Electric Vehicle Charging Overview. Ev car charging points

How to Charge an Electric Car

Electric vehicles (EVs) are powered by batteries that provide energy to electric motors, driving motion to the wheels. Keeping the battery charged is key to keeping the vehicle moving and is just as easy as filling up on gas in a gas-powered car.

We’re here to explain all you need to know about charging an electric vehicle: step-by-step instructions, where to charge, how long it takes to charge and how far a charge lasts. We’ll also cover the different charging station output levels, the average cost of charging an EV and how to monitor your charge status.

How does charging work?

Charging occurs by connecting the EV to a power source known as a charging station. Once connected to the charging station, EVs use their charging port and onboard charger to convert the external power into battery charge. While all-electric cars (BEVs), such as the Tesla Model 3, must be repowered at a charging station, hybrid vehicles (HEVs and PHEVs) can be recharged at a charging station or refueled at a gas station.

Please return your EV rental with its battery charged to at least 10%. If you charge at a Tesla network station, we’ll pass through charging-related fees to the credit card you used to rent your Tesla. And if you charge at a third-party charging station, just pay on the spot.

EVs are able to charge at three different levels of power output. These different output levels impact where you can charge (home or public location) as well as the equipment and time required to charge. Home chargers use Level 1 or Level 2 charging equipment.

Level 1 uses a standard household outlet (120-volt connection).

EVs come with a standard 120V charging cord so you’ll be able to charge if you have access to an outlet.

Level 2 uses a higher 240-volt power source and can be compared to the power grid your oven is plugged into and charges much quicker than a Level 1 outlet.

DC fast chargers are found at public charging stations. These provide quicker charging times than Level 1 and 2 stations and are ideal if you require a boost of power in a shorter amount of time.

EV batteries also receive power through a process called regenerative (regen) braking. Regen braking uses torque to slow the car, recapturing energy that is normally lost in non-electric cars by using an inverter to invert energy from the brakes.

While regen braking does improve the battery charge, it is not the primary source of recharging for all-electric vehicles (BEVs). For maximum performance, a charging station is required to repower the battery.


Recharging an EV is just like filling up with gas, but rather than inserting a nozzle at a gas station, you insert a connector at a charging station. Use the following steps to charge Model 3:

  • Open the charge port cover via the touchscreen or by pushing on the cover.
  • Remove charging station connector from dock and insert into the car’s charge port. While charging, the charge port logo will flash green.
  • The touchscreen will inform you of charge percentage and estimated time remaining. To optimize battery performance, your rental car will charge to 90%.
  • When complete, press the connector button until the logo turns white, remove from car and return to dock.

While Model 3 is compatible with all EV charging stations, an adapter is required when using non-Tesla stations. Each of our Model 3 rentals comes equipped with a Mobile Connector kit which includes the adapter. After using the adapter, always be sure to remove it from the charging station connector and return it to the Mobile Connector kit.

Where can I charge the car?

As well as charging at home, public and private charging stations provide you with a place to recharge and restart your journey. There are currently over 40,000 official public charging stations available across the US, with nearly 100,000 charging outlets installed in public spaces. To meet the increasing demand for electric car energy, stations are rapidly being installed nationwide.

Requiring only limited space, EV charging stations can exist in similar locations to gas stations, such as off the highway or even at gas stations, and in locations not suitable for gas stations. Such locations include public parking garages, office and retail parking lots and even busy downtown streets.

There are a variety of ways to locate public charging stations. In Model 3, Tesla Supercharger stations appear as red pins on the navigation screen. You can also touch the lightning bolt on the touchscreen or ask for location options via voice command.

Apps, such as Plugshare and ChargePoint, are available as well to pinpoint your nearest charging location. You can also visit the US Department of Energy website and use their charging station locator to find stations throughout the US.

How long does it take to charge an electric vehicle?

Electric car charging times vary depending on the size of the battery and the charging station output. The vehicle model affects the charge time as well, with manufacturers like Tesla, GM and others having different models that offer varying charge periods.

If you know the power output level of a charging station, you will know whether to expect a slower or faster charging experience. When available, we encourage you to select charging stations in the following order:

  • Tesla Superchargers: Add up to 200 miles in only 15 minutes
  • DC fast chargers: Ideal for longer journeys requiring short stops
  • Level 2 (240V): Achieve a partial to complete charge in 5-8 hours
  • Level 1 (120V): Convenient for home or local driving use, not for long trips

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Charging an EV at home has been found to be the most affordable and common option, with owners typically doing 80% of charging at home. The average EV-owning US household pays 12 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy used to charge, adding on average 30-60 to a monthly energy bill.

While you’re likely not home while renting a car, our Model 3 rentals include a Mobile Connector kit which enables you to connect the car to a standard 120V household outlet should one be available during your trip. Additionally, the home charging savings are worth noting when comparing refueling costs of gas-powered cars.

So how much does it cost to charge an EV at a public charging station? In short, it varies, but is always more affordable – and greener – than filling up with gas. Although free public charging stations do exist, most stations charge a fee based on kWh usage, charging time or percentage of battery charged.

The costs of charging can also vary depending on your location. Home charging, for example, varies from an average of 8.65 cents per kWh in Iowa to a rate of 32.76 cents per kWh in Hawaii. Just as home charging rates vary, rates at public charging stations can vary – even within the same city. Apps, such as Plugshare and ChargePoint, can reduce charging costs by locating free or less expensive charging stations in your area.

No matter the distance of your journey, charging an EV is sure to provide cost savings compared with fueling a gas-powered car.

How far can an electric car go on one charge?

Electric cars are capable of reaching different driving ranges, depending on:

Make and model Size of the battery How much the battery is charged

Most EVs easily travel over 200 miles on a full charge, with select Tesla models reaching beyond that. The Tesla Model 3, for example, can travel up to 260-mile range. With electric vehicle technology advancing all the time, these ranges are estimated to increase over the coming years.

electric, vehicle, charging, overview

Just like a car powered by gas, weather conditions and the style in which you drive an electric car will affect how much power the car has. For example, harsh braking uses more energy whether a car operates by gas or electric. Exercising safe driving practices will stop the car from wasting vital energy that could get it further down the road.

Likewise, using power-draining instruments and accessories onboard can deplete the battery. This includes entertainment systems, lighting and air conditioning.

Monitoring your Model 3 charge can be done in multiple ways. Displayed in a prominent location on the touchscreen, the battery meter reflects the charge remaining with numerical percentage, a status bar and color changes (green to yellow to red), and the battery range displays estimated miles remaining. Using Model 3’s voice command technology, you can also ask your car for an update on its battery charge.

Although unlikely to occur if you are monitoring your charge, Model 3 provides plentiful alerts and warnings as well as suggested nearby charging station locations via pop-up notifications if a low charge is detected.

Ready to recharge and rethink the way you drive? Learn more about EVs by visiting our electric car hub for more information.

EPA estimate according to Tesla, Inc. product specifications.

See your EV Rental Terms to learn more

Electric Vehicle Charging Overview

Imagine never having to stop at a gas station again – and instead, having an unlimited supply of fuel available at home or wherever you normally park. For many electric vehicle (EV) drivers, this is a reality. Battery electric vehicles never need gas, and for short trips, plug–in hybrids might use no gas.

EV charging is simple, cost–effective, clean and convenient, particularly when you are plugged in at home – filling up your car, even while you’re asleep.

There are three categories of electric vehicle (EV) charging: Level 1, Level 2 and DC fast charging. Levels 1 and 2 charging use a universal connector that can be plugged into any EV. DC fast charging uses three different connector systems called CHAdeMO, CCS Combo and Tesla Supercharger.

Although EV drivers primarily charge at home, workplace and public chargers are increasingly available in communities nationwide. Use our EV Charging Station Map to find nearby charging stations.

Level 1 Charging

Level 1 is the slowest method of charging but is sufficient for drivers who charge overnight and travel 30–40 miles per day. Charging cables usually come with a vehicle and plug into a standard 120–volt AC outlet with no equipment installation required. Level 1 charging works well for charging at home, work or anywhere a standard outlet is available – and when you have sufficient time to charge.

Level 1 charging uses a standard J1772 or Tesla connector that can plug into any EV, either directly, or through an adapter.

Level 1 charging adds about 3.5 – 6.5 miles of driving range per hour of charging time.

Level 2 Charging

Level 2 charging is considerably faster, but requires installing a charging station, also known as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). EVSE requires a dedicated 240–volt or 208–volt electrical circuit, similar to what is required for a clothes dryer or electric range. Level 2 is found at many public and workplace charging stations, but also in many homes. It uses the same standard connector as Level 1 charging, meaning any EV can plug in at any Level 2 charger.

Level 2 charging uses a standard J1772 or Tesla connector that can plug into any EV, either directly, or through an adapter.

Depending on battery type, charger configuration and circuit capacity, Level 2 charging adds about 14 – 35 miles of range per hour of charging time.

DC Fast Charging

DC fast charging, also called quick charging or supercharging, provides the fastest available fill–up. It requires a 480–volt connection, making DC fast charging unsuitable for home use, and not every EV model is equipped for it. Stations offering DC fast charging are found in shopping centers and often along major travel corridors, allowing EV drivers to charge up quickly and take longer trips.

DC fast charging uses CHAdeMO, CCS or Tesla connector systems. Check with your vehicle manufacturer to determine if your car has fast charging capability and what connector systems are compatible with your EV.

Depending on battery type, charger configuration and circuit capacity, DC fast charging can add up to 100 miles of range in about 30 minutes of charging time.

Electric Vehicle Charging Costs

Home Charging CostsThe cost to charge your electric vehicle depends on your vehicle’s battery size and the price of electricity where you live. Most utilities offer time–of–use (TOU) rates that greatly reduce costs associated with charging a vehicle at home by charging during off–peak hours. Contact your utility to find out more. 1

While electricity costs vary greatly, the average cost of electricity in California is about 16.58¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh). 2 At this price point, charging a 40–kWh battery with a 150–mile range would cost about 4.42¢ per mile (or about 6.63 to fully charge). Meanwhile, fueling a 25–mpg gas vehicle at California’s average gas price of 3.11 per gallon 3 would cost about 12.44¢ per mile (or about 18.66 for enough gas to drive approximately 150 miles).

Home charging costs can be offset by hosting your charger on a home charging sharing network. EV drivers can earn money by sharing their home chargers or connect with other hosts to find convenient charging on the go. For more information about how you can earn money by sharing your home charger, please see these popular sharing networks:

Public Charging CostsWhile charging at home is generally preferred, many people also charge their EV at public charging stations. These stations can be free, pay–as–you–go or subscription-based, and are set by networks or property owners. Some vehicle manufacturers, such as Hyundai, Nissan and Tesla also provide complimentary public charging.

One popular public charging network charges members 1.50 per hour to charge on Level 2, and 26¢ per minute for DC fast charging in California. 4 At these rates, charging a 40–kWh battery with a 150–mile range would cost about 8¢ per mile on Level 2, and 9¢ per mile for DC fast charging.

For more information about public charging networks, here are some popular options available in California:

1 A list of utility providers is at https://www.energy.ca.gov/almanac/electricity_data/utilities.html2 https://www.eia.gov/electricity/state3 https://www.energy.gov/articles/egallon-how-much-cheaper-it-drive-electricity4 https://www.evgo.com/charging-plans/

Charging Station Rebates

Rebates for Residential Level 2 Charging StationsMany California utility providers and air districts offer rebates to make home Level 2 charging stations more affordable. Some of the rebates also help to offset the cost of installing the charging station at your home if additional electrical work is required. Find available rebates where you live.

Rebates for Commercial EV Charging StationsProperty owners can take advantage of rebates for installing commercial charging stations for public use. EV charging is a desired amenity for many California drivers and can attract more traffic to your business, improve tenant or employee satisfaction and generate a new revenue stream (fees for charging). Following are incentives that decrease the cost of charger purchases and installation. Visit the websites for more information on program eligibility requirements and funding availability.

Utility Incentives

Air District Incentives

How Long Does It Take to Charge an Electric Vehicle?

There is no simple answer, but knowing the variables will help you better estimate the time it takes for an EV fill-up.

Figuring precisely how long it takes to charge an electric car is akin to asking, How long does it take to cross the country? It depends on whether you’re on a plane or on foot. Recharge time is dependent on a host of variables, many of them nuanced—even the length of the charging cable can influence it—that make providing a precise answer impossible. But we can give you some reliable guidelines.

Ignoring the more minute variables, the charging time of a vehicle comes down to a few primary factors: power source, the vehicle’s charger capacity, and battery size. Ambient conditions play a smaller part, with both cold- and hot-weather extremes adding to charge time.

Factors That Affect Charging Time

Charger Level

Let’s start with the power source. Not all electrical outlets are created equal. The common 120-volt, 15-amp receptacle in a kitchen is to a 240-volt outlet that powers an electric dryer as a squirt gun is to a garden hose. All electric vehicles can, theoretically, charge their large batteries off the standard kitchen outlet, but imagine trying to fill a 55-gallon barrel with a squirt gun. Recharging an EV battery with a 120-volt source—these are categorized as Level 1 according to SAE J1772, a standard that engineers use to design EVs—is measured in days, not hours.

If you own or plan to own an EV you’ll be wise to consider having a 240-volt Level 2 charging solution installed in your home. A typical Level 2 connection is 240 volts and 40 to 50 amps. While fewer amps is still considered Level 2, a 50-amp circuit will maximize most EV’s onboard chargers (more on those in a minute). Because, if you’re not maximizing the effectiveness of the vehicle‘s onboard chargers, a lower-than-optimal power source is essentially a restrictor plate that lengthens the charge time.

For the absolute fastest charging possible, you’ll want to plug into a Level 3 connection, colloquially known as a DC fast charger. These are the EV equivalent of filling that barrel with a fire hose. A certifiably lethal current of DC power is pumped into the car’s battery, and miles of range are added in short order. Tesla’s V3 Superchargers pump out up to 250 kW and Electrify America’s automotive defibrillators fire out up to 350 kW of heart-stopping power. But like all charging, the flow is throttled back when the vehicle battery’s state-of-charge (SoC) is nearing full. And vehicles’ ability to accept DC charging varies widely. The Porsche Taycan, for example, can charge at up to 270 kW, while a Chevy Bolt EV can manage only 50 kW.

How Much Range Does a Fast-Charger Add in a Half-Hour?

Generally speaking, when an EV battery’s SoC is below 10 percent or above 80 percent, a DC fast charger’s charging rate slows considerably; this optimizes battery life and limits the risk of overcharging. This is why, for example, manufacturers often claim that fast-charging will get your EV’s battery to 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. Some vehicles have a battery preconditioning procedure that ensures the battery is at optimum temperature for Rapid charging while en route to a DC fast charger. So long as you utilize the in-car navigation system to get you there, that is.

Maximum Charging and Driving Range

That last 20 percent of charge may double the time you’re hooked up to the fast charger. The time-consuming affair of completely filling the battery via a DC charger makes these units best utilized on those days when you are traveling a long distance and need additional electricity to reach your destination. Charging at home overnight–sometimes called top-up charging–is a better solution for getting the juice you’ll need for daily, local driving.

Battery Size

As the hunt for range supremacy continues, the battery capacity of some EVs has ballooned to absurd levels. Others are targeting increased efficiency. This plays a massive role in charging time. Upsize our barrel to an 85-gallon unit. Even with a fire hose, it’ll still take longer to fill than the smaller 55-gallon barrel. While a GMC Hummer EV is built on an architecture capable of 350-kW intake, filling its 212.7-kWh battery compared to the 112.0-kWh pack found in a Lucid Air Grand Touring requires exponentially more time, even if the charging rate is similar. The Lucid can travel over 40 percent further on a charge while having 100 kWh fewer in its battery pack than the Hummer. Efficiency, indeed.

electric, vehicle, charging, overview

No doubt someday manufacturers will settle on a single metric for expressing charge times. But for now, know that filling up an EV’s battery still takes considerably longer than topping off a gas-powered car’s fuel tank no matter how or where you do it.

electric, vehicle, charging, overview

There is a common misconception that the thing you plug into an electric car is the charger. In fact, there’s a battery charger in the car that converts the AC electricity from the wall into DC electricity to charge the battery. Onboard chargers trickle power into the battery pack safely and have their own power ratings, typically in kilowatts. If a car has a 10.0-kW charger and a 100.0-kWh battery pack, it would, in theory, take 10 hours to charge a fully depleted battery.

To gauge the optimal charge time of a specific EV, you divide the battery capacity’s kWh number by the onboard charger’s power rating, then add 10 percent, because there are losses associated with charging. This is assuming the power source can maximize the vehicle’s charger.

Typical onboard chargers are at least 6.0 kilowatts, but some manufacturers offer nearly twice that, and the cream-of-the-crop have more than triple that figure. The current Tesla Model 3 Performance, for instance, has an 11.5-kW charger, which can take full advantage of a 240-volt, 60-amp circuit to recharge its 80.8-kWh battery, while the rear-wheel-drive Model 3 comes with a 7.6-kW charger. Doing the recharge-time math indicates that it will take nearly the same time to fill the two cars’ batteries, though the Performance model’s is roughly 30 percent larger. The beauty of a well-paired electricity source and onboard charger is that you can plug your EV in at home with a nearly depleted battery and have a fully charged steed waiting for you in the morning. You can also find approximate recharge times on some EV manufacturers’ websites.

K.C. Colwell is Car and Driver’s executive editor, who covers new cars and technology with a keen eye for automotive nonsense and with what he considers to be great car sense, which is a humblebrag. On his first day at C/D in 2004, he was given the keys to a Porsche 911 by someone who didn’t even know if he had a driver’s license. He also is one of the drivers who set fast laps at C/D’s annual Lightning Lap track test.

Jacob Kurowicki’s love affair with cars doesn’t end at track weapons and posh land yachts, but rather extends to the dopey and eccentric. Pining for a Pontiac Sunfire GT as a child was the first indicator, but an ongoing desire for a Lamborghini LM-002 is the kicker. He luckily found a home in the Car and Driver testing team that allows him to further develop his love for the automotive world and the oddities that come with it.

Welcome to your Mercedes-Benz charging destination.

Electric vehicles require charging through either a Level 1, 2 or 3 charger. The three levels indicate different charging speeds, measured in kilowatts (kW), accessible via home chargers or public charging stations.

Locating Stations

The Mercedes me connect app or the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) headunit can help you find charging stations and make it easy to filter by charging speed or even Plug Charge functionality.

Planning for Trips

Your vehicle will monitor its state of charge and suggest the ideal time to stop for a charge. The Electric Intelligence service optimizes navigation route guidance and automatically factors in necessary charging stops for long-distance travel.

Mercedes me Charge

The heart of your charging ecosystem.

Mercedes me Charge is a suite of charging features within Mercedes me connect specifically designed for your Mercedes-EQ. Find out what Mercedes me Charge includes, explore key benefits and learn how to register your Mercedes-EQ vehicle.

Charging Your Mercedes-EQ

Stay charged at every point in your journey.

Your Mercedes-EQ can be conveniently charged at home or on the go. Learn about all the different charging methods and how to navigate to charging stations with ease.

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Starting price is MSRP, or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. MSRP excludes transportation and handling charges, destination charges, taxes, title, registration, license, tag, preparation and documentary service fees, insurance charges, and Dealer add-on products, accessories and associated labor and installation charges. MSRP for a base model prior to customer build also excludes charges for optional equipment, products, packages, and accessories. Actual vehicle price and availability may vary by Dealer and should be confirmed with the dealer selected by customer.

Stated rates of acceleration are based upon manufacturer’s track results and may vary depending on model, environmental and road surface conditions, driving style, elevation and vehicle load.

EPA estimated fuel economy. Compare the estimated mpg to the estimated mpg of other vehicles. You may get different mileage depending on how fast you drive, weather conditions and trip length. Your actual highway mileage will probably be less than the highway estimate.

With optional trailer hitch. Read Operator’s Manual before towing. In some states, aftermarket trailer brakes are required. See dealer for details.

EPA estimated driving range with a fully charged battery. Driving range may vary based on model, terrain, temperature, driving style, optional equipment, use of vehicle features, and other factors.

electric, vehicle, charging, overview

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Total Price includes estimated taxes and fees if ZIP code is provided but is subject to change and may vary based on locations of Dealer and customer, inventory levels, vehicle features and discounts and rebates, if any. Additional products added to your deal will affect the final price. Actual vehicle price and availability must be confirmed with Dealer.

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