One of the biggest drawbacks to electric cars is ‘range anxiety,’ the worry created by a combination of limited range and long charging times.
More energy-dense batteries are the ultimate solution, but DC fast charging also helps to mitigate that fear. As the name suggests, DC fast charging stations can replenish an electric car’s battery pack at a much quicker rate than AC “Level 2” charging stations, which typically take between four and seven hours for a full charge.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks. Fast charging puts more stress on the battery, which is why most stations rapidly charge the battery part way (usually up to 80 percent) then slow down dramatically.
DC fast charging is also split among three competing standards, meaning your fast-charging car won’t be able to plug into every station. Non-standardised charging is one of the major hurdles facing the electric car industry.
CHAdeMO is preferred by the Asian manufacturers, the Combined Charging Standard (CCS, also known as SAE Combo) is supposed to be used by electric cars from the big US and German manufacturers, and Tesla Motors has gone its own way the Supercharger.
Sound confusing? Here’s a rundown of cars available with DC fast charging, the standards they use, and how long it takes to top them off.
Click on the image of each car to go to the Buyer’s Guide for that model
The much-discussed BMW i3’s battery can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in about 20 minutes. It uses the CCS standard, and fast-charging capability is a $700 option.
If that’s not enough to allay your fears, BMW will also sell you the i3 with an optional Range Extender, which we reviewed earlier this year.
The Spark EV was the first car sold with the Combined Charging Standard. A fast charge can bring its 18.4kWh lithium-ion pack to 80 percent capacity in about 20 minutes, while adding $750 to the sticker price.
Mitsubishi’s pint-sized plug-in uses the CHAdeMO standard, and the 16kWh battery pack can be charged to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes. DC fast charging capability is now standard on the refreshed 2014 model, although it was a cost option on older cars.
The LEAF’s 24kWh pack can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes using the CHAdeMO standard. The feature isn’t available on the base LEAF S, but is part of a $1,360 LED + Quick Charge package on the mid-range LEAF SV, and standard on the top-spec LEAF SL.
The Model S uses Tesla’s own Supercharger station, which the company says can impart a 50-percent charge to the massive battery pack in around 20 minutes. The feature is standard on the 85kWh Model S, and a $2,000 option on the 60kWh version.
Since Tesla itself operates the stations, owners don’t have to sign up with a third-party charging network. They’re also completely free to use and will stay that way.