What Is the Difference Between AC and DC Charging
When discussing electric vehicles or other electronics, the terms AC and DC frequently charge surfaces, making it essential to understand the fundamental distinctions between them.
AC and DC represent Alternating Current and Direct Current, each presenting unique characteristics and functionalities. Despite both methods of delivering electrical power, their applications, efficiency, and impact on electronic devices and electric vehicles significantly differ.
Through this analysis, we’ll delve into the nuances between AC and DC charging to provide a thorough understanding of their differences and respective advantages.
What is the AC EV charger?
An AC (Alternating Current) EV (Electric Vehicle) charger, also known as a Level 1 or Level 2 charger, is a device that utilizes household or commercial electrical currents to charge an electric vehicle.
It converts the AC from the grid into DC (Direct Current) inside the vehicle’s onboard charger, storing it in the battery. Here are some pros and cons of AC EV chargers:
- Infrastructure. AC charging points can efficiently utilize existing electricity infrastructure, making them more accessible and straightforward to install in residential or commercial settings.
- Cost. AC chargers are generally less expensive than DC chargers regarding the initial setup cost and ongoing maintenance expenses.
- Flexibility. They are well-suited for overnight and top-up charging scenarios due to their slower charging speed.
- Slower Charging Time. AC chargers usually offer slower charging speeds when compared to DC fast chargers, which can range anywhere from a few hours to an entire day, depending on the vehicle’s battery capacity and the power rating of the charger.
- Dependent on Onboard Charger. The vehicle’s onboard charger limits the charging rate of an AC charger. Therefore, even if the AC charger can deliver more power, the car may only sometimes be able to accept it.
I have another article on what is an AC EV charger; in this article, I describe it in detail.
What is the DC EV charger?
A DC (Direct Current) EV (Electric Vehicle) charger, often called a fast charger or Level 3 charger, is a charging system that delivers direct current straight to the vehicle’s battery.
Unlike AC chargers, which rely on the vehicle’s onboard charger to convert AC into DC, DC chargers bypass this step, resulting in significantly faster charging times. Let’s explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of DC EV chargers.
- Fast Charging Time. DC chargers provide a much faster charging speed compared to AC chargers. Depending on the charger’s power and the vehicle’s capability, they can recharge an EV’s battery to 80% in 20 to 30 minutes.
- Less Dependence on Onboard Charger. DC chargers bypass the vehicle’s onboard charger, delivering power directly to the battery. This allows them to maximize their charging rate without being constrained by the vehicle’s onboard charger’s limitations.
- Cost. DC chargers are more expensive to install and maintain than AC chargers due to their complex hardware and higher power demands.
- Infrastructure. The high-power requirements of DC chargers mean they often require specialized charging infrastructure, making them less common in residential settings.
- Battery Health. Frequent use of DC fast charging can lead to speedier battery degradation over time due to the heat generated in the charging process. But as long as it is appropriately used, the loss can be reduced. For how to do it, please see this article: Is DC fast charging wrong for your EV battery?
Click here to learn more about DC EV chargers.
AC EV charger VS. DC EV charger
AC and DC EV chargers serve the fundamental purpose of charging an electric vehicle but differ in how they deliver charge, the charging speed, cost, and infrastructure requirements. Here is a detailed comparison:
- Power Conversion. AC chargers convert the power from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) within the vehicle’s onboard charger. In contrast, DC chargers supply direct current directly to the vehicle’s battery, bypassing the need for onboard conversion.
- Cost and Infrastructure. AC chargers are generally less expensive and can be easily installed in home or commercial environments due to their compatibility with existing electrical infrastructure. DC chargers, however, are costlier to install and maintain and often require specialized infrastructure due to their higher power demands.
- Impact on Battery. Frequent use of DC fast charging can degrade the battery more quickly over time because of the heat generated during the rapid charging process.
- Dependence on Onboard Charger. AC charging rates depend on the capacity of the onboard charger in the vehicle. In contrast, DC charging does not rely on the onboard charger, and its Speed is usually limited by the battery’s ability to accept charge and the power rating of the charger.
- They are charging Speed. AC chargers typically provide slower charging speeds, ranging from a few hours to an entire day, depending on the vehicle’s battery capacity and the charger’s power rating.
On the other hand, DC chargers are often called “fast chargers” because they can charge an EV battery to around 80% in just 20 to 30 minutes.
Different usage scenarios
Indeed, let’s delve into some specific scenarios and uses to understand the best applications of AC and DC chargers.
- Home Charging. AC chargers are typically the best option for home charging, particularly overnight charging. As they utilize the existing alternating current in home electrical systems, their installation costs are relatively low. Since their charging duration is longer, they can charge your vehicle during off-peak hours when you aren’t using it, like overnight, which can also help balance the electrical grid load.
- Workplace Charging. At workplaces, AC chargers are also an ideal choice. Vehicles can slowly charge throughout the workday, ready for the commute home.
- Public Charging Stations. At public charging stations, especially highway service areas, DC fast chargers are more common. In these situations, drivers often want to charge their vehicles in the shortest time possible. DC chargers can charge a battery to 80% in around 20-30 minutes, which is extremely useful for people needing a quick recharge on their journey.
- Long-distance Travel. For long-distance trips, DC fast charging is usually the best option. In these cases, you might need to charge your electric vehicle quickly to continue your journey.
How can we help you?
Both ways have pros and cons, depending on your choice. This article can help you understand the difference between the two and make the right purchase decision. Contact our experts in time for an inquiry.
Services Piwin can provide include:
1. Free Consultation
2. Ultra-low DC and AC EV charger price
3. One-stop service
4. Technical Guidance
5. After-sales service
6. Perfect customized solution
F: Does DC charge faster than AC?
Q: Regarding electric vehicle charging, DC (direct current) charging is typically faster than AC (alternating current) charging.
F: Is Tesla AC or DC charging?
Q: Tesla electric vehicles can use both AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current) charging. Household outlets or Tesla Wall Connectors provide AC power converted to DC by the onboard charger. Tesla Superchargers provide DC power for faster charging. Compatibility with charging infrastructure can vary by Tesla model, and adapters may sometimes be needed.
F: Can I have a DC EV charger installed at home?
Q: Yes, it is possible to install a DC fast charger, often called a Level 3 charger, at home.
However, several considerations, such as infrastructure requirements, cost, charge rate, and battery health, may make it less feasible for most residential situations. DC fast chargers are most commonly installed in commercial or public settings with a higher demand for quick charging.
Most EV owners charge at home using Level 2 chargers, which offer a good balance between charging Speed and cost and are typically more than sufficient for overnight charging.