| 6  minute read

Electric bus chargers, understand the different charging levels

What charger do I need for my bus? After the driving range interrogations, charging options are the most common questions we get from our customers. Well, the good news is that charging an electric commercial bus is no different from charging a car. 

Not familiar with electric vehicles at all? Here is a good place to start. Electric buses are powered only by one or more electric motors. These motors run on electricity, which is stored in the vehicle’s battery, usually underneath the bus floor. Like every battery-powered product, electric buses need to be charged by plugging into the grid. So as a new electric bus owner, you will need a charging station.

Do you remember the first time you went to a gas station in your life? Probably not. It seems so obvious to you now! And yet, what pump, what grade? Well, it will be the same with the electric one. It’s all about getting familiar with it! You’ll see, it’s simple!

E.V chargers are divided into levels corresponding to the charging speed, indicated by the number of kilowatts (kW) they output. The higher the output from the charger, the faster the bus battery will recharge (up to the vehicle’s maximum allowed charging rate). For now, there are three levels of chargers available on the market: Level 1 (L1), Level 2 (L2), and DC Fast Charger (DCFC), often called Level 3.

What is the difference between E.V charging levels?

Commercial electrical buses require at least Level 2 chargers. Of course, the batteries can be charged with a Level 1 charger; however, due to the high battery capacity of passenger buses, it can take as much as 50 hours to recover a full battery capacity with a Level 1 charger!

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Charging time
120 V
208-240 V
480 V
From 1.3 kW to 2.4 kW of AC power
From 3 kW to 19 kW of AC power
350 kW maximum of DC power
AC to DC power conversion
On-board inverter
On-board inverter
Inverter in the charging station
Standard 120 V outlet
240 V outlet
DC Fast Charging station

The Level 2 charging option is convenient because it’s easy to connect to your building’s electrical network (240V or 208 V). Between 3 kW and 19 kW of AC (alternating current) power is delivered straight to the vehicle, where the onboard inverter converts it into high voltage direct current (DC) to finally charge the bus batteries. With this type of charging, you can count between 16 to 32 km range per hour of charge.

The relatively low cost of installing 240V outlets makes AC chargers the most affordable way to charge a commercial vehicle, which makes it a common installation for fleet facilities.

The DC Fast Charger is the most rapid charging solution on the market. Its charging mechanism differs from Level 2, allowing a 350 kW maximum power output, though power outputs from 30 kW to 180 kW are more typical. Here, it is the charging station that converts the AC (alternating current) to DC (direct current) power so it can supply more power, charging buses faster. DC Fast chargers add 96 to 128 km of range in 20 min of charge.

Its installation requires a higher current level (480V AC 3-phase input), meaning a significant infrastructure investment compared to the Level 2 charger.

When it comes to passengers’ transportation, we advise you to look for a bus supporting the DC Fast charge. Even if Level 2 charging is a common installation allowing you to charge your buses overnight, you might need to use a DC fast charging, especially if you have demanding shuttle needs.  

Investing in charging infrastructure

Depending on the type of transportation services you offer, you can opt for different charging solutions. For example, if you run a health care facility and provide shuttle services to your residents for occasional outings, you may be satisfied with a Level 2 charger to charge your bus overnight. However, if you provide ongoing transportation services for your municipality with pre-determined routes, you should consider placing fast chargers in strategic locations to ensure that your buses are always up and running.

A charging station, also called (EVSE, electric vehicle supply equipment) delivers electrical energy from an electricity source to charge your bus batteries. It is a smart system ensuring safety by controlling the flow of power transferred by the cable cord. Implementing an electric vehicle charging station in your facility requires expertise and involves special equipment and electrical work. The condition and location of your existing electrical network will determine the project’s complexity. In some cases, additional capacity from the electrical grid will need to be brought to your site by the utility company, especially if you have multiple buses to charge. At Crestline, we have partnered with Lightning eMotors to help you navigate those questions. Their team is specialized in helping organizations to build the right charging infrastructure to power your fleet as you need.


Do you need more help choosing the right charging infrastructure for your electric bus? Our electric bus sales experts support your transition to electric transportation.