensive option, however, and charger locations are concentrated along interstate highways or other large thoroughfares. These high-powered chargers also can’t be installed at residential locations. 

Installing a Level 2 charger at your home

Although the connection to your car is the same as with Level 1 charging, Level 2 charging taps into a more powerful 240-volt connection where it connects to your home's electrical system.

Before installing Level 2 hardware, you’ll need this type of connection available. If you don’t, be sure to check local building codes, which might list additional requirements. In most cases, you’ll need a professional electrician to install it. 

Because the Level 2 connector is nearly universal, you can shop around if you’re looking to install one. Here's where you can find them:

  • Some car manufacturers offer their own Level 2 chargers. 

  • Buy directly from a company that makes home chargers.

  • Compare options at electronics stores, home improvement stores and online marketplaces.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Between hardware and hiring an electrician, installing a Level 2 charger can cost a few thousand dollars. But you might end up paying less if you qualify for tax rebates or other government programs that seek to expand EV use. The Department of Energy keeps a database of state and federal incentives; search it to discover what’s available where you live.

Where to find Level 2 chargers on the road

If you want to charge away from your home, you have thousands of options:

  • Nationwide charging networks like Electrify America and ChargePoint have apps and maps with which you can quickly find nearby locations.

  • Search services like PlugShare, which compile locations from multiple charging networks.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy has an extensive map of charging locations throughout the country.

  • GoElectricDrive, a website maintained by the Electric Drive Transportation Association, has a website and an app that list locations of public chargers. 

Frequently asked questions

There’s a significant difference between a Level 2 charger and plugging in to a standard electrical outlet, also called Level 1 charging. In theory, Level 1 charging can cover the average daily drive of about 37 miles. But to stay charged, you’ll need to be plugged in constantly. Quick turnarounds and trips beyond the average could put you in a tight spot. You might end up paying more on public chargers to cover the charging gaps.

Installing a Level 2 charger usually comes with a cost, but state and federal tax incentives and manufacturer promotions can help diminish the impact. Some lenders even cover installation costs, which means you don’t need to have the cash upfront. In most cases, the long-term benefits can easily outweigh the upfront costs.

Level 2 chargers add about 25 miles of range per hour of charging. This means charging for eight hours will add about 200 miles of range — good enough to bring most EV batteries from about 20% to around fully charged. EVs with above-average ranges likely have batteries with higher capacities. They’ll add range at a rate similar to other EVs, but reaching a full charge will take longer.

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