Top 5 fastest charging electric cars (May ’14)

Long charging times are one of the most significant drawbacks of electric cars, but which cars get you back on the road fastest?

These are the top five fastest charging electric cars on sale, although they come with a few caveats.

Many manufacturers recommend charging from a 240-volt source (known as Level 2 – see our charging guide), rather than a standard 110-volt household outlet. This is how the faster charging times quoted by carmakers are achieved.

However, that means installing a home charging station (technically known as EVSE – Electric Vehicle Service Equipment) which, while an added cost (usually around $800), does reduce charging times significantly, meaning your electric car doesn’t need to be parked all night to get a full recharge.

We’ve also chosen to focus on home charging rather than public charging, and all charging times assume a fully-depleted battery.

Click on the image of each car to go to the Buyer’s Guide for that model


Tesla Model S (60kWh) – 3.5 hours

Despite having a battery pack that’s more than twice the size of a Nissan LEAF’s, the Tesla Model S appears to have the fastest plug in the West. That’s if you do the math properly, at least.

Tesla doesn’t quote charging times, only saying that its 20kW “dual charger” can provide 58 miles of range per hour when connected to a Level 2 source. Given the 60kWh Model S’ EPA-rated range of 208 miles, that works out to about 3.5 hours.

The standard 10kW Mobile Connector can only provide 31 miles of range per hour, equating to a charging time of around seven hours. Tesla does not recommend charging from a standard 110-volt outlet, but given the size of the Model S’ battery pack this would probably be impractical on a daily basis anyway.


BMW i3 – 3.5 hours

BMW’s radical new electric city car is tied with the Model S. It takes 3.5 hours to recharge its 22kWh lithium-ion battery pack from a Level 2 source, using its onboard 7.4kW charger. Without a home-charging station, a full recharge takes around 20 hours, making this a no-brainer.

The 2014 BMW i3 has an EPA-rated range of 81 miles, although an optional gasoline range extender can roughly double that.


Ford Focus Electric – 4 hours

The converted Focus Electric takes about four hours to recharge using a home charging station, according to Ford, and 20 hours without one. Its 23kWh lithium-ion battery pack is fed through a 6.6kWh onboard charger.

When the Focus Electric debuted as a 2012 model, its 6.6kW charger outclassed the competition. Other manufacturers have now caught up, however, and some cars also exceed the Focus’ 76-mile range.


Fiat 500e – 4 hours

According to Fiat, the 500e can fully recharge from a Level 2 source in four hours, or around 24 hours from a standard household outlet. Fiat charges $999 for the home charging station, or $1,999 including installation.

Sold only in California, the 500e features a 6.6kW onboard charger and 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, with an impressive EPA-rated 87 miles of range.


Nissan LEAF – 5 hours

Like the Fiat, the LEAF also has a 24kWh battery pack and 6.6kW onboard charger. However, Nissan lists the LEAF’s charging time as slightly longer, at five hours, and without a Level 2 station charging takes 21 hours. Like Fiat, Nissan charge $999 for its home charging station, or $1,999 with installation.

It should also be noted that the 6.6kW charger is only standard on the LEAF SV and SL, and an optional extra on the base LEAF S. That model’s standard 3.6kW charger takes eight hours to do its job with a Level 2 source; the other charging time is unchanged.