The nation’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure is growing at a rapid pace, but potential EV owners need to ask themselves some basic questions about refueling that will undoubtedly influence their decision to buy – or not.
First, and most importantly, where do you plan to charge your car? It’s easiest to do it at home, but you’ll likely need to hire an electrician to install a Level 2 charger for you. The charger itself can cost upwards of $600, and the cost of installation will vary depending on factors such as the distance to the service panel and whether the panel can support the additional demand.
If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a charging station where you work, you can save quite a bit of money, but it’s not without its risks. While the demand for chargers is nowhere near its peak, you may still find yourself vying with other EV drivers to secure a charging station, and there’s always the chance that it will be out of service. And then of course there’s the risk of getting ICEd – a term used to describe when a vehicle with an internal combustion engine intentionally parks in or blocks a dedicated EV parking space.
Understanding your electric vehicle’s range is another important factor in determining your charging plan. Range pertains to the expected distance one can drive before requiring a recharge – but the key here is “expected.” The range illuminated on the dash doesn’t factor in terrain, such as hills or mountains, and it can’t take into account the effects of the outside temperature on your heating and cooling demands.
One EV owner reported purchasing an EV with an expected range of 274 miles. However, the range decreased to a point at which she was unable to make it to northern Vermont to visit her family on a single charge because of the hills and air-conditioning. She located a public charging station en route (as well as a couple of backups), but had to build in an additional 30 to 45 minutes of charging time to ensure she would be able to make it to her destination.
Did you know? Up to 80% of the battery energy powers an electric vehicle, compared to 14% to 26% of the energy from a gasoline-powered car. (energy.gov)
Public charging is a rather complex undertaking as well. Drivers first must identify the type of plug or connector their vehicle requires. Tesla has a proprietary connector that only works with their charging terminals, while the 2021 Nissan Leaf is the last generation to use the CHAdeMO charging functionality – what some might call the “Betamax” of the EV charging industry. The remainder of EVs use a connector referred to as a CCS or J1772.
Once you’ve determined the connection type, it’s time to look at charging speed. While electric vehicles can be powered by a Level 1 charger plugged into a standard household outlet, a full charge can take up to 48 hours. The next step up – a Level 2 charger – requires a 220- or 240-volt outlet and a receptacle like the ones used by clothes dryers. A Level 2 charger can deliver a full charge in as little as 8 hours, and they’re the most common chargers found in supermarket parking lots and the like. A DC charger, which can restore a depleted battery in about 90 minutes is ideal, but they can often be hard to find.
You can use your smartphone to locate a compatible, functioning EV charger, but each manufacturer has their own app, which means you’ll have several apps and multiple accounts to set up for payment. ChargePoint, for example, only shows their own charging stations on their app, so you can easily find yourself switching between apps to find the most convenient charger.
With more electric cars than ever before hitting the highways, it will be challenging for the EV charging infrastructure to keep up with demand. While EVs are not without their own distinct set of challenges, there will be a time in the not-too-distant future that they’ll be as ubiquitous as their gas-powered counterparts.
- EVs typically cost more than their gas-powered counterparts at time of purchase, but they’re less expensive to operate and require less maintenance in the long run.
- About 57% of consumers avoid EVs because they worry about running out of charge, but only 5% of owners have actually run out.
- There’s definitely a learning curve with EVs, but apps offered by auto manufacturers and charging manufacturers make it easy to have information at your fingertips.