The unassuming, small, and slow Level 1 charging station has been mistreated. It doesn’t add any glitz or glamour to EV charging like high-powered Superchargers have. It can’t put back hundreds of miles on your vehicle overnight like a Level 2 can either, but that doesn’t mean Level 1 charging stations are useless. In fact, these oft-forgotten stations are the backbone of the electric vehicle industry and could be the key to unlocking EV ownership for everyone.
There is no way to get around this, charging via a 120-volt outlet is, unfortunately, slow. So slow that many in the charging industry have completely bypassed these stations in favor of the higher-powered Level 2 or Level 3 stations. At first glance, why wouldn’t they? When you first hear that a Level 1 charging station can add back a whopping three to five miles per hour charged back on your vehicle, the initial thought is that it's not enough. However, even though it's slow it's actually a viable charging station for 99% of your driving needs.
What's often overlooked are two very simple facts:
It’s because these two very simple truths that make Level 1 charging work. While you’re not going to be coming in charging quickly then running back out on the road using a 120-volt outlet, odds are good that you won’t actually need to. Once you’re done using the vehicle for the day you simply plug it in and charge it overnight when you’re sleeping much in the same way you do your phone. Over eight to ten hours on a Level 1 station will add back between 24 to 50 miles of range, depending on the vehicle. What you’ll immediately notice is that this more or less aligns perfectly with the average daily commute, meaning owning an EV with an at-home Level 1 charging station will absolutely cover your daily needs.
Yes, you’ll still need to leverage a public network occasionally, perhaps once or twice a month for road trips or an extra top-up, but your primary charging source will be conveniently located where you need it most, at home.
Yet another often overlooked aspect of Level 1 charging is cost. The stations themselves typically cost at least half what a Level 2 will but also are far cheaper to install as well. Where many Level 2 chargers need to use more expensive 6-gauge wire, which can cost upwards of $1.20/ft. Level 1 stations use 12 or 10-gauge wire that typically only costs $0.12/ft. This alone make installs nearly 10 times less expensive. If you’re installing en masse say in an apartment parking garage, these savings add up quickly.
Level 1 charging also brings with it the flexibility of lower power consumption, meaning more chargers can be installed without the need for expensive infrastructure upgrades. This is an incredibly important feature of Level 1 charging as it allows many disadvantaged communities access to EV charging that they would not normally get. By giving these communities greater access to charging they now have a much better reason to look at buying an EV in the future. While it's fun to see all the new top-of-the-line EVs roll out, what is truly going to drive the industry forward is the vehicle for everyday people that fit into any budget and that means giving access to charging to everyone not just those living in glass towers.
Lastly, Level 1 charging stations are the only true universal charging option. Literally, every EV, from Teslas to golf carts can charge on a Level 1 station. This is important because the best-selling EV line to date are e-bikes. In fact, there are millions of smaller EVs that can only charge via Level 1, these include e-bikes, e-scooters, golf carts, skateboards, hoverboards, and unicycles (no joke these exist).
There is a litany of EVs out there and while many of the smaller ones can be charged indoors it doesn't hurt to have Level 1 stations present in a garage or bike locker to aid in charging some of these as they are yet another important link in ensuring EVs go mainstream. You don’t need to spend $50k to truly enjoy an EV, there are plenty of these smaller vehicles that will cover a daily commute and not break the bank.
Electric vehicles have come a long way since they hit the mainstream with the Model S, but our charging infrastructure still has a long way to go to meet the growing demand and Level 1 stations should play a major role in helping us get there.