28 July 2020

The difference between single and 3-phase charging

Introduction

There are more electric car manufacturers today than they were some decades ago. Thus, electric cars are being sold at an affordable price, making them even more available to the average consumer. As the number of electric vehicles being manufactured increases, the demand for more charging options and stations also increases. The most common charging options are single-phase and 3-phase chargers. Many electric car owners fail to understand the difference in the charging options; hence, they do not enjoy the full benefits of using the right charger. In this article, we shall discuss the difference between single phase and 3-phase car chargers and why each one of them matters. Read on!

Power supply

Alternating Current (AC) power supply has two classifications:

Single phase – Power flows through a single conductor.

3-phase – Power flows through three conductors.

The single and 3-phase chargers provide Electric Vehicle (EV) owners with the ability to charge their cars through the single and 3-phase power outlets. The main difference between the two comes in the power supply and reliability in delivering this energy. The 3-phase charging has a higher power transfer capacity than the single phase charging – the former powers at 22kW, whereas the latter does so at 7.4kW.

Single phase or 3-phase

Home installation

Car owners have the option of either installing the 1-phase or 3-phase charger at their residential home. However, the one you choose will depend on some factors. These include the specifications of your car(s) and the electrical wiring of your home. It is worth noting that the plug-in hybrids allow a 3.7kW charge, and these are readily available for the 1-phase chargers. However, full-electric cars tend to have faster speeds, and this makes the 3-phase chargers more attractive.

Charging speed

The unit measure of charging speed is kW. This speed determines how fast the electric car can power up. The main factor influencing the maximum charging speed of your electric vehicle is your home’s electrical wiring. The 1-phase connection relies on single cabling, which is very common in households. On the other hand, a 3-phase car charger connection uses three cables.

Volts, amps and watts

The volts, amps, and watts help to calculate the charging speed. Most power outlets have a standard potential of 230 volts. Amps refer to the actual flow of electrical current through the cables. Electrical power is expressed in watts and calculated by multiplying amps and volts. Most homes have a one-phase connection that is fit for a one-phase charger. On a 16 amps electric current, these chargers work on 230 volts. The highest charging speed for the chargers is usually 3.7kW.

To charge at higher amps, you can change your fuse box to a 3-phase charging connection. The 3-phase charger works on 400 volts and at 16 amps current. The highest charging speed of these chargers is 11 kW, which is three times faster than the one-phase charger. If you are charging the same electric car battery, you will power it in less than 6 hours.

Tesla 3-phase

Car compatibility

The maximum charging speed of electric cars vary. Therefore, before you purchase an Electric Vehicle (EV) charger, be sure to check your car’s highest possible charging speed capacity. Cars like Renault Zoe, BMW i3, Tesla, and Audi e-tron are some of the EVs that can use the 3-phase charger. Those cars that are compatible with the one-phase chargers include Jaguar I-Pace, Hyundai, Nissan, Kia, Opel, and Mercedes.

Installation process

Most EV owners prefer installing a charging option at their residential place; this is convenient for charging their vehicles. In that case, the single-phase chargers will turn out to be the easiest to install. They can be installed directly (without the need for hardware modification). The operation modes, circuit topology, controller design, and control strategy for these single-phase chargers come in detail. The installation process of the 3-phase charges requires a lot of skill. Even though its installation process calls for excellence, it is worth the professionalism. These chargers undergo tests to ensure they have a unity power factor of 93.7% peak efficiency.

zappi home installation

Cost and charging style

From all the above factors, it is evident that the 3-phase chargers are costlier than the one-phase chargers. This is because the former has more expensive units and installation procedures. When deciding on the best charger to buy, always remember to check the product’s cost and compare it with your budget. Most drivers prefer powering their vehicles at night. Imagine charging your EV at night. Whether you use a powerful charger or an average one, you will wake up in the morning with your car fully charged in both scenarios. You will not notice the time saved. When looking at it this way, the difference in the chargers is very slim.

Verdict

The type of charger that you will choose is subjective, depending on your needs and preferences. If you have an electric car that is compatible with the 3-phase charger, you are good to go. Whether planning to install a home charging option at home or using public charging options, the 3-phase charging comes with plenty of advantages. However, most residential apartments do not have 3-phase supply connections.

Even though the 3-phase chargers are excellent for delivering a high-power charge, the single-phase charging is still recommendable for EVs. The single-phase chargers provide convenient and efficient charging. The vehicles that use these chargers are more than those utilising the 3-phase chargers. Additionally, we can never do away with the single-phase charging system because they are the only suitable chargers for most cars.

Is a 3-phase charger worth it?

Yes, it is. If you have a 3-phase supply at your residential place, then the 3-phase charger will be an excellent option. They are more useful and versatile than the single-phase chargers and can charge multiple Electric Vehicles. Who wouldn’t want to charge their vehicle faster?

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