Charging a Car Battery at Home: Charging Speeds Explained

February 23, 2023

AC/DC rocks hard, but despite having an album titled ‘High Voltage’, they have nothing to do with electricity or charging a car battery at home. Or maybe just a little.

There are two types of current: AC and DC

Science says there is alternating current and direct current.

Alternating current (AC) can be defined as electrical current that regularly changes its direction, i.e. alternates. We use alternating current in our everyday lives, homes and companies. Alternating current can be generated from renewable energy, such as windmills or hydroelectric plants. Alternating current can be easily transported over long distances, which is why almost all power grids in the world run on alternating current.

Direct current (DC) always runs in one direction and can be generated from renewable energy technologies, such as solar batteries. Direct current is mainly found in batteries and electronic devices. Batteries, laptops, cordless power tools and EV batteries store direct current. The chargers for these devices convert the alternating current they get from the power grid into direct current for the device’s battery.

AC or DC – both are fine for charging your EV

Let us finally get down to cars. EVs come with both AC and DC chargers. You can use either one to charge your EV.

The difference between AC and DC chargers (and their power) is not whether current is being converted. The question is where it is being converted.

It does not matter if you are using an AC or a DC station (a home charger or a public station with rapid charging) – your EV battery will only store DC energy.

AC charger – why so slow?

AC chargers are the most common (and generally the slowest) charger types. Without going into too much detail, the reason is that the conversion takes place in the on-board charger, which has limited capacity. In most cases, it reaches 11 kW or 22 kW.

As the on-board EV chargers have limited capacity, they charge slowly because they first have to convert AC into DC.

Chargers that have built-in options for converting AC into DC are still too expensive for domestic use. If you want to use just DC to charge your EV, you have to go to a public or private charging station.

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EU funding
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 190136402. This publication reflects only the author’s views and the European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.