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Electric Vehicle Charging Basics

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We’ve come to a moment in contemporary life in which electric vehicles (EVs), including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric vehicles, are becoming more desirable than their gasoline counterparts. That means that EV charging basics are imperative as a whole new audience for EVs emerges.

How do you charge an EV?

EV charging basics are really a lot like filling up your gas-powered car. You can charge your EV at your home, at public charging stations, or at private charging stations. Regardless of the site, they all work basically the same way. 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).

What are the options for charging your EV?

Every EV out there comes with a charger that will plug into a three-prong outlet, so, if you have a garage, and you have a basic outlet, you’re going to be able to get some charge. If you have a battery-electric vehicle and you’re going to be driving longer distances, you need a higher powered circuit. It’s the same kind of circuit you have for a home electric clothes dryer. If your electric panel is near your garage or even in your garage, it should be fairly straightforward to add a circuit that goes to an electric car charger.

How do you install an EV home charging system?

You’ll have an electrician install a home 240-volt charging setup with a private electrical meter in your garage or condo carport. Depending on your region, the installation may start at about $750 and run even higher, but the convenience and ease of overnight charging makes it worth every penny. You’ll follow the state guidelines for condo charging and, if you’re part of a condo community, you may be asked to report your electrical usage to the condo board.

Where do you charge if you’re not near home?

A charging network generally features 2 kinds of chargers:

  • Level 2 chargers, which offer a slower charging rate of the 2 options, are typically mounted on a pedestal, a wall, or in certain cases, grafted directly into a city’s existing infrastructure
  • DC Fast Charging stations, which can usually charge an EV in less than 30 minutes depending on their size. (Be sure to check your charging port before you buy to make sure your new or used EV vehicle has fast charging capability for quicker charging on road trips.)

Lots of advocacy is underway for people who live in apartment buildings and cannot install their own chargers. In the meantime, convenience stores are a, well, convenient place to charge. Add in the need to charge when EV drivers are away from home, and public chargers become extremely important. Look for them to be located at many grocery stores, strip malls, hotels, office buildings, car dealerships, town halls, along major highways, and other places.

Can you depend on public chargers?

Range anxiety — a fear that the electrical charge in your EV isn’t sufficient to get you to your destination or to another charger — is frequently cited as a detriment for EV ownership. Ironically, the highest percentage of people who express range anxiety are those people who don’t yet own their first EV, according to a November, 2023 report. While 76% of future EV owners worry about range, nearly 59% of current EV drivers report none. If you’ve heard that public chargers are sometimes broken, have faith: advocates are pushing charging companies to spend a lot more time addressing issues at their chargers to increase their reliability.

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Charging maps are an important tool of EV charging basics

When you’re planning a long US journey in an EV, you need charging station maps that are dependable and informative to help you find stops along your route. You’ll want the security of knowing that you can locate a charger readily and depend on accuracy of information about its availability and function.

The following apps may help you to locate chargers:

Can you depend on an EV charge in really cold weather?

EV drivers need to plan ahead in order to prevent a roadside mishap due to unexpected power loss and to avoid unnecessary delays and charging costs. Indeed, savvy EV drivers already know that range is variable depending on weather, hills, speed, traffic, cargo, passengers, and interior climate settings. The Journal of Energy Storage recommends preheating batteries in EVs under cold weather conditions to improve the performance and lifetime of lithium ion batteries.

What are the federal government and the states doing to increase EV charging options?

The Federal Highway Administration’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program provides funding to states to strategically deploy EV charging infrastructure and to establish an interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability. Funding comes from the 2021 federal infrastructure law, which is a $5 billion federal program designed to increase EV charger stations mostly along major highway travel routes. The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program is administered by states, which can contract out the construction and operation of the charging stations to private companies.

All 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico are participating in the NEVI program. These initial investments will electrify over 75,000 miles of the national highway system.

Final Thoughts about EV Charging Basics

EVs are playing a key role in ushering in a more sustainable future, yet their continued adoption relies on making the transition to electric a safe, reliable and cost effective experience. The US Department of Energy outlines how using more energy efficient vehicles like hybrid and electric vehicles supports the economy and helps diversify the US transportation fleet. The multiple fuel sources used to generate electricity result in a more secure energy source for the electrified portion of the transportation sector — all of this adds to energy security and environmental health.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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