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DC Fast: The Secret to a Fast Charge or a Rare Indulgence?

Posted 06/04/2020

More and more drivers are purchasing and driving EVs, but one of the biggest sticking points for potential EVs buyers is how long it takes to charge EVs. Most EV drivers charge at home overnight, and there are many places to catch a charge such as work garages, grocery stores, and restaurants, though to Americans used to waiting 5 minutes to fuel up a tank of gas, it seems like a long time to wait.

What’s the Difference Between Chargers?

Level 1 chargers are intended for home use and overnight charging, taking as long as a day (or more) to charge an EV fully. They are inexpensive, widely available (such as from Blink and Amazon), and can easily be installed in a home garage on your own. Level 1 chargers charge at around 4 miles per hour. Level 2 chargers are much faster, more expensive to install, and charge a car at a rate of about 25 miles per hour. They’re the choice of most businesses, multifamily dwellings, parking lots, and public garages. Blink IQ 200 Level 2 chargers are state of the art, future-proof, and can charge some cars up to 60 miles of range per hour with 80 amps.  DC Fast Chargers are more rare because they’re quite expensive. They are sometimes considered Level 3 chargers, though some Tesla chargers also use that name. DCFC uses DC power to charge a car over 80% in half an hour. They also cost about twice as much as a Level 2 charger to use. Some 5-star hotels and restaurants provide DCFC as an amenity. DC Fast Chargers seem like a dream come true to Americans who don’t want to wait, but there are advantages and disadvantages to their use.

How They Work

Level 1 and Level 2 chargers work much the same way. The station charges the EV with alternating current (AC), then it is converted inside the car to direct current (DC), to charge the DC battery. DC Fast Chargers however get their name because they don’t access AC, but are charged with DC directly, so the energy does not need to be converted inside the car. Charging sessions with DC Fast Chargers usually have a time limit. That’s because they stop charging at a faster rate when the car hits around 80%. If you charge up to 100%, the charge will be as slow as Level 2 charging but cost the same as DC Fast. Not only is it a waste of time and money to fully charge using a DC Fast Charger, charging to 100% on a regular basis with any charger hurts battery life. Someone who uses a charger to charge from 80% to 100% is harming their own battery and is unlikely to be popular with those waiting their turn to charge. As a result, DC Fast Chargers have a common-sense time limit per use.

Why You Would Want to Use a DC Fast Charger

If you’re desperate for a big charge and have no time, DCFC can be a lifesaver. If you’re going out of town, on a road trip, etc., and don’t have hours to spare, that’s the most common use of a DC Fast Charger.  Of course, there are people who refuse to wait for Level 2 chargers and use them on a regular basis and Tesla owners who use Tesla chargers, which are sometimes called Level 3 chargers. They’re fast, convenient, luxurious, and send a message to users that you offer customers only the best.

Why You Might Not Want to Use a DC Fast Charger

Not all cars can use DC Fast Chargers, while all cars can use Level 2 chargers; they also use a different plug. There are currently three DCFC plugs: CHAdeMO, CCS, and Tesla. DCFC also costs more to use than the regular energy rate, in fact, usually double. Perhaps the best reason not to use them regularly is that they can shorten battery life. Using them occasionally is fine, but drivers don’t want to get in the habit of using DC Fast Chargers several times a week, which can cut the usual battery life — 10 years — in half if overused. DC Fast Chargers are definitely nice to have access to and get you back on the road with a mostly full charge in the time it takes to stop and eat. However, Fast Chargers are a luxury and it’s best for drivers to treat them as such. Level 2 is the best kind of charging station for daily charging and preserves battery life, while DCFC is best reserved for more infrequent uses such as road trips and emergencies.

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