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How To Charge An Electric Vehicle — 101

Bored with the lines at gas stations? Frustrated while waiting for your gas tank to fill as your destination beckons? Revolted (again) by the smell of fuel on your hands? Then you need to switch to an electric vehicle (EV) so that you can have the convenience of full charging without those pesky gasoline station stops. But how does charging an electric car work?

If you want to charge your electric vehicle (EV), there are typical places where you can do so: at your home, at public charging stations, or at private charging stations. Regardless of the site, they all work basically the same way.

Charging from Home

Unlike most people who drive conventional gas cars, EV owners can “refill” at home — and it’s so easy to charge an electric vehicle! To alleviate any hesitation you might have, you will be pleased to know that charging an EV looks a lot like filling a gas tank.

Charging your EV requires plugging into a simple electricity outlet in the wall (which many people don’t realize is possible) or plugging into a charger connected to the wall. The charging device you plug into the car is actually called “electric vehicle supply equipment” (EVSE) in the industry, since, technically, the “charger” is already inside the car — but you don’t need to know all that, and most people call the EVSE “chargers” or “charging stations” or “charge points.”

To start, you click open the charging port door. Your key fob will have a release button, and there’s also one available on your dash options.

Next, grab the charging cable. If you have a private garage, your charging equipment is probably looped on a hook near the charger. If you have an outside plug, you probably store your charging equipment in your car’s trunk. Either way, one end gets plugged into the electrical source (whether it is an EV charger or just an electricity outlet) and the other gets pushed into the car’s charging port (often until you hear it click, but it depends on the model).

You’re all set ’til the morning.

Charging in a single-family home, usually in a garage, allows you to take advantage of low, stable residential electricity rates.

For more details on seeing up a home charging station, see: “EV Charging 101: Getting Your Home EV Charging Set Up.”

Charging Away from Home

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the US lives in a multi-unit building without a dedicated parking spot. If that describes you, don’t despair! Sometimes our workplaces offer charging access. Lots of employers believe in sustainability and want to attract smart, educated, green-conscious workers, so a full day of work might be all you need to keep a decent level of charge on your EV.

More and more local shopping places and city garages now offer chargers for you as well. Campgrounds, hotels, fast food restaurants, grocers, convenience stores, and other retail spaces are starting to develop clientele who want to charge while patronizing these vendors.

The Different Levels of Chargers

There are different levels of chargers — some of which charge faster than others.

Level 1: Many electric vehicle owners are able to meet their daily driving range requirements by simply charging overnight with a regular power outlet. The average car is driven only 40 miles/day. All electric vehicles come with a 110-volt-compatible, or Level 1, home connector kit. The Level 1 charger plugs into a dedicated standard house plug and can deliver 12 amps. This means it will deliver 40 miles in an 8-hour overnight charging session. It presents no additional cost and requires no additional installation. In the morning, your EV is charged and ready for your modest drive.

Level 2: This 20 amp charger will recover about 14 miles for each hour you charge, or around 110 miles in an 8 hour night. You need a truly dedicated plug (meaning it is the only thing on a breaker), which is gained by having an electrician replace a regular 120V socket with a 240V socket for twice the charging rate. (Note: If you have a free 240V dryer outlet, you can use that.)

Increasingly, municipalities and even some countries are requiring that new buildings be made “EV ready,” so there is no need to have an electrician come and upgrade your home. Here’s an article that describes new home construction that is EV ready.

Level 3: Commonly known as DC fast charging, this method charges through a 480V, direct-current (DC) plug. Most Level 3 chargers provide an 80% charge in 30 minutes, but the expected rate for new “fast charging” infrastructure has grown significantly in recent years, from a max of 50 kW for years for non-Tesla electric vehicles to 100–130 kW (common Tesla Supercharging rates for several years) to 150 or even 300+ kW today. Yet not all EVs are fast charging-compatible vehicles, and capability beyond 100 kW or 150 kW is especially rare.

The Nuances of Charging

For more details about charging station networks, apps, and charging rates, see: “Electric Car Charging 101: Types of Charging, Charging Networks, Apps, & More!

If you have a Tesla and need to use a charger that’s not manufactured by Tesla, check out this article: “How To Use Tesla’s Charging Adapter At Non-Tesla Public Charging Stations.”

If you’d like to read about a charging experience while at a service center, click through to this article.

If you’d like to learn more how EV charging solutions are evolving, read this article.


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