Charging EV: Know This Before You Connect, Charge, Go!

In the first episode on the Electric Vehicle (EV) article series, we provided an overview of what an EV is and its mechanics. As of now, several countries are already planning to ban internal combustion vehicles by as early as 2026. At the same time, falling battery costs means electric vehicles will be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025. This positive trend may also influence its sales here in Malaysia, too. However, one aspect that potential owners are still wary of is the lack of charging infrastructure. As of now, public charging facilities are still scarce in Malaysia. Because of this, some are concerned that their battery will run out of power before arriving at the destination or the next charging station. To mitigate this concern, we will cover the basic knowledge that one needs to know about charging an electric vehicle.

Charging your EV 101
Charging an EV is not as simple as plugging the charger into the vehicle’s socket. You need to understand what type of charger that your EV can accept, and the charging speed of the charging station.
Image by Chuttersnap, courtesy of Unsplash

Lithium: The Metal That Energises Your EV

Unlike conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE), electric cars derive energy from the battery pack to power the electric motor. The battery pack is the part of the car that needs recharging, and its efficiency helps determine the overall driving range of the vehicle. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are currently the standard battery used for modern EVs. It packs a high amount of energy, between 100 to 265 watt-hour per kilogram (Wh/kg). By comparison, nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) only stores about 70 to 100 Wh/kg. As a result, EVs utilising Li-ion batteries have a longer driving range.

At the same time, when not connected to an external load, Li-ion batteries lose only 2-3% of their capacity per month. This loss is known as ‘self-discharge‘. Over an extended period of time, a battery with a high self-discharge rate would hold a lesser electrical charge, requiring charging even when not in use. Clearly, this is not an issue with Li-ion cells.

To properly charge the Li-ion batteries, there are two aspects that you need to understand: charging speed and cable connectors.

First Lesson In EV Charging: Charging Speed

Charging an electric vehicle takes place through the onboard charger. The onboard charger refills the battery pack electric storage when connected to a charging station. However, not all charging stations (also known as electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE) provide equal service. Different levels of EVSE provide different charging speeds. Knowing the types of EVSE would help you to gauge the amount of time needed to fully charge the batteries.

Charging station speed levels fall into three categories:

1. Level 1 Charging

All EVs come with a standard portable charging cord for Level 1 chargers. On one end is a standard household plug, while the other end is a proprietary connector that plugs into the vehicle.

Level 1 Charger for Tesla Model S
Different types of outlet plugs are used worldwide. Some, like the one on a Tesla Model S charger, uses a 3-pin plug, whilst others use a 2-pin plug.
Image by Wahabjan123, courtesy of Favpng

Level 1 chargers are the least expensive, but they also take the longest time to charge the battery. It uses the same voltage you would use to power your household electrical appliances, from a floor lamp to a phone charger. In Malaysia, household sockets generally provide low-level currents around 13 amps (A), making the output power to be only around 3 kilowatts (kW). Hence, it may take up to 13 hours to fully charge a 40kWh battery, which is the battery capacity of a Nissan Leaf. This explains why Level 1 chargers are only practical for overnight charging, but not for topping up (or so-called “opportunity charging”) when travelling long distances.

2. Level 2 Charging

Commercial charging stations typically provide Level 2 chargers. This type of charger cannot be plugged into a standard wall outlet. Instead, you would need a professional electrician to install it for you. It comes with an attached cord that plugs directly into the connector on your EV. 

Level 2 charger provides a higher nominal voltage and output intensity. Depending on the brand and model, you may get a charger with output intensity as high as 32A. As a result, you get a higher output power of approximately 7kW that significantly reduces the time to charge your battery. At this capacity, it will take around five hours to fully charge the same 40kWh battery in the Nissan Leaf.

Commercial charging stations
Although commercially available, Level 2 charging stations are scarce in Malaysia. However, it is a common sight in Europe.
Image by Henry Perks, courtesy of Unsplash

Although it comes with high installation costs, some EV owners can opt to install Level 2 chargers in their homes. Considering its speed of charging, owners who drive their EV regularly for long distances will find that it is worth the investment.

3. Level 3 Charging

Also known as DC Fast Chargers (DCFC), this type of charger offers the fastest charging speed in the market. Unlike Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, DCFC does not use the onboard charger to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC), which naturally incurs energy loss. Instead, it supplies DC directly to the battery.

At the same time, the nominal voltage and output intensity can go as high as 400V and 125A, which makes the power output to be 50kW. A DCFC of this power output will take around 48 minutes fully charge the battery of a Nissan Leaf.

Fast charging Li-ion batteries are very different from NiMH batteries. When you start charging a battery with a low state of charge (SoC), the current charge is kept constant. As the SoC of the battery increases, the voltage will follow suit, resulting in fast charging speed.

When it reaches saturation, the charging voltage will remain constant while the charging current gradually decreases. The charger will switch to this setting to avoid overheating and to protect the battery, at the expense of charging speed. This explains why the charging speed significantly drops after the SoC reaches 80% and why battery manufacturers will not provide an estimated time for a full charge.

However, Level 3 chargers require a lot of power from the grid. It is also expensive to install and needs high-powered equipment to maintain. For these reasons, you can only find it in commercial and industrial applications. 

As a side note, Tesla Motors has developed its own Level 3 charger, known as the “Tesla Supercharger”. It claims to be the world’s fastest Level 3 charger, with a power output of up to 150 kW. However, it caters only to Tesla models and not to other manufacturers’.

Second Lesson In EV Charging: Cable Connectors

Similar to phone charging cables, EV charging cables come with two connectors, one on each end. One that plugs into the vehicle socket and the other into the charging point itself. Different models carry different types of sockets. For that reason, you need to identify the type of cable connectors that fits into your vehicle’s socket.

1. Type 1 Connector

The Type 1 connector is a single-phase plug with a five-pin design. Two pins determine the maximum current available to the vehicle and preventing the car from moving while connected. The three remaining pins act as AC lines, two for charging and one for grounding. This type of connector allows for charging power levels up to 7.4kW, thus suitable for Level 1 and Level 2 charging.

Type 1 connector
A standard Type 1 connector is SAE J1772, also known as J Plug. It is typically used by EV manufacturers from Japan, but not quite common in Europe.
Image by Michael Hicks, courtesy of Flickr

2. Type 2 Connector

By far, most new EV models use this type of plug and it is compatible with most commercial charging stations. A Type 2 connector comes with a seven-pin design. The first five pins carry the same function as the pins of a Type 1 connector. The addition of two extra pins allows it to support three-phase charging, which allows charging levels up to 22kW. As such, you can use a Type 2 connector for Level 1 and Level 2 charging.

Type 2 socket on a BMW i3, which can be connected to a Level 2 charger
Type 2 connector is also called the “Mennekes” connector, named after the German manufacturer that invented the design. The picture above shows the socket on a BMW i3, where the connector is plugged into during charging.
Image by Raphael Desrosiers, courtesy of Creative Commons

3. Combined Charging System (CCS) Connectors

The CCS plug is an enhanced version of the Type 2 connector. On top of the original seven pins, it comes with an additional two pins for quick charging. It supports AC and DC charging, which allows for charging power levels up to 50kW of DC, making it suitable for Level 3 charging.

CCS is slowly becoming popular, as both Asian and European EV manufacturers are incorporating CCS sockets on their latest models.

4. CHAdeMO Connectors

Originally developed in Japan, this connector is now a global industry standard for Level 3 charging. It is adopted by a diverse membership of EV manufacturers and charger builders.

CHAdeMO connector for DCFC rapid charging
CHAdeMO comes from the Japanese phrase “O cha demo ikaga desuka?” which translates to “How about a cup of tea?”. The phrase refers to the short time it takes to charge a vehicle. The name CHAdeMo itself is an abbreviation of “CHArge de MOve”, equivalent to “charge and go”, implying to its fast charging speed.
Image by Nick Birse, courtesy of Creative Commons

The latest CHAdeMO 2.0 connector offers DC fast charging for levels up to 400kW. On top of that, it can also function as a bi-directional charger. This means that it lets electricity flow from the charger to your car, or from your car to an external body.

Acceptance Of Electric Vehicles In Malaysia

Globally, the sale of electric vehicles in 2019 accounts for 2.1 million units. Although EVs still consist of only 5.6 million units worldwide, the popularity of non-ICE vehicles is steadily increasing.

Unfortunately, as of March 2019, only 5,403 units were registered in Malaysia. Other than the price, the lack of charging facilities is another factor that hampers the growth of Malaysia’s EV market. As of 2020, there are 326 charging stations across Malaysia. However, 21% of it is located in Kuala Lumpur, while 38% is mostly in the urban areas in Selangor. Thus, keen buyers who normally drive interstate may worry that their car will run out of electricity before they reach the next charging point. As a result, they would opt for the more practical, but non-environmentally friendly ICE cars instead.

EV-Connection: Bringing More Charging Stations To You

Installing an EV charger may seem easy, but in reality, you need to consider several important factors. Safety, of course, would be the top priority. The charger transmits high flow of electricity from your house/building to your vehicle. If the wiring is not properly done, you may be dangerously exposed to live wires which can pose an electrical fire risk, or worse – electrocution! You would also need to assess if your premises is able to accommodate the extra load of the EV charger. Else, you would need to install a new circuit breaker panel.

Hiring a certified and experienced party to do the installation may be more expensive in the short term. However, they can make sure that it is properly and safely installed. If you are thinking to install one at home or office, you can reach out to EV Connection Sdn Bhd for more information. They are in the EV charger installation business since 2016. Not only they are able to assess the suitability of your premises prior to installation, but they would also be able to advise a suitable charger that meets your need and budget.

Installing Level 2 chargers at Robert Bosch (M), Penang and the National Palace, KL.
EV Connection Sdn Bhd has been actively installing Level 2 chargers across Malaysia. Shown above are the completed installations at the Robert Bosch (M) factory, Penang (left) and the National Palace, Kuala Lumpur (right).
Image courtesy of EV Connection

Visit their website to learn more about the services that they provide. You can also call their sales representative at +6017 453 7750, or call their :-

Malaysia Sales Office: +603 7887 2912

Singapore Sales Office: +65 9061 0644

Is Malaysia Ready for EV?

Due to the limitations explained above, Malaysians, in general, may not be ready yet to embrace EV and ditch conventional ICE vehicles. As petroleum is the nation’s main source of income, the government may not be too enthusiastic to propel the adoption of EV too soon.

As of February 2020, there is no mention of incentives or tax breaks for electrified vehicles. At the same time, even though there is an ongoing initiative to increase the number of public charging stations, the move incurs high installation costs. Some may cry foul that such action would only benefit the EV owners, who mostly fall under the high-income group.

At the end of the day, the prospect of having a greener future may not be sufficient to entice the public to fully embrace the electric lifestyle. There are still important issues that need to be addressed. To help us understand what is the best way to move forward, Malaysia should learn from other countries where owning an electric vehicle and utilising green energy is the norm.

Muhammad REZA

About Muhammad REZA

An avid reader, who enjoys history and personal development. Takes on everyday as a new learning experience. Dreams of opening a sanctuary for strays one day... until life threw him a curveball... fatherhood. Now all leisure is channelled to raising a happy and well learned princess.

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