What do we talk about when we talk about portable electric car chargers?

  • The #1 most common version is a battery charger that typically plugs into a regular NEMA 5-15 outlet or other types of outlets in the home. Its compact size and lightweight design allow it to be carried in your trunk, hence its name: portable charger. Click here for a model overview.
  • The #2 most common is a mobile charger based with gasoline generator. The cost of the equipment is much higher. We’ve written more about this here.
  • The #3 most common is the Portable Power Station, which uses a rechargeable battery. Read more here.

Portable electric car chargers that plug into an outlet

General Characteristics:

  • Charge your EV by plugging it into the wall

Variations:

Best Level-1 portable devices (120 volts)

  • OEM 12-16 amp, supplied with the electric car
  • Lectron1 120v, 16amp, 21 ft.
  • Megear 120v, 16amp, 25 ft.

Best portable Level-2 EV chargers (240 volts)

  • OEM 16-32 amps that come with the electric car
  • Mustard2 240V, 40 Amp, NEMA 14-50 Plug, 25 ft
  • Lectron 240V, 40 Amp, NEMA 14-50 Plug, 18

The best universal Level-1/Level-2 portable chargers

  • OEM 16-48 amps, which come with the electric car, such as the Nissan Leaf3 Plus (14-50/5-15) or Tesla (Universal Mobile Connector4)
  • MEGEAR 120v-240v, 12 Amp / 20 Amp, NEMA 5-15 (1.4 kW) / NEMA 6-20 Plug (3.8kW)
  • MUSTART TRAVELMASTER 120v-240v, 12 Amp / Amp40 , NEMA 5-15 (1.4 kW) / NEMA 155-0 Plug (9. 6 kW)
  • BougeRV 120v-240v, 12 Amp / 20 Amp, NEMA 5-15 (1.4 kW) / NEMA 6-20 Plug (3.8kW)
  • And others like ZENCAR, Book Engine.

Most electric cars come with portable chargers

When you buy a new electric car, in most cases you will find in the package a portable device (120-volt) for connecting to your home power grid. Some electric cars come with more powerful devices capable of 120 and 240 volts (such as the Turbocord from BMW5 or the more successful OEM for the Audi e-tron).

The devices adapted to the different current (120/240) independently determine the lower or higher incoming voltage, synchronize with the power supply limits of the electric car, and then deliver different power current depending on the situation.

The difference in portable chargers by voltage

  • 120 volts, this is Level 1. These are sockets 5-15 (1,440 watts) or 5-20 (1,920 watts) 
  • 240 volts, this is Level 2. Example sockets, 6-20 (3,840 watts) or 14-50 (9,600 watts)

Depending on the electric car, at Level 1 the charging speed will be 3–5 mph, and when you connect a Level-2 device the speed will increase to 20–40 mph. Since we are talking about portable devices here, we do not take into account other hardwired chargers up to 80 amps.

Where do I get 240 volts for the charger?

240 volts can charge your electric car six times faster than a regular 120-volt outlet. A simple but temporary way to connect to 240 volts can be an outlet from your air conditioner or clothes dryer. If you decide to use the charger permanently, it’s more practical and safe to contact an electrician and arrange for a separate outlet, NEMA 6-20 or NEMA 14-50, near the unit’s planned connection.

Does it live up to what it claims?

If you have a 50-amp breaker, the standard is that the device can only get four-fifths of the rated power. Therefore, if you connect a portable battery charger to a NEMA 14-50, it will only get 40 amps. So do the math: 40 amps times 240 volts equals 9,600 watts.

Portable electric car chargers from a gasoline generator

The Blink portable EV charger6 is a specially designed device that runs on gasoline. Its price is 4–5 times higher than the average power generator, when chosen with the right parameters, can be used to recharge electric cars.

Some models of portable generators are quite compact and can help on the road, but the charging speed is not high. The more powerful 12kW models are less often purchased by enthusiasts. It is important to note that not all models are suitable for chargers. We wrote about the requirements for such gasoline generators in this review.

Portable battery-powered electric car chargers

Electric car owners use both specialized devices (ZipCharge or Roadie) and non-electric car charging stations for portable charging from a spare battery.

Power bank models for a NEMA 5-15 socket (AC)

You can find general purpose power banks or a hybrid battery and J1772 charging cable on sale, though these models may contain a drawback:

  • Many models use alternating current at the output, which is then converted back to direct current by the electric car’s power unit. This inefficient approach provides a low charging rate of 1 mile per hour of charging.

Roadie by Spark charger – portable emergency battery for electric cars

This is a DC charger (this current does not come from an outlet) designed primarily for roadside assistance. Its modular construction contains several units, each about 3.7kWh.

Depending on the number of units, the electric car’s possible mileage from the resulting charge is determined. Roadie7 predicts 17.5 kWh, which, depending on the electric car model, will provide 65–75 miles after charging. This is based on an average speed claimed at around 60 mph, which means you can get enough charge for 15 miles in 15 minutes.

CCS1 is the plug used, which makes it clear that charging will be done with a constant current and at a good rate. The CCS connector is not a problem for the Tesla because there is an adapter.

In addition to roadside assistance, this kind of handheld device is offered in some states to regularly charge electric cars on a subscription basis. For $25 a month, the service will charge an electric car if it is in the service area. Convenient for apartment dwellers.

Popular portable charging stations: how long do electric vehicles charge

  Porsche Taycan Ford Mustang Mach-E Hyundai Kona
EV portable charger • Level 1 • NEMA 5-15 • 1.4 kW 42 h 25 min 52 h 57 min 20 h 59 min
EV portable charger • Level 2 • NEMA 6-20 • 3.8 kW 15 h 38 min 19 h 30 min 7 h 44 min
EV portable charger • Level 2 • NEMA 14-50 • 9.6 kW 6 h 11 min 7 h 43 min 4 h 5 min

FAQ

Are there electric car chargers for plugging into a 5-20 outlet?

Yes, OEM chargers like these are offered by Tesla. Based on the maximum home outlet power (120 volts) of 20 amps, the charger can only consume 80%, i.e. the electric car will get 16 amps. To charge a non-Tesla electric car with the J1772 plug-in, using this kind of device is no problem along with the adapter.

What makes universal chargers charge 3 times faster if they are 16 amps?

If you consider models like the MEGEAR 120v–240v and others presented here with 6-20 plug-ins, you get 240 volts more power than 120 volts. You get double the voltage at 240 volts, compared with 120 volts, but you get 3.8 kilowatts instead of 1.4 kilowatts, more than double the kilowatts.

What is the most powerful and fastest portable charger for an electric car?

The most powerful portable charger is a device with a NEMA 14-50 socket connection. These devices are offered here and, they provide 9,600W (outgoing 40 amps) to the electric car.

What is a portable EV charging station?

Usually, when people mention a charging station, they mean a stationary device. So here you will find portable devices that are plugged into power outlets.

Which cars need Level-1 chargers?

Whether you have a Rivian or a Tesla, sometimes you may need to charge from a regular outlet (120 volts), and that’s what the Level 2 charger is for.

Is there a power bank for Tesla?

Yes, you can use DC models of the power bank for Tesla with the CCS to Tesla adapter. You’ll find the product list in our article here. Other low-performance portable solutions use the J1772 (AC) or Nema 5-15 to connect the Tesla Mobile Connector.

Can I charge an electric car with a portable battery?

Yes, you can charge from the special batteries discussed here without DC conversion. It is also technically possible from the large power banks published in our article, but you will get a slow charge rate.

Comparison table for level-1 portable devices (120 volts)

Lectron Level 1 Portable EV Charger NEMA 5-15 Plug, 16 Amp,...EV Gear Level 1 Portable EV Charger 3.8 kW (120/240Volt, 30...EVCARS ZENCAR Level 1 Portable EV Charger 1.92 kW (120Volt,...
OverviewNEMA 5-15 Compatible with the supplied adapter.
BrandLectronEV GearEVCARS
Amperage161616
Cable length, ft213020
Enclosure Materialn/an/an/a
WaterproofNoIP55IP54
Weight‎6.656.99.04
Working temperature-22°F to 122°Fn/an/a
Warranty1 year3 year1 year
CertificatecULus lited, FCC Part 15 Class Bn/an/a

Comparison table for level-2 portable devices (240 volts)

Lectron Level 2 Portable EV Charger (240 Volt, 21ft Cable, ...Shell Level 2 Portable Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stati...3L3Y Level 2 Portable EV Charger 3.8 kW (240 Volt, 16.4ft/5...
OverviewSwitch current. Set Charging Time. Portable Case. Waterproof Easy Installation. Compatible with Typical Home Plug via NEMA 5-15 adapter. Safety Guarantee.
BrandLectronSHELL3L3Y
Amperage323216
Cable length, ft213016
SocketNEMA 14-50NEMA 14-50NEMA 10-30
WaterproofNoYesIP65
Weight‎10.816.765.63
Working temperature-22°F to 122°F–22°F to 122°F-13℉-131℉
Warranty1 year1 year2 years
CertificateUl certifiedFCC and UL certifiedn/a

Comparison table for universal Level-1/Level-2 portable chargers

MUSTART TRAVELMASTER Level 1 and 2 Portable EV Charger (240...BougeRV Level 1-2 Portable EV Charger (120/240 Volt, 25ft C...Morec Level 2 and Level 1 Portable EV Charger (240 Volt, 26...
OverviewIt can be used on different voltages with little effort. It comes with adaptors for connecting to various outlets. When traveling, it works as a Level 2 and Level 1 device.
BrandMUSTARTBougeRVMorec
Amperage16, 24, 321632
Cable length, ft252526
Enclosure Materialn/a
SocketNEMA 14-50, NEMA 5-15, NEMA 5-20NEMA 5-15, NEMA 6-20NEMA 14-50
WaterproofEV connector - Yes, Control Box - NoNoYes
Weight11.888.188.8
Working temperaturen/a-22°F to 122°F-22°F ~ + 122°F
Warranty2 years1 yearn/a
Certificaten/an/aCE & FCC & TUV
Mike Becker
About Mike Becker Linked In
Mike is a seasoned engineer with 10+ years of experience in charging systems. He bought a Tesla Model S in 2014 and has been in love with EVs ever since. He runs a small EVSE installation business in Florida and blogs about what he loves.

Reference

  1. https://ev-lectron.com/products/lectron-portable-electric-car-charger-16a
  2. https://www.mustartpower.com/products/mustart-level-2-portable-ev-charger-240-volt-25ft-cable-40-amp-electric-vehicle-charger-plug-in-ev-charging-station-with-nema-14-50p-update-version
  3. https://parts.nissanusa.com/p/Nissan__/Case-Carry–EVSE/89591365/296M2-3NF0A.html
  4. https://shop.tesla.com/product/gen-2-mobile-connector-bundle
  5. https://www.shopbmwusa.com/PRODUCT/5755/BMW-TURBOCORD-CHARGER
  6. https://blinkcharging.com/products/mobile-charger/?locale=en
  7. https://www.sparkcharge.io/