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Charging Your Plug-in Electric Car

Man charging electric vehicle

Whether you have an all-electric car or a plug-in hybrid, you have several options for charging your vehicle. Many owners will do the majority of their charging at home. Some workplaces, businesses, and multi-unit dwellings (condos/apartments) provide charging, and there are around 15 thousand public charging stations located across the country.

Types of Charging

There are three basic types of charging:

  • Level 1 charging: You can charge your vehicle by plugging it into a regular 120 Volt outlet—the kind found in your home. This is the slowest type of charging—about 5 miles of range per hour of charging—but it is convenient and requires no special charger or outlet type. Most, if not all, plug-in vehicles come equipped with a cord to allow this type of charging.
  • Level 2 charging: Level 2 charging stations supply 240 V current. Most public chargers are Level 2 chargers. You can also have a Level 2 charger installed at home. Level 2 charging is two to five times faster than Level 1 charging, depending on both the circuit capacity of the charging station and the converter on your car. Most public chargers use a standard plug type that is compatible with all vehicles. Tesla charging stations, however, use a different plug type that cannot be used by other manufacturers' vehicles. Tesla provides an adaptor that allows its vehicles to use both Tesla and standard Level 2 charging stations.
  • Fast charging: Also called DC fast charging or DC quick charging is the fastest kind of charging, allowing about 50 to 70 miles of range to be provided to the battery in 20 minutes. Not all vehicles can accept fast charging—your car must have a CHAdeMO or SAE DC fast charge receptacle—so check your owner's manual. Quick charging stations are usually located along heavy traffic corridors. Due to expense and electric current requirements, they are not practical for home installation.

Common Questions

How much will charging at home add to my electricity bill?

This depends on your electricity cost, your car's fuel efficiency, and the number of miles you drive on electricity in a month. For example, if you drive a Nissan Leaf (a small sedan) 12,000 miles a year, electricity costs $0.12/kWh, and you only charge at home, it would add $37.50 to your monthly electric bill.

How do I find public chargers?

Many vehicles have built-in displays that show the nearest charging stations and/or smart phone apps that show you where chargers are located. Aside from vehicle manufacturer and the charging network apps, the Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center has a station locator (web-based desktop version, mobile version, Apple iPhone & iPod version).

How much does public charging cost?

Some public chargers are free. Others charge either a flat fee per charge, a monthly subscription, by the amount of electricity you use, or by how long you use the charger. Charging rates can vary by region and network, and the rates change as public charging develops and different pricing strategies are tested.

How do you pay for public charging?

Most networks, such as Blink or ChargePoint, have memberships that allow members to use cards or mobile apps to activate the chargers. However, even if you don't have a membership, most allow guest charging, though it might be at a higher rate.

How will I know if my car has finished charging?

Most vehicles have an option to send you a text or email message once charging is complete. Public charging networks can also send you a text or email message once charging is complete if you have a membership.

Should I move my car from a public charging station once it is charged?

Yes. Leaving a fully charged vehicle plugged in at a charger can be very frustrating for others who may need to use it. To prevent long term parking at chargers, some public charging stations will charge by the time that the vehicle is plugged in rather than by the electricity consumed.

How much does it cost to install a Level 2 charger at home?

Home charger units generally cost between about $400 and $1,000. Installation costs depend on the electrician, the complexity of the installation, and any permits or other fees that are required. Incentives may be available in your state or local area that offset some of the cost.

Is it worth the extra cost to install a Level 2 charger at home?

It depends on a number of factors, so you'll need to decide if it's economical for you. If you have a plug-in hybrid that has a small battery pack and/or you drive a limited number of miles on electricity each day, Level 1 charging may meet your needs. However, if your vehicle has a large battery pack and you drive 50 or more miles a day on electricity, a Level 2 charger may be worth the investment.

Is it safe to charge my vehicle in the rain?

Yes. Vehicles and charging stations are designed to prevent electrical shock, even during rainy conditions.

More Information

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Locations

Developing Infrastructure to Charge Plug-In Electric Vehicles

Charging Plug-In Electric Vehicles at Home

Electric Vehicle Charging for Multi-Unit Dwellings

Charging Plug-In Electric Vehicles in Public

Blink Frequently Asked Questions

ChargePoint EV Driver Support: EV Driver FAQ

The Ultimate Guide to Electric Car Charging Networks by plugincars.com