20 December 2022

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations | What do you need to know when buying one?

Going electric is exciting and a lot of fun. You’re entering the world of clean mobility. Electric vehicles (EVs) on European roads are expected to grow from less than 5 million today to 130 million in 2035, so hop in! Finding the right charging station is just as important as the EV itself. Here are 5 things to consider when buying a charging station. As a market leader and specialist in the EV business since 2008, Alfen will guide you in your first steps in the world of EVs.

1. AC and DC: what are the differences between these 2 types of EV Charging Stations?

There are 2 type of EV charging stations, which offer different types of current flow in the circuit: Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC). Chargers are one or the other but never both. With the electricity grid as the source, the energy is always delivered as AC, and the EV converts AC to DC for its battery.

AC charging stations

Most charging stations are AC. Generally, you will find them in parking lots, at offices, on the streets, at houses and at other residential and semi-public places where people stay for longer periods of time. AC charging services are much cheaper but require more time. You’ll experience that in most cases your  EV is fully charged. You wake up – fully charged. You leave the office – fully charged.

AC charging stations provide up to 11kW or 22kW of power and usually take 3 to 6 hours to fully charge an EV. They can be wall-mounted, pole-mounted or hang from the ceiling – whatever you find convenient. In this blog, we’ll continue to explore AC Charging.

DC charging stations

A DC charger converts the AC energy for the EV. The commercial services offered by DC chargers are often (much) more expensive, but you can charge your EV faster. DC chargers are often located at transit locations, where people can’t or won’t stay for a long time such as along the highway, as well as at shops, industrial sites and car dealers.

Nowadays, DC stations can provide up to 350kW of power and fully charge an EV in about 15 minutes. EV drivers typically use DC chargers just enough to get to their next destination to reduce waiting time and costs.

2. What’s the difference between single-phase charging and three-phase charging?

When buying an EV and a charging station, it’s important to know some basics about single-phase charging and three-phase charging.

Power flows through conductors, and more conductors mean faster chargers. Depending on where you live, houses and businesses may be equipped with either a single phase installation, having one conductor and three phases means three conductors: 3-phase charging is three times faster than single phase charging. There are no 2-phase connections in Europe.

You can recognise how many phases an EV uses by the amount of kW it can charge - one phase vehicles charge up to 7.4 kW and 3-phase vehicles start at 11 kW.

If you want to charge as fast as possible, all devices – from your home installation and the charging station to the charge cable and the EV – need to support 3-phase charging. If one of the devices is single phase, your EV will charge slower.

3. What are the three classifications or segments in EV Charging infrastructure?

  • Private charging –Stations are installed at people’s homes or apartments; they are not publicly available.

    Alfen offers the Eve Single S-line and the Eve Single Pro-line charging stations.
  • Semi-public charging – Privately owned chargers are dedicated to a set group of people that visit or reside at a place. You will find them in charging plazas in parking areas, garages and offices. Alfen offers the single socket Eve Single Pro-line, the double socket Eve Double Pro-line and the double socket Twin stations.
  • Public charging – Stations are typically installed on streets or publicly available car parks such as shopping centres, restaurants, entertainment parks and sports stadiums. You will need a public charge card suitable for roaming to use public charge point services.

    Alfen offers the Twin and the Eve Double PG-line charging stations.

4. There’s ‘Smart’ Charging and ‘Dumb’ Charging – what does it mean?

All charging stations are designed to charge as fast as possible, maximising the power connection. The challenge: the power connection does not have the maximum capacity available at all times, and the charging station may cause a blackout. This occurs because an EV can consume as much energy as an entire household.

‘Dumb’ charging stations basically act as a simple socket which means you plug in the EV, and it simply provides the maximum amount of electricity. These chargers are generally the most inexpensive.

‘Smart charging’ adds technology to the device and might connect it to the internet. The smarter the charging stations, the more factors it takes into account. It dynamically calculates charging speed at any given time, allowing you to charge safely and as fast as possible. With smart charging, many interesting features become possible.

5. What features does smart charging offer?

  • You can connect a smart charging station to an app to manage energy cost and get data insights like current charging speed. It allows you to decide when to charge, shares current charging rates and availability, and offers a map with charging stations locations.
  • A balance between the power demand from the EV and the rest of your household.
  • It communicates with a large selection of operators or service providers who can reimburse charging costs with your employer.
  • Communications with each other when they operate in a charging plaza to know your EV’s energy needs and the others in the same network.
  • You can use the energy from your solar panels to charge your car battery. More and more charging stations support this green feature.
  • Your vehicle battery can be used for more than just powering the EV. A new innovation in the market is using the EV’s battery as a ‘power bank’: a battery that can store and give back electricity. An example of this technology is called V2H or Vehicle To Home. It means you can use the EV’s battery to power devices in your house instead of using electricity from the grid. An interesting feature for owners of solar panels, who can charge the battery during the day with solar energy, and by night power devices in the house with it. You become less dependent from prices on the energy market and supply and demand of the grid.

Check here all our EV Charging Stations.

Read more

> Read an article about the Top 7 Myths about EVs

> Discover 9 tips to prolong your EV battery and charging station’s life

> Read here The ultimate checklist for drivers wanting to switch to EV