Portable EV Charger 120V and 240V



Charging an electric vehicle is one of the biggest issues when you leave home, especially for a longer journey.  The charging infrastructure is growing and coverage will continue to expand.


One of the easiest ways to find a place to charge is to use existing residential plugs. Charging an electric vehicle using a regular outlet is simple and these chargers are portable, usually including a carrying bag like this one on Amazon.  This charger can actually charge from both a regular outlet and a 240v outlet.



Can you charge an electric car with a regular outlet?


Yes, you can charge using a regular outlet.  This is called level 1 charging which is at 120 volts.  In North America, the regular outlet is a standardized NEMA 5-15, otherwise referred to as a three-prong.


Can I use any cord to charge my EV?


No.  While you may have a cord that has the three-prong plug, it would not have the other end that plugs into the electric car.  This is an SAE J1772 connection.  Don’t worry though you don’t have to remember this since it is a universal connection that all electric cars are required to have in North America.


A charger is required to regulate charging and to safely transfer electricity to your car.  When connected, the charging cord, even though it looks small and simple, is doing some heavy lifting as it is talking to the onboard EV charger.


The charging cord needs to identify itself to the EV in order to start the charging process.  This is to avoid any safety issues that can occur due to charging from an unregulated electrical cord, such as a standard extension cable.


Making sure that your EV battery is protected from overcharging is one of the main features. As well, being waterproof, lack of overheating,  and resistant to flame, are some of the other features to ensure you have.


Even the proper charging cord needs to be replaced at the first sign of damage to the cord.


Where can I charge my electric car?

You can charge an electric car in multiple locations.  The most talked about is a level 2 charging station, or a 240v charge, which is considered a standard charge.  This can be plugged in at your home after you get an electrician to install a 240v plug in your garage.  This is also the common public charging station type, whether it is paid or offered as a free service.


At level 3 or DC fast charging, this option uses a different plug connection since it uses a higher voltage and current to charge your EV quickly.  The type of fast charge connection is dependent on the electric vehicle from the Tesla UMC, CHAdeMO, and SAE CCS.  Fast chargers are gaining in popularity due to the shorter waiting times.


The most common charger is still a residential outlet.  Most houses have an outdoor plug for outdoor lighting which is a good option if you are close enough to plug into the house.


Electric car charging etiquette when visiting


This is an option; however, you should not just plug into someone’s house to charge your electric car.  There are some things the homeowner needs to know about first.


Since electric cars are not the majority of vehicles on the road, many people do not know much about charging them.  I would hate to have the police called because you started charging your EV at someone’s personal residence.


Before plugging in you should always let the homeowner know how much electricity your car will need.  Your dash will tell you how far you can go on your current charge.


Compared to other appliances in their home, your electric car will make an impact on their electric bill.  You should always offer to pay for the charge obtained from their residence.  Family and friends will be most likely to allow an ev charge.


How long does level 1 charging take?


Level 1 charging is the slowest way to charge but is the most available.  Low and slow pretty much describes the level 1 charging style. Most cars will take around 12 hours, or overnight, to fully charge.


How much does it cost to charge?


When you charge with a regular outlet, the 120v charger will produce 1.8 kW/hour.  With the average cost of electricity ranging between $0.10 and $0.15 per kW, a middle estimate can be $0.13 per kW.


For every hour that your electric car is charging it will cost $0.25, which doesn’t sound like much.  This is one of the great things about electric cars; however, when you look at how long it takes to fully charge an EV from empty it adds up.


Overnight charging will cost $3, on average, for a full charge which sounds like a reasonable amount to give back as a thank you. Of course, if they insist on not accepting payment then at least you know how much it could have cost you.


Can I use an extension cord?

Let’s say you drive your electric car to a friend’s house for a long weekend party and you are beyond the distance to drive back home on your current charge.  Assuming that you have already asked your friend to help you out with a charge but the closest outdoor plug is 50 feet away, your first thought is to use an extension cord to plug in your car.  Is it possible to charge your electric car with a standard extension cord though you will be bottlenecking the electricity?


Yes, however; this would slow down the charge speed which is dependent on the size of the electric cable and how long of an extension cord available.  The higher the wire gauge number the thinner the electric wire is.  Since you want as much voltage and amperage flowing through the extension cord you do not want to use small wires.  You will want a thick cord, lower gauge number, something like 12 gauge.


A good indicator for a sufficient extension cord is to look for one that is contractor grade.  It should be rated for 15 amps and be for outdoor use since you will be laying the extension cord down on a driveway or grass.   I recommend using a 12 gauge contractor grade like this one on Amazon, just be sure it is UL rated.


So what is a level 1 EV charger?

A level 1 EV charger is typically portable, it plugs into a regular outlet and has the connection to plug into an electric car.  A regular outlet is called a NEMA 5-15, and an electric car plug is the SAE J1772 connection, which all EVs are required to have this connection.  This means that a level 1 EV charger can plug into just about any place in North America.


Level 1 is meant to describe the slowest method of charging an electric car.  Level 1 is at 120 volts and 15 amp which is the most common residential connection and provides 1.8 kilowatts of power.


If an electric vehicle charger states that it is a level 1 charger then this is the maximum that it can handle.  There is nothing wrong with this but it is very specific and will work for some people. Though a portable EV charger does not mean that it is limited to level 1, it could be rated for level 1 and 2.


Is there a charger with dual 120v and 240v plugs?

Yes, this is called a portable 240V EV charger like this one on Amazon, though it’s sometimes called a charging cord.  A portable charging cord that can handle 240 volts typically has a separate connection so that it can be plugged into the 120-volt receptacle.  In effect, it is a level 2 EV charger that is being used in the lowest setting when the choice of charging points is few and far between.


What is different from a level 1 to a level 2 residential charger?

The biggest difference is the size of the units used as a home level 2 charger.  These range in size from the size of a frisbee to the size of a couple laptops stacked on top of each other.


Portable charging cords are essentially composed of the charging adapter, a coiled cord, and the charging enclosure that is roughly the size of a smartphone.


Before going into the features that are in the level 2 charger, it is worth mentioning that both a home and portable charger protect against overcharging, overvoltage and overcurrent. Basically, either charger will protect the battery pack in the electric car.


The larger level 2 chargers that are installed in your garage are either hardwired or plugged can have additional features that are not on a portable charger.  These features can include a wifi connection for smart charging, smartphone connectivity, and voice control through Alexa.


Do I need to have two chargers: one at home, and one that is portable?


Not necessarily as you could have just the one charger that travels along with the electric car.  This would mean that you need to take out the charger every time you return home to plug in the vehicle.

The other option is to have one level 2 charger dedicated to the garage for the main charging source, and a portable level 1 and 2 charger that is always in the electric car, check the price on Amazon. This would provide charging coverage as you live your life in places where there might not be 240-volt outlets.


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