Guide On How To Charge Your Electric Car With Charging Stations
Electric cars (EVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles are relatively new on the market and the fact that they use electricity to propel themselves means a new infrastructure has been put into place, one which few are familiar with. This is why we have created this useful guide to explain and clarify the different charging solutions used to charge an electric car.
In this EV charging guide, you’ll learn more about the 3 places where it’s possible to charge, the 3 different levels of charging available in North America, fast charging with superchargers, charging times, and connectors. You’ll also discover an essential tool for public charging, and useful links to answer all of your questions.
Before we get into those concepts, it is good to know the various terms used for charging stations. They usually all refer to the same thing.
- Charging station
- Charging outlet
- Charging plug
- Charging port
- EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment)
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Electric Car Home Chargers
Charging an electric car or plug-in hybrid is mainly done at home.Home charging accounts actually for 80% of all charging done by EV drivers. This is why it’s important to understand the solutions available, along with the pros of each.
Home Charging Solutions: Level 1 Level 2
There are two types of home charging: level 1 charging and level 2 charging.
- Level 1 charging happens when you charge an electric vehicle (EV) using the charger included with the car. These chargers can be plugged with one end into any standard 120V outlet, with the other end being plugged directly into the car. It can charge 200 kilometers (124 miles) in 20 hours.
- Level 2 chargers are sold separately from the car, although they’re often purchased at the same time. These chargers require a slightly more complicated setup, as they are plugged into a 240V outlet which allows charging 3 to 7 times faster depending on the electric car and the charger. All of these chargers have an SAE J1772 connector and are available for online purchase in Canada and the USA. They usually have to be installed by an electrician. You can learn more about level 2 charging stations in this guide.
For every electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid, the use of a level 2 home charging station is recommended to help you charge faster and enjoy your EV’s full potential. Provincial and municipal incentives are available in some regions to help with purchase and installation costs. You can also check the following websites for more information.
- Quebec incentives for electric car home chargers
- British Columbia incentives for electric car home chargers (the program is temporarily suspended)
- For the United States, we suggest you check your government website.
The pros of home charging
To enjoy all the benefits of charging at home, you need to use a level 2 home charger.
A fully charged battery in a few hours
A level 2 charger allows you to charge your electric car 5 to 7 times faster for a full-electric car or up to 3 times faster for a plug-in hybrid compared to a level 1 charger. This means you’ll be able to maximize the use of your EV and reduce stops to charge at public charging stations.
It takes around four hours to fully charge a 30-kWh battery car (standard battery for an electric car), which allows you to make the most out of driving your EV, especially when you have a limited time to charge.
Start Your Day Fully Charged
Home charging is normally done on evenings and at night. Just connect your charger to your electric car when you come home from work, and you’ll be sure to have a fully charged battery the next morning. Most of the time, an EV’s range is enough for all your daily travel, meaning you won’t have to stop at public chargers for charging. At home, your electric car charges while you eat, play with the kids, watch TV, and sleep!
Save Big on Charging Costs
- In Quebec, it is about 30% less expensive to charge at home than at a public charger and 6 times less expensive to drive 100 km (62 miles) on electricity than on gas.
- In Ontario, it is roughly 65% less expensive to charge at home than at a public charger and 5 times less expensive to drive 100 km (62 miles) on electricity than on gas.
- In British Columbia, it is roughly 30% cheaper to charge at home than at a public charger and 5 times less expensive to drive 100 km (62 miles) on electricity than on gas.
- In the United States, it all depends on the price of electricity and gas. You have to compare the consumption of electricity in kWh/100 miles of the EV multiplied by the cost of the kWh vs. the consumption of gallons/100 miles of the gas car multiplied by the price of a gallon of gas. That way, you will be able to quickly know how much you could save on your travel costs.
Electric Car Public Charging Stations
Public charging allows EV drivers to charge their electric cars on the road when they need to travel longer distances than allowed by their EV’s autonomy. These public chargers are often located near restaurants, shopping centers, parking spots, and such public spaces.
To locate them easily, we suggest you use ChargeHub’s charging stations map that is available on iOS, Android, and web browsers. The map lets you easily find every public charger in North America. You can also see most chargers’ status in real time, make itineraries, and more. We’ll be using our map in this guide to explain how the public charging works.
There are three main things to know about public charging: the 3 different levels of charging, the difference between connectors and the charging networks.
Charging Station Connectors
Charging Station Networks
Charging Your Vehicle
Imagine never stopping at a gas station again, and instead, have an unlimited supply of fuel available at home or wherever you normally park. For many electric car drivers, this is a reality. All-electric cars never need gas, and for short trips, plug-in hybrids might use no gas.
Electric car charging is simple, cost-effective and convenient, particularly when you are plugged in at home—filling up your car even while you’re asleep. How long it takes to charge depends on the charging equipment and the size of the car’s battery and its available charging capacity.
Although electric car drivers primarily charge at home, workplace and public chargers are increasingly available in communities nationwide.
There are three convenient ways to charge your electric car.
I can charge at home any time I want, and it is quiet and drives beautifully!
It’s so quiet and quick. I wake up everyday with a full charge, ready to go.
No need to gas up weekly! After work I just come home and plug my car in.
See how easy it is to charge? Now compare electric cars and find out more about range.
You can charge your electric car using standard 120 volt(V) home outlets (Level 1), 208-240V outlets like those used by your dryer (Level 2), or dedicated 480V public fast chargers (DC Fast Charging). The time it takes to charge using each of these three options depends on your drive and the size of the battery. Charging speed is also determined by the size of the vehicle’s on-board charger and the power lever of the charging equipment.
Level 1 charging uses a standard 120-volt plug. Today, new electric cars come with portable charging equipment to allow you to plug in to any 120-volt outlet. Typically, the average daily commute of 40 miles can be easily replenished overnight with a Level 1 charger.
In most cases Level 2 charging requires charging equipment to be purchased and installed. The typical Level 2 charger can replenish the same 40 mile average daily commute in less than 2 hours.
DC Fast Charging
DC fast chargers can provide 10 to 20 miles of range per minute.
DC Fast Charging is for public charging stations only and not for home use.
Most fully electric cars are equipped for DC Fast Charging today, but always be aware of your car’s charging connector before you try to plug in. You will either have a Tesla connector that can be used at a Tesla Supercharger, an SAE Combo connector or a Chademo connector.
Want to learn more on Fast Charging?
Check out this Quick Guide to Fast Charging by ChargePoint.
Level 1 and Level 2 Charging Options
Level 1: Electric cars come standard with a 120-volt Level 1 portable charger. Yes, these chargers can be plugged into a simple household outlet, and don’t require any special installation. Pretty cool, right?
Level 2: Drivers can also pursue a higher-powered Level 2 unit for sale and installation in their home. Shop Level 2 chargers and learn about incentives using our Home Charging Advisor. Learn more about home charging with our FAQs.
Tesla’s electric cars come with a plug-in 120/240-volt Level 1/2 charger. These require a 240-volt outlet, which most owners need to have professionally installed.
In general, most electric car drivers want the assurance and convenience of a quicker charge and eventually install the 240-volt, Level 2 charging ability in their home.
Home Charging Advisor
Find chargers and apply for incentives for charging your EV at home.
See how easy it is to charge? Now compare electric cars and find out more about range.
If charging at home is not an option or if you need to “top off” during the day for an extra errand, workplace charging is another convenient location to charge your car. Many employers are installing charging for their employees, so check with your company to see if this is an option for you.
If your employer has not implemented workplace charging yet, you can advocate that workplace charging is a good move. You can also provide them resources to help them consider the benefits.
Never fear! There are so many great charging station locators and mobile apps that help you find public charging stations when and where you need it. You can now expect public charging stations in public parking lots at the mall, the grocery store, movie theaters, community centers, arenas, hotels and airports.
Many are free or are offered at affordable prices, usually much less than the cost of gasoline.
You can search by charging speed and even by the station location you are interested, if it is available or currently in use.
Be sure to check with the car manufacturer and electric car driving manual for charging options that are right for your electric car. You may also need a subscription to charge with some of these networks, so plan ahead and do your research before going on that long road trip.
If you are a city or county looking to install public chargers in your area, check out the permitting video and resources to learn more about how you can increase charging in your area.
Is there a tax credit for electric vehicle chargers?
If you’ve considered switching to an electric vehicle, you probably know about the federal tax credit for EVs. But did you know there are also incentives and rebates for electric vehicle chargers? There are a few things every electric car owner should know like the types of electric cars, electric car battery lifespan, and the various tax credits. Read on to get all your EV charging incentive questions answered.
Buying an electric vehicle and an EV charging station is surprisingly easy and affordable, thanks to numerous incentives throughout the country. Rebates are available for the various aspects of EV ownership, including the vehicle itself, the charging station, charging station installation, and perks like EV utility rates, preferred parking, and free or lower-cost access to HOV lanes and toll roads.
The source for incentives can vary depending on where you live, the specific vehicle model you purchase, and the way the vehicle will be used, such as for personal or corporate use. The important thing is not to overlook incentives for buying the EV charging station, which is a critical component of a convenient and enjoyable EV ownership experience.
Federal EV charger incentives
The federal government offers a tax credit for EV charger hardware and EV charger installation costs. It covers 30% of the costs with a maximum 1,000 credit for residents and 30,000 federal tax credit for commercial installs. And it’s retroactive, so you can still apply for installs made as early as 2017.
However, the government is not the only source that can help pay for an EV charger. Rebates are also available from utilities so when you take advantage of all the incentives, the cost of a charging station becomes extremely affordable. Incentives are generally divided into two categories: (1) Private residential customer and (2) Commercial customer, including both retail businesses and multi-family dwellings. In some cases, the total cost is covered; in others it’s based on a percentage of the hardware and residential or commercial EV charger installation cost.
Residential utility rebates
Over 30 different U.S. and Canadian utilities offer rebates for the purchase of residential EV charging equipment. The amounts range from about 150 to 750 per charger.
These programs have cut-off dates. Most tax incentive programs today have deadlines at the end of the year, with the potential to be renewed. Many incentives are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only up to a specific total budget, in some cases just a few thousand dollars. But they can run up into the millions. The Smart move is to install the charging station (and claim the incentives) as soon as possible while funds are available.
Not all charging stations are created equal, and not all charging stations are eligible for the same amount of incentives. For example, California’s Anaheim Public Utilities offers up to 1,000 for a networked charger, which very well could cover all the costs. But the rebate drops to 400 for non-networked EV charging equipment. When shopping for an EV charging station, be sure to find out if it’s eligible for the tax incentive programs in your region. Enel X Way’s JuiceBox home EV charging stations are fully networked, Level 2 Smart EV charging stations that qualify for nearly every residential incentive program.
The key is to look for what’s available in your area via the EV Rebate Checker. Then read the fine print and contact your utility or other incentive program coordinator if you still have questions. Pay attention to special requirements, such as Level 2 chargers that are Wi-Fi enabled.
Commercial utility rebates
Utilities understand the importance of transitioning to electric vehicles to help lower carbon emissions. Dozens of utilities throughout the US and Canada offer rebates. In many cases, these utility incentive programs require EV charging stations to be Smart, networked EV charging stations such as Enel X Way’s JuiceBox Pro, which can help lower demand on the grid, reduce the need for grid infrastructure upgrades, and integrate renewables.
The dollar values for commercial rebates are usually between a few thousand dollars per Level 2 charging, and up to around 30,000 for DC fast charging stations. The exact amount available from any source can be based on whether it’s serving employees and customers in a business, or if it’s designed for a multi-family condo or apartment complex, or if it’s open to the public. Projects designed for low-income or multifamily communities often qualify for additional funds. A make-ready project that installs the foundation and infrastructure for charging stations (but not the equipment) can also get funding. Additional rebates to support purchasing the station itself can come later.
Your Guide to Charging an Electric Car
Driving an electric vehicle is relatively simple; however, charging an EV can get complicated.
So, you’re considering making the leap to an electric car. Unlike purchasing a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, buying an EV involves some forethought and planning. Particularly when it comes to keeping it running. Whereas gas stations are a dime-a-dozen, the infrastructure for electric chargers is still a bit shaky. Don’t let this scare you, though, as there are a lot of different options available to ensure you’re easily able to charge your electric car.
One of the best decisions you can make before purchasing an EV is to have a charger installed where you live. That’s certainly easier if you own your home, but there are plenty of hoops to jump through to make it happen (permits, contractors, fees). To simplify the process, some automakers incentivize this process, as do a number of state and local governments. If you happen to rent the place you call home, then it never hurts to ask your landlord about the possibility of installing an electric car charger.
EV Charging Levels and Charging at Home
There are three main classifications of EV charging, and the one you’ll want to use depends on how far you’re going and how much time you have. It’s also important to remember charging an EV is unlike refueling a gasoline-powered car, in that you’ll almost never wait until the battery approaches empty before you plug in. If you charge at home, it’s easy to plug in at the end of each day and recharge overnight. The same is largely true during the day if you’re able to charge at work. Longer road trips require a different approach because you have less time to work with.
Level 1 charge equipment is typically provided with all new EVs. This type plugs into an ordinary 120V household outlet, making this the most convenient but also the slowest way to charge an electric car. Level 1 chargers add roughly two to four miles of range per hour, with the lower end of that range corresponding to larger, less efficient EVs. This means Level 1 charging can take days, not hours, to fully replenish a depleted battery pack. But charging from empty is far from the norm, so Level 1 can work out just fine if you drive no more than 20 miles or so per day and can plug in every night.
You do need to consider a couple of points. First, you should consult an electrician to see if the socket you plan to use is up to it, especially if your home isn’t relatively new. Also, you should never plug your car’s Level 1 charge cord in via an extension cord, because the extra wire length adds resistance that can overheat your home wiring. Also, if you’re unable to plug in regularly, or want to be able to add spontaneous side trips during the day or on weekends, you may find that this setup charges at a rate that’s too slow for your liking.
To satiate your need for charging speed, you’re going to want to look into stepping up to Level 2 home charging, which can support up to 240 volts at triple (and in some cases quadruple) the amperage of Level 1. That makes most Level 2 setups six to eight times faster than Level 1, which equates to between 12 and 32 miles of range added per hour of charging, with the more efficient EVs toward the higher end of that range. With Level 2, you can add a significant amount of range to most EVs in a couple of hours, and it makes full overnight top-ups a breeze even if you happened to drive more miles than usual, skipped charging for a couple of days, or programmed your car to delay charging until the wee hours when electricity rates can plummet.
Level 2 is fairly attainable, especially if you are a homeowner. Some of the supplied cords that come with EVs have swappable ends that feature 240V plugs, but if the cord that comes with the EV you’re considering doesn’t have such a feature, you can purchase standalone Level 2 home charge equipment. Either way, you’ll need a 220–240V outlet that’s connected to a dedicated circuit breaker. A consultation with an electrician is necessary to add such a circuit and make sure your panel is up to it. There are a few notable plug options, but the best and most common is called a NEMA 14-50. This is the same outlet RV parks provide for Class A motorhomes, so you might be in a plug-and-play situation if you’ve already had your garage wired up to support such an RV.
But Level 2 isn’t just found at home. It’s the predominant type found in public spaces, workplaces, and certain shopping malls. Also, the cord-end that you plug into the car looks the same as home Level 1 and Level 2 equipment. You can add a significant chunk of range if you plug in while you’re having dinner-and-a-movie with a friend or significant other, but they are not intended for a full fill from near-empty, mainly because they’re generally not located where people spend many hours in one place.
Level 3 chargers are also known as DC fast chargers, and as the name suggests, this equipment can much more rapidly charge your electric car’s battery. Fast charging is particularly helpful on long trips that require intermediate charges to reach a destination because most compatible EVs can take on 100–250 miles or more of range in significantly less than an hour. Level 3 chargers differ from Level 2 charge equipment in that they utilize a different socket on the vehicle side, with extra pins intended to handle additional higher voltage.
There are three types. Tesla Superchargers utilize their own proprietary socket that other cars are—as yet—unable to use here in North America. SAE Combo (also known as CCS or simply Combo) chargers are based on the same socket used by the Level 2 plug, but with an extra pair of large pins grafted on below. CCS-enabled cars typically have a secondary flap the user folds down to expose the socket for these extra pins. Finally, there’s CHAdeMO, the BetaMax of the trio. This socket is mainly found on a few Mitsubishis and the Nissan Leaf, though Nissan’s future products will use the CCS interface going forward.
The rate of charge is measured in kilowatts (kW), which currently range from a low of 50 kW to a high of 350 kW depending on the specific charger. The fast-charge capability of the car itself matters, too. A car that has a maximum DC Fast charge rate of 50 kW will gain nothing by plugging into a 350 kW station, and will instead take up a spot that a car with faster-charging capability could use.
EV owners will see a noticeable dip in the charge rate once their car’s battery reaches approximately 80 percent capacity. In practical terms, an 80 or 90 percent charge is more than enough to get you down the road to the next stop. But this is also done to prevent damaging the battery pack by way of overcharging or overheating it. Think of it like pouring water into a glass. You can dump in a lot at first, but you generally slow the flow as the glass approaches full and dribble it in near the end, otherwise, you run the risk the water may overflow.
Tesla’s Supercharger network is made up of Level 3 chargers, which the company strategically places around the country. The sheer number of Supercharger locations is high because the network has been built out over some 10 years. This and the fact that its chargers are reliably in working order make Tesla’s electric car charging infrastructure one of the best currently available. For now, access to the Supercharger network in the United States is limited strictly to Tesla’s own vehicles, but it is possible that might change.
For everyone else (including Tesla drivers), there are several charge networks available to the public, such as ChargePoint, Electrify America, EVGo, and others. These networks are generally newer and less extensive, so we recommend joining as many as you can in order to increase your odds of finding an available and functioning station on your travels. It’s also a good idea to download each network’s app on your phone, have an active account, and keep a physical charge card with you.
Some automakers are also beginning to implement plug and charge, which is a way of accessing multiple networks for charging your electric car. The Mercedes EQS battery-electric sedan, for instance, can consolidate several networks under a single user account. It also includes a plug-and-charge function when using participating chargers. This allows you to simply plug your EQS in without having to interact with the charger’s app or physical charge card.
Charging on the go is further simplified by way of many electric cars’ in-dash navigation systems, which will typically suggest charging locations to stop at along your route should your EV need a charge in order to reach the final destination. That said, we recommend picking several alternate charging stations in case your range depletes quicker than expected or in the event a chosen charging station’s charger is already in use or out of order.
The Cost of Charging an Electric Car
Though the price of electricity varies by location, charging an electric car at home ought to cost notably less than filling your gas-powered car’s tank with an equivalent amount of gas. In some areas, your electricity provider may incentivize charging by lowering rates during off-peak hours. Generally, these lower rates take effect late in the evening and last through the early morning. Many electric cars allow you to schedule your daily at-home charging times, which ought to ensure your EV is charging during these off-peak hours. Prepare to spend a good deal more money on charging if you regularly rely on charging networks to recharge your electric car.
Those charging at home may want to invest in solar panels that feed a series of batteries called an energy storage system, an example of which is Tesla’s Powerwall. These systems collect energy from the sun during the day and store it for later uses, such as charging an electric car. In some areas, any excess power collected can be sold back to the local utility company. Be warned, energy storage systems can currently be prohibitively expensive.
EV Charging Etiquette
If you are a recent electric car convert, then you ought to be aware of a few of the simple etiquette guidelines that come with EV ownership. For instance, when using a charger in a public parking area, it’s best to keep tabs on your electric car’s state of charge. Once its battery is at full capacity, it’s common courtesy to move your car—even if that means hoofing it back to the charging station well before you’re ready to leave the area—so other drivers can charge their EVs. In fact, some charging networks will penalize you for keeping your car plugged into the charger after its battery reaches full capacity.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure your electric car is correctly plugged in and actively charging before walking away. Faults sometimes occur within a minute or two of plugging in.
Once your EV’s done charging, place the charger handle back on the receptacle and neatly coil the cable. These components take a beating in everyday use and keeping them in good working order will pay dividends for you and other EV drivers alike. These cables are also a tripping hazard, so keeping them off the ground is always a Smart idea. If you encounter a faulty charger, then your best bet is to notify the network of this issue so it can be fixed.
Charging an electric car may seem complex, but with the exception of the additional time it takes to get your car to its full energy capacity, it’s generally no harder than fueling up a gas- or diesel-powered vehicle. Even better, those with an at-home charger will find charging their electric car is just as easy as charging any mobile device. Just plug it in overnight, and wake up with it ready to go.
With a background in design and open-wheel racing, Mark Takahashi got his foot in the door as an art director on car and motorcycle magazines. He parlayed that into a career as an automotive journalist and has reviewed thousands of vehicles over the past few decades.