Electric Vehicle Charging Stations: Basic Applications and Testing Explained

As the world moves towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly future, the prominence of Electric Vehicles (EVs) continues to grow. These innovative vehicles offer a cleaner alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars, reducing carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. However, the successful integration of EVs into our daily lives relies heavily on the presence of efficient and reliable Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), commonly known as charging stations.

An EVSE encompasses the necessary equipment required for charging an EV or a Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV). It serves as the vital link between the power grid and the vehicle’s battery pack. Often interchangeably referred to as Electric Charging Stations (ECS), EVSE plays a pivotal role in facilitating the charging process for EV owners.

Designed and engineered with precision, an EVSE leverages the power grid for the delivery of electric power to the vehicle’s battery pack. The specifications of the EVSE, including power capacity, connector types, and communication protocols, vary depending on its design and intended application.

Many modern EVs come equipped with an On-Board Charger (OBC) provided by the manufacturer, enabling owners to charge their vehicles conveniently from a standard power outlet at home. While these basic chargers serve their purpose, they lack advanced features and tend to have longer charging times. Typically, using such chargers can take approximately 8 to 16 hours to fully charge a typical EV.

To address the need for faster and more efficient charging, dedicated charging stations are becoming increasingly prevalent. These stations offer higher power capacities, specialized connectors, and advanced charging protocols, resulting in significantly reduced charging times.

AC vs. DC Electric Vehicle Charging

EV Charging Stations can be broadly classified into two types: AC charging Station and DC charging Station. Each type has its own characteristics and considerations that impact the charging process.

AC (On-board Charging)

An AC charging station, as the name suggests, provides AC power from the grid to the EV, which is then converted to DC using the vehicle’s own On-board Charger (OBC) to charge the battery. These chargers are commonly referred to as Level 1 and Level 2 chargers and are typically found in residential and commercial settings.

One advantage of an AC charging station is that the On-board Charger (OBC) within the EV regulates the voltage and current required for charging, eliminating the need for direct communication between the charging station and the vehicle. However, a notable disadvantage is the relatively low output power of AC chargers, resulting in longer charging times compared to their DC counterparts.

DC (Externally Controlled)

In contrast, a DC charging station receives AC power from the grid and converts it to DC voltage, bypassing the need for the vehicle’s On-board Charger. These chargers, often referred to as Level 3 chargers or DC Fast Chargers (DCFC), offer significantly higher power outputs and charging capabilities.

DC chargers are capable of delivering high voltages of up to 600V and currents of up to 400A. This increased power allows for faster charging times, typically under 30 minutes, compared to the 8 to 16 hours required by AC chargers. For this reason, DC charging stations are ideal for locations where quick charging is essential, such as public stations and long-distance travel routes.

However, the advantages of DC chargers come with certain considerations. Due to the direct bypassing of the OBC, a DC charging station requires communication with the EV to efficiently and safely charge the battery pack. This requires more complex infrastructure and the need for compatibility between the charging station and the EV’s communication protocols.

Levels of Classification

Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers are categorized into different levels based on their power output, charging capabilities, and intended usage. Understanding these levels helps determine the appropriate charger for different charging scenarios and ensures efficient and reliable charging.

Level 1

Level 1 chargers are primarily designed for residential use. They are typically provided by manufacturers along with the vehicle and can be used with standard house power outlets.

These chargers operate on single-phase AC power and can deliver around 12A to 16A of current. Charging an EV with a Level 1 charger usually takes approximately 17 hours to fully charge a 24kWh EV battery.

Level 2

Level 2 chargers are an upgrade over Level 1 chargers that can be used in both residential and public/commercial settings. These chargers can be installed in homes, provided the power supply is split-phase, or they can be found in small public charging stations.

These chargers offer higher power outputs compared to Level 1 chargers, allowing for faster charging times. They can deliver up to 80A of current due to their higher input voltage. With a Level 2 charger, an EV can be charged fully in about 8 hours, depending on the specific vehicle and battery capacity.

Level 3 (Super Chargers)

Level 3 chargers, often referred to as Super chargers, are exclusively designed for public charging stations. These chargers require poly-phase AC input from the electrical grid and consume a significant amount of power, exceeding 240kW.

These chargers consume nearly ten times more power than a typical home air conditioning unit. The output voltage and current of a super charger is determined by the BMS of the vehicle which will then be communicated to the charging equipment through CAN/PLC communication.

Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment Components

Electric Vehicle charging equipment consists of various components that work together to facilitate the charging process. Each type of EV charger will vary in the contents and complexity based on its level of classification.

Main Relay

The main relay is responsible for initiating and ending the charging process. It closes to begin charging and opens when the charging is complete. Voltage measurements on either side of the relay determine whether it is open or closed.

Pilot Wire

The pilot wire enables communication between the charging equipment and the EV’s battery management system. It allows for the detection of battery status, and the host processing system uses this information to determine the appropriate power supply to the on-board charger.

Power Supply

The power supply unit includes an AC/DC converter that takes in AC power from the grid and converts it to DC using a switching circuit. This converted DC power is then utilized for the charging process.

DC/DC Converter

The DC/DC converter uses various Buck Regulators to achieve different voltage levels (such as 12V, 5V, 3.3V, etc.). These regulated voltages are employed to power the sensors, displays, and controllers within the charger unit.

V/I Sense Circuits

V/I sense circuits are used to measure the AC voltage (V) and current (I) during the charging process. They provide essential information for monitoring and control purposes.

Current Transformer (CT)

Current transformers are commonly used to measure the input current, although other methods such as shunt or Flux methods can also be employed.

Host Processing Subsystem

The host processing subsystem consists of a main microcontroller that receives information from the pilot communication. Based on this information, the controller triggers the main relay using relay driver circuits. It also monitors the current and voltage through the measurement subsystem and takes necessary actions if required.

Power Factor Correction System

The power factor correction system filters the power harmonics from the AC/DC converter and DC/DC converter subsystems, ensuring efficient power utilization and adherence to power quality standards.

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) System

The V2G system enables bidirectional power flow between EVs and the grid. It allows EV battery packs, which can have large capacities of up to 100kWh or more, to act as portable power sources for household equipment. By using the right inverter, power from these battery packs can be supplied to the grid during peak demand hours. The EVs can then be recharged at solar-powered stations, creating a green energy ecosystem.

EV Connectors

EV charging connectors vary based on the country of manufacture and the specific standards used. Different countries operate on different voltages and frequencies (e.g., 220V/50Hz in Europe and 110V/60Hz in the United States), which has led to various types of charging connectors. This variation has posed challenges for EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) manufacturers aiming for universal compatibility.

HMI (Human Machine Interface)

The HMI provides an interface for easy operation by maintenance technicians and the public. Some EVSEs incorporate wireless features like NFC (Near Field Communication), Bluetooth, and online payment gateway functionality, enhancing user convenience.

EVSE Inspection and Testing

Inspection and testing of Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment is crucial to ensure its proper functioning, performance, and safety. Detailed testing specifications can be found in manufacturers literature or through organizations like NFPA and NETA. These measures contribute to the overall reliability, efficiency, and safety of EV charging infrastructure.

Basic Visual/Mechanical Inspections

Visual and mechanical inspections are performed to evaluate the overall condition of the charger. This includes checking the nameplate data for correct specifications, assessing the physical condition of the charger, ensuring proper clearances, and verifying grounding connections. These inspections help identify any visible issues or potential safety concerns.

Secure Wiring and Connections

Inspecting the charger for secure wiring and bolted connections is essential for safety and performance. Special tools like torque wrenches and a DLRO (Digital Low Resistance Ohmmeter) are used to verify the proper tightening of electrical connections.

Thermographic inspections, which involve using infrared cameras, can be employed to detect any abnormal heat generation in the charger components. Scans are typically conducted when the charger is at least 40% loaded, allowing for accurate thermal assessments.

Interlocking Systems

Interlocking systems within the charger should be checked for proper operation and sequencing. These systems ensure that the charging process follows the correct sequence and that safety measures, such as proper grounding and isolation, are maintained. Verifying the proper functioning of interlocking systems helps prevent potential hazards to equipment and operators.

System Functional Tests

System functional tests, as specified by the manufacturer, are conducted to ensure that the charger operates correctly. This includes performing the first-time startup procedures, programming the charger according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and testing the charging operations. By conducting these tests, any issues with the functionality of the charger can be identified and addressed.

Power Quality Monitoring

Power Quality Monitors (PQMs) are used to assess the electrical characteristics of the charger’s power supply. They help verify if any harmonic distortion exists and ensure that it falls within acceptable limits.

Harmonic distortion can adversely affect the performance and efficiency of the charger as well as the power quality of the electrical system. Monitoring power quality ensures that the charger operates optimally and does not introduce unwanted disturbances to the electrical grid.


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EV Charging stations may be a new item for us test guys. I haven’t used one of these test sets yet, but Megger makes a charger checker.

Electricians’ test equipment accessories (megger.com)