Most EV owners talk about a zen moment—the point, usually a few weeks after buying their vehicle, when all worries about charging and range disappear. He saw the new technology and realized that it was not that difficult.
But for new or EV-curious owners, charging can be intimidating. How does EV car work? How long does it take? What is a kilowatt hour anyway?
Fueling an electric car involves chemicals and currents and wires, and it won’t be as simple as pouring a slug of dead dinosaur goo into the tank. But it’s not rocket science either. For most tasks in life, the brain power required to charge a car pales in comparison to that required to operate your microwave to file your taxes. (And a kilowatt hour is the amount of juice needed to propel an electric car 3 miles, depending on the car’s weight and speed, driving conditions, weather, and a bunch of other little things.)
If you’re new to EVs and the US, here’s a charging primer to get you up to speed.
Where can I charge an electric car?
There are three options: a private charger (i.e., home or office), a public fast charging site or a public slow charging site, known in EV-speak as a Level 2 station. The first option is the best and cheapest and doesn’t involve waiting. Another smart trick is to collect money from a Level 2 Community Station at a location where you’ll be spending some time anyway – like a gym or grocery store. These chargers typically go somewhere around 30 mph (depending on both the charger and the vehicle). They are also cheap to manufacture and therefore appear everywhere, especially in shopping malls and office parks. For every fast charging station in the US, there are six slower, Level 2 charging sites.
How do you charge an EV on a long trip?
You’ll probably want a so-called fast-charger to top up along the way. There are about 8,000 of these sites in the US, dotting service stations and rest stops along interstate highways and other major roadways. Once you punch in a destination, most EVs will now map the most efficient route, including stops for charging.
Those who prefer the DIY approach can create their own journey through apps like PlugShare, a platform where drivers gather information about charging stations, including feedback on the speed and reliability of each site. You can filter the results in a thousand ways, removing slow chargers or networks you don’t like.
Can I take a road trip in an EV?
There are still plenty of electron deserts in the US due to the country’s size, and its reluctance to support charging infrastructure as strongly as policymakers in Europe and China. You definitely want to think twice about taking an EV road trip in the Dakotas, for example, or the Deep South.
That said, there aren’t many corridors left off the map for electric vehicles. And the wires are getting tighter by the day, thanks to the latest federal infrastructure bill that began sinking $5 billion in infrastructure charges this fall. Each state has its own spending plan, but the Biden administration’s goal is 500,000 new stations, including one station every 50 miles on highways — even in the Dakotas.
How long does it take to charge an electric car?
Most of the time, a quick charger somewhere around 15 minutes will be enough. Latest electric vehicles and charging infrastructure are being made to complete the work quickly. If the device is on on both sides of the cable, a quarter of an hour will add more than 100 miles of range to most of today’s EVs, usually unless you’re on a long trip.
That said, the car may be a limiting feature. Many older or entry-level EVs do not have the hardware to eject electrons quickly. Some can only go two or three miles per minute, regardless of how fast the charger is connected. Environmental factors such as cold weather can also slow down the process.
You can check how fast each EV model charges in Bloomberg Green’s electric car ratings. Remember, all EVs take electrons very slowly as they approach “saturation”. This is called the charging curve and many EV giants incorporate this variable into their fueling strategy.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car?
In the wild, it’s probably somewhere around $18. This is a typical rate (35 cents per kWh) for an average EV of 15 minutes. In fact, however, this is perhaps the most difficult question to charge. Prices vary widely by country and network, and pricing structures vary, with some companies charging per kilowatt hour and others by time. To complicate matters further, prices can vary depending on the time of day and there are subscriptions, which offer a lower price per unit in exchange for a monthly or annual payment.
However, there are drawbacks. Some EV purchases these days come with free charging for a limited time on certain networks. And if you charge at work, chances are good that you’re at least subsidized by your employer. Municipal charging stations often have free hours, such as after 6 p.m.
How much does it cost to charge an EV at home?
On average, it is around $50 per month. This is based on how much Americans drive (13,476 miles per year on average) and how much they pay for electricity (16 cents per kilowatt hour on average). Again, this depends on where you live and how efficient your EV is at converting electrons into miles. For example, charging a malfunctioning machine in Hawaii, the most expensive state for electricity, can easily cost more than $300 a month, say a GMC Hummer—even though Hawaiians are generally more expensive than the rest of us. I drive less.
How accurate are EV range estimates?
that depends. The official EV range ratings reflect the driving type of mixed routes set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Speed is only part of the equation; Like stop-and-go traffic. In general, the faster you move through the center, the observed range will be smaller than predicted. In traffic around town or running errands, the opposite will be true – your battery will be stretched beyond expectations.
Remember, your choice matters. Increasing AC, moving heavy objects and speeding, among other things, will go the distance of the hamstring.
Can you charge a Tesla at a non-Tesla station?
Yes, if you have a Tesla, you can connect to any public charging station, although you’ll need an adapter (Tesla uses a different type of plug than other EVs on the market, which almost all meet a common format called J1772). Due to the large number of Tesla related to other EVs, the private, for-profit network still needs your business. You can have your cake and eat it too!