Vehicle Technology & Motoring Explored


Once concerns around range anxiety have been addressed by manufacturers, which electric cars charge the fastest is the next hurdle for consumers.


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As more electric cars with attractive cruising ranges arrive in South Africa — and local consumers enjoy increased exposure to such vehicles, South Africans still have questions about electric vehicles (EVs), particularly when it comes to the speed of charging.

For instance, prospective buyers may ask: “Which electric cars charge the fastest?” Well, there are so many variables involved, that attempting to accurately answer such a question would be doing the reader a great disservice.

For example, no EV charges at a constant rate since the fuller the battery becomes, the slower it tends to charge (and this charge curve can vary significantly, not only between vehicles but also between instances of charging the same vehicle).

Battery size makes a huge difference here, too, as does the speed of the charging system being used. Even the weather can play a small role.

So, if you were hoping for a list of battery-powered vehicles ranked from fastest to slowest in terms of charging times, we’re sorry to disappoint you.

Instead, we’re going to look at which factors affect charging times most and why it’s virtually impossible to reliably and accurately organise available EVs into such a list.

Armed with this information, you will be able to better understand the facts and figures provided by manufacturers, and ultimately make an informed buying choice.


How fast do electric cars charge?

Just as fuel-tank size varies between assorted combustion-engined vehicles, different all-electric cars have different-sized battery packs, and this greatly impacts replenishment times. A 30kWh lithium-ion battery offering a modest range, for instance, would obviously reach maximum charge quicker than a more energy-dense pack, such as the 78kWh unit.

Even then, however, the situation is not quite so simple. You see, every electric vehicle’s on-board charger has a specific maximum acceptance rate (measured in kW).

This means electric cars with a relatively low peak charging capacity will be restricted to that speed even when plugged into the fastest charging station available. In addition, EVs constantly manage the level of power they draw from a charger, initially ramping up and then tapering off to prevent components from becoming too hot.


When it comes to charging an EV, battery size makes a huge difference, as does the speed of the charging system being used. Even the weather can play a small role.
Image: 173148951 / 123RF


Where to fast charge electric cars?

Of course, the rate of charge is also heavily influenced by the source of power.

Chargers generally fall into one of three groups: Level 1 chargers supply a low rate of alternating current (AC); Level 2 chargers also offer AC but are quite a bit faster; while Level 3 chargers supply direct current (DC) and are the fastest of all.

In South Africa, Type 2 connectors are the standard for AC charging, while Combined Charging System (CCS 2) connectors are used for DC charging.

So, plugging into a single-phase AC domestic socket (Level 1) results in the slowest charging speed, while upgrading to a home-installed wall-box system (Level 2) improves this considerably. Public DC charging stations (Level 3), meanwhile, deliver the most rapid rates. The charging time to a specific level for a given EV, therefore, could vary from well in excess of 10 hours to fewer than 30 minutes, all depending on the power source.

In simplified terms, the higher the battery capacity and the slower the charging hardware, the longer it will take to fill up that battery. However, it’s also worth considering that in real-world use, the typical owner tends to top up as and when needed rather than routinely charge their EV’s battery from entirely empty to completely full.

This means that during normal everyday use, EV charging times aren’t actually a major concern for most users (particularly if they have a wall-box unit installed at their house and charged overnight). They simply plug in when at home or at work and keep the battery topped up. Only on really long trips is there a need for rapid charging times.


Will electric cars charge faster in the future?

Virtually every mainstream automotive brand — as well as other companies in the broader battery manufacturing industry — is working on improving both battery and charging technology, which means we can expect even quicker charging in the future. The faster the industry evolves, the faster these times will fall.

Regardless of which EV you may end up owning, it’s important to note that your charging times can and will vary, depending on the range of factors outlined above. We hope you’ll be able to use this information to better understand what impacts the pace of battery replenishment and ultimately empower yourself to identify the electric car best suited to your needs.


Main Image: EVs with smaller batteries such as the Mini SE are usually quicker to charge. Image: Denis Droppa



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Article credit to Times LIVE Motoring.


Do you think EV battery charging speeds are a concern for consumers and a hurdle that is stopping them from buying an EV?


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