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EV Charging Explained: The fastest chargers at home and on the road

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If your main concern with buying an electric car is figuring out how you’re going to charge it, worry no more. There are plenty of different options – from the cable that comes bundled with all new EVs, through to super-fast public charging networks – and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the tech and the terminology. Read on to get up to speed on Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, DC fast charging, and where Tesla Superchargers fit in – and what to look out for when you need to add miles of range, fast.

Level 1 chargers are slowest but easiest to plug-in

If you’ve got a regular, 120V household outlet, you can use a Level 1 charger. Outfitted with the same plug as you’d find on a blender or a vacuum cleaner, their strength is in their ubiquity. Drive your EV to a friend’s place and, even if they don’t have an electric vehicle themselves, you should be able to find a place to plug in yours.

Every new EV you buy in the US today comes with a charger that will work, at the very least, with a 120V outlet. Often called a “mobile charger” or “travel charger” they’re usually stored under the trunk floor or in the front trunk (or “frunk” in EV parlance) and designed to be an option-of-last-resort should you find yourself needing an emergency top-up somewhere.

The downside, as you might have guessed, is charging speed. Level 1 chargers are often known as “trickle chargers” because they deliver power so slowly. Figure on about 3 miles of range added per hour plugged in.

Level 2 chargers are what every EV owner needs

Assuming you have somewhere you can consistently park your EV, getting a Level 2 charger is a no-brainer for an electric vehicle driver as it’s considerably faster than Level 1 chargers will ever be. For a Level 2 charger, you’ll need a 240V outlet or – if your charger is permanently installed – a 240V connection from your circuit breaker box. The most common is a NEMA 6-50 outlet; expect to spend $200-300 on getting an electrician to install one, unless more significant upgrades to your wiring are required.

In return, you’ll get much faster charging. Think along the lines of around 20-30 miles per charging hour, though there are a few factors which control that. Biggest is amperage: that can range from 12A to 50A, and many Level 2 chargers will allow you to adjust their settings depending on how what power is coming to the outlet. More amperage means faster charging, typically up to 7.6 kW.

Increasingly often, the travel charger included with new EVs supports both Level 1 and Level 2 use, with the right adapter. On the flip side, not every electrified vehicle supports 7.6 kW charging: some, particularly plug-in hybrids, top out at around half that. Still, if you’re having a 240V outlet installed and buying a Level 2 charger, it’s worth getting the most potent one you can for future-proofing purposes. Figure on $500-800 for a Level 2 charger with decent amperage headroom.

Level 3 DC fast chargers are worth looking out for

DC fast chargers, known as Level 3 chargers, are your gateway to the fastest recharge. They can deliver up to 350 kW – though 50-150 kW seems more common at the moment – if your EV supports it. That means a far more rapid charge, along the lines of 60-120 miles in about 10-20 minutes depending on the charger and the vehicle.

You can’t install a Level 3 charger at home. Instead, they’re operated by private networks like Electrify America, EVgo, ChargePoint, and others. Usually they’re located near highways or other well-frequented routes.

Commonly they have a CCS plug, which most new EVs are fitted with. Sometimes it’s an option, but it’s one worth selecting if you ever plan to do road trips. Less common, but still offered on models like the Nissan Leaf, is the CHAdeMO plug. Often there’ll be a mixture of both connectors at the same location, and multiple DC fast chargers on-site.

Typically, you’ll need an account with each charger network in order to begin a charging session. Less common is the ability to pay at the charger, just like you would at a gas pump. Most have apps which help hunt down a location as well as authenticate the payment; some networks have roaming agreements, so that you can use multiple companies’ chargers with just one account, and it’s more common now for automakers to have similar agreements so that all the locations their EVs can use are collated in the dashboard navigation system.

The big factor controlling how fast you can recharge at a DC fast charger is the kW (kilowatt) rating. Each charger can deliver a certain maximum in kW: more, a higher number means a faster recharge. However, each electric vehicle can support a certain maximum in kW too. The two automatically adjust to deliver the maximum rate possible, but it’s definitely worth checking the spec sheets as you research a new EV purchase: the difference in charging speed between, say, a 50 kW-capable EV and a 350 kW-capable EV is huge.

The Tesla Supercharger network is an electric privilege

If you’re driving a Tesla, things are somewhat different from the rest of the EV field. Tesla not only makes its own electric cars, it’s also building out a charging network – both in the US and abroad – at which those cars can charge up while away from home or the office.

There are actually two main types of Supercharger. The most familiar is a fast charger, capable of adding up to 200 miles of range in 15 minutes. That rate, as with any fast charger, can vary according to the model of Tesla, the specific charger, and conditions like the current battery level.

Tesla Destination Charging, meanwhile, is effectively Level 2 chargers with the Tesla-specific plug. Whereas Superchargers tend to be positioned near highways and other major routes, Destination Charging units are often found outside businesses, at hotels and convention centers, and similar. That makes them more accessible but, of course, you’re getting a much slower rate of charge.

In the early days, Tesla buyers got free Supercharger access. At this point, that’s a rare perk: far more common is paying for access, which varies by location. In some states, you pay depending on how long you’re plugged in; in others, you pay based on how much charging you actually do. Either way, like with most EV chargers it’s cheaper to “refuel” than an equivalent gas car.

Non-Tesla cars can’t use Superchargers

One of the most common questions among new or potential EV owners is whether they can plug their electric car into a Supercharger. Unfortunately, only Tesla vehicles can use those chargers. Not only is the plug unique to Tesla, the vehicles rely upon an authentication system to authorize the charging session and process the payment.

Tesla offers adapters, meanwhile, so that its EVs can be used with non-Supercharger stations. These basically slot in-between the charging plug and the Tesla car, so that a Model 3 driver could recharge at, say, an Electrify America location. As you research a new electric vehicle, it’s worth looking at maps of nearby chargers such as PlugShare, to figure out what options are near to where you might typically be driving.

If you’re looking at buying a new electric vehicle, and need to install a new charger, there are rebates and incentives you may not know about which could help offset the cost. Check out our top tips for new EV buyers for more details.

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Polestar 2 electric car reveals paid download to add horsepower

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Polestar has released a downloadable over-the-air (OTA) update for all long-range dual-motor versions of the Polestar 2. The electric automaker’s latest performance software upgrade unlocks more horsepower and nippier acceleration, good things to have in a premium electric performance car.

Polestar has already released numerous software updates for the 2, but most of them had something to do with convenience features and range/charging improvements. The latest software upgrade is the first time Polestar applies its tuning magic to an all-electric model. If you’re old enough to remember, Polestar started life in 1996 as Volvo’s tuning arm similar to BMW’s M division and Mercedes-AMG.

So, what does the performance update give you? It adds 67 more horsepower and around 15 torque, boosting the power output to 470 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. What’s more, the power boost has given the Polestar 4 nippier acceleration. According to the automaker, accelerating from zero to 60 mph now only takes 4.4-seconds, better than the outdated software’s 4.7-seconds.

Best of all, everything happens with a few taps on the screen. The Polestar 2 is not a slow car by any means. In stock form, the Polestar 2’s 408-horsepower translates to an “addictive wave of instant torque, combined with a satisfying thrum rather than the bordering-on-harsh electric shriek some EV motors produce,” said executive editor Chris Davies upon driving the Polestar 2 last year. But with 67 more horses, the software update has added more spice to the EV’s grand-touring potential.

Furthermore, Polestar claims the additional muscle has no penalties for range and energy consumption. Equipped with a 78 kWh battery, Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor achieves an EPA-rated 233 miles of range. It has an 11 kW onboard charger and supports up to 150 kW of DC fast charging. With the latter, you’re looking at zero to 80-percent in around 40 minutes.

However, the latest Polestar 2 performance software upgrade is not free of charge. It starts at around €1,000 ($1,130) and is currently available to download in Europe, including the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Finland. Meanwhile, Canadian and US owners can avail of the OTA update starting early next year.

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EPA gives 2022 Ioniq 5 EV better range than Hyundai’s first claims

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South Korean automaker Hyundai has outdone itself with the 2022 Ioniq 5. Not only did Hyundai create an awesome-looking all-electric vehicle that won’t look out of place in the film set of Back to the Future 2, but the Ioniq 5 managed better range numbers than Hyundai initially suggested.

As Hyundai revealed today, the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 can achieve an EPA-rated 303 miles of driving range, and those numbers apply to the single-motor rear-wheel-drive variant equipped with a 77.4 kWh battery pack. Other markets get two battery options, including a smaller 58.2 kWh unit, but all U.S.-bound Hyundai Ioniq 5s will have the 77.4 kWh long-range battery option.

With a single electric motor, you’ll have 225 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque at your disposal, which is plenty enough for most driving applications. But if you want a zippier Ioniq 5, you’ll need to go for the dual-motor AWD variant with a combined 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque. Both configurations allow a top speed of 115 mph, while the maximum tow rating is 2,000 pounds. Hyundai claims zero to 60 mph in under five seconds, not bad for vintage-inspired EV.

However, the AWD model achieves lower EPA numbers: 256 miles on a single full charge. If the batteries go flat, the Ioniq 5 offers what Hyundai claims is the world’s first multi-charging system that supports both 400V and 800V charging infrastructures. A standard Level 2 10.9 kW onboard charger replenishes the batteries in around 6.5 hours. But if you have access to a 350 kW DC fast charger, the Ioniq 5 can juice up from ten to 80-percent in under 20 minutes.

Furthermore, Hyundai has partnered with Electrify America to give Ioniq 5 owners total access to the latter’s network of over 700 charging stations across America. Each Ioniq 5 comes with free and unlimited 30-minute charging sessions for two years from the purchase date. Suddenly, the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 has become a top choice in the EV category. With over 300 miles of range and free unlimited charging, the stakes have gone higher, and we have yet to discuss the Ioniq 5’s tasteful yet purposeful retro design.

Starting life as the Hyundai 45 EV Concept at the 2019 IAA auto show in Germany, the production Ioniq 5 is essentially a concept in production guise. The angular styling is a throwback to yesteryears, but there’s genuine substance behind its quirky design. The Ioniq 5 has a four-inch longer wheelbase than a Hyundai Palisade (measuring a lengthy 118.1-inches, the longest wheelbase in a Hyundai production vehicle) despite measuring a full 14-inches shorter in length.

Combined with shorter front and rear overhangs, Hyundai claims Ioniq 5 has a greater passenger volume than the Ford Mustang Mach E and VW ID.4. In addition, Ioniq 5 has 27.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats. Meanwhile, folding the rear seats reveal 59.3 cubic feet of storage space.

Other neat features include Hyundai’s V2L function that essentially turns the Ioniq 5 into a humongous power bank. Best of all, it can even charge a stranded EV. “Ioniq 5 introduces the Hyundai brand to a whole new set of buyers,” said Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai North America. “Owning one is going to be a new experience and lifestyle that only the Iooniq brand can provide.”

The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 will sell this winter in three trims: SE, SEL, and Limited. Hyundai has yet to disclose the MSRP, but we’re expecting base prices to start under $45,000.

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2022 Honda Passport goes upmarket with one monster price hike

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This winter, the redesigned 2022 Honda Passport is arriving at dealerships with a significant price hike. The base Sport trim from the outgoing model is gone for 2022, making way for the new base EX-L trim with standard front-wheel drive (AWD remains a $2,100 option).

With base prices starting at $39,095 (including $1,225 destination fees), the 2022 Passport is about $5k more than last year. What’s more, it now costs thousands of dollars more than its nearest competitors like the VW Atlas Cross Sport, Toyota Venza (which is a hybrid), and Hyundai Santa Fe.

For the money, you get an array of premium equipment like perforated leather seats with contrasting stitching, a remote power tailgate, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, wireless charging, and remote engine start. Also standard are 20-inch alloy wheels and a one-touch power moonroof.

All Honda Passports have a 3.5-liter V6 engine pumping out 280 horsepower to the front wheels or all four wheels using the brand’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Both drivetrains have and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Honda Sensing is also standard across the lineup and includes hi-tech safety aids like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, collision mitigating braking, and road departure mitigation.

The all-new Passport Trailsport has standard AWD and is the most off-road ready of the bunch. It starts at $43,695 and gets machined 18-inch wheels, chunkier off-road tires, and silver skid plates. It also has bespoke logos, rugged front/rear bumpers, heated wipers, and a 10mm wider track. All 2022 Passports with AWD feature up to 8.1-inches of ground clearance and a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

“The new Passport and Passport Trailsport don’t just look rugged; they’re ready, willing, and able to get dirty tackling trails,” said Michael Kistemaker, assistant vice president of Honda National Sales at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Meanwhile, the range-topping 2022 Passport Elite starts at $46,665. It has trim-specific 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated tiller, heated rear outboard seats, and a hands-free power tailgate.

Honda’s 2022 Passport is an attractive proposition for adventurous lifestyles despite the price hike. The Passport entered rallying a few months ago will continuously see action in the American Rally Association (ARA) series throughout 2022, so we have no question about the Passport Trailsport’s off-road pedigree. But is it $5,000 better than the competition? We’re itching to find out.

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