This article is part of a series. You can find Part 1 here.
Real World EV Range
Picture this: you’re a first-time EV buyer. You buy an EV that says it has 250 miles of range. The next town with a rapid charger is 240 miles away, and your parents live there. So, you pack up the suitcases, load up the family, and take a weekend trip to go show off the new EV. But, as you blast down the highway at 80 MPH, you notice the range estimator on the screen dropping like a rock, and before long, it predicts that you aren’t going to have enough miles to make it.
It turns out that EPA range ratings can be very deceptive, as can range estimators in gauge clusters. Just like gas cars, the EPA numbers don’t give you the mileage you will get in the real world unless you always drive just like the manufacturer’s test drivers.
Unless you want an irate customer demanding you take the car back and talking to the local news, it’s a good idea to make sure they have realistic expectations.
If the car has a good trip planner built in, this is probably the best way to help them out. By good, I mean a trip planner that factors in not just charging station locations, but also speed limits, terrain, and hopefully temperature, among other factors that affect range. If a trip planner shows a perfect circle around the car on the map showing its range, that’s a good sign that you’re dealing with a poorly designed planner.
If you’re selling a vehicle with either no in-dash trip planner or one that’s not very good, It’s best to refer buyers to A Better Routeplanner (ABRP). It can run on your phone (app or website), a tablet, or in the car’s infotainment system if it has a web browser. It knows the terrain, so it’ll know if an EV is going to use more energy going uphill, and factor that in. It knows that going faster means more energy use, as does colder temperatures, more weight in the car, and other factors. It’s not perfect, so you’ll need to advise them to leave some margin, but it’s a whole lot better than assuming you’ll be able to drive the EPA range on any road under all circumstances.
Charging At Home or Work
For local driving, most drivers on most days will only use a small fraction of the car’s range. The exception to this is if you’re a used dealer selling older low-range or heavily degraded cars. Fortunately, most driving is local, which makes things a lot easier when it comes to range.
The upside to home charging is that you never have to go to the gas station. Just plug it in when you get home and unplug it when you’re leaving. The downside is that you may need to spend some money for better charging speeds at home.
For home charging in the United States, there are two kinds of charging.
Level 1 is powered by a normal 120-volt wall outlet. EVs all come with the cord for that, so if you’ve got a 120-volt plug in your garage or near your parking space, you’re good to go and don’t need to spend any money. This will add anywhere from 2 to 5 miles of charging per hour, depending on how efficient your EV is. If you don’t need to drive more than 50 miles per day most days, this will cover your needs.
Level 2 charging is more powerful, but requires a 240-volt plug. In many cases, you’ll have to have an electrician install a 240-volt circuit to a 240-volt outlet for your car to charge. This adds anywhere from 10-40 miles per hour of charging, which means you can have a full battery every morning no matter how much you drove the day before (as long as it’s a car that’s under 100 kWh or so).
Many people use Level 1 charging and do just fine with it, but spending the extra money to get faster home charging can add peace of mind.
If you don’t have access to an electrical outlet at home, you’ll need to see if you can charge at work or elsewhere. A growing number of workplaces offer charging, so that’s worth checking into. Some parking lots, businesses, and even local governments offer charging that may be near your home or work.
Charging Away From Home
Things get a little more complicated when you’re trying to charge your car away from home, but it’s not that big of a deal. Plugshare.com and the Plugshare app are both great places to find charging locations, but you’ve got to find one that both works for your car and works for the kind of charging you’re trying to do.
Like at home, Level 1 and Level 2 charging are available out in public, but they’re only useful if you aren’t trying to charge back up and be on your way. If you’re an Uber driver or you’re just out shopping, slow charging can be a great way to add a few miles while you’re at someplace for a while. It’s also a great free perk a business can use to attract customers.
If you need a quicker charge, you’ll want a Level 3 or DC Fast Charging (DCFC) station. But, there are three types of quick charge stations in the United States: Tesla, CCS, and CHAdeMO. To charge, you’ll need to find a station along your route that’s compatible with your vehicle or have an adapter with you. Tesla cars can charge at CCS and CHAdeMO stations with adapters, but there are currently no adapters for non-Tesla cars to charge at Tesla stations. This may change soon, though.
Both Plugshare and A Better Routeplanner can help you find compatible stations for your particular car, and Plugshare can often tell you when a station is broken. It’s also a good idea to sign into the charging station owner’s app or website to check the status of charging stations to avoid depending on one that may be down.
In Part 4, I’ll continue talking about charging away from home, and then discuss the maintenance requirements of EVs.
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