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Understanding EV charging

A guide to at-home and public charging

Vicky Volvovski
April 11, 2023

You've probably heard of the term "range anxiety." Lots of people are worried about getting stranded on the road with no way to charge their EV. The good news is that both home and public charging is easy and accessible, and becoming even better over time.

Charging at home

Level 1 charging

EVs can plug into a normal wall outlet and charge at “Level 1,” which is usually around 4-5 miles per hour. This may be sufficient for drivers who mainly take local trips and drive less than ~40 miles/week. You can always start with a Level 1 and then upgrade your charger later.

Level 2 charging

If you need a faster charge, you can get a “Level 2” charger. These will charge 15-30 miles an hour, depending on your vehicle and the charger you select.

There are two categories of Level 2 chargers: charging stations and portable chargers. Charging stations (sometimes referred to as "wall chargers") are installed – usually inside a garage or outside near a parking space. They can be hardwired into the wall or post, or they can plug into a 240v outlet nearby. They usually come with software that allows you to control when to start and stop charging, give you more visibility into charging data, etc.

Home charging station

Portable Level 2 chargers don't have a wall box or software component. One end plugs into a 240v outlet and the other into the car. You can unplug the charger and throw it into your trunk if you're going on a road trip and need to charge at your destination. They tend to charge an EV slightly slower than the charging station options, but will still charge a car overnight. Portable chargers are typically cheaper than charging stations.

Charging for renters or multi-unit buildings

If you rent or live in a multi-unit building, talk to your building owner about using available outlets in the building or garage to charge. Many landlords allow you to pay a flat fee (like $5/mo) to charge your EV from existing infrastructure.

You can also talk to them about installing dedicated EV chargers. This may be a larger project, depending on the electrical capacity of the building.

Public charging infrastructure

Public charging is well established along main highway routes, and is developing rapidly in areas away from high ways. Public chargers are usually Level 2 or Level 3, also called "DC" or "fast charging." Level 3 chargers will charge an EV in 15-60 minutes, depending on the car.

PlugShare has a map of public charging stations and EV Match is an Airbnb-style service where you rent time on someone else's charger. Consider what routes you regularly take and see if there are charging stations available.

If you commute to work, check if your employer has charging stations available for employees. If they don't, ask them about installing dedicated EV chargers.

Remember that you'll likely be doing the majority of your charging at home, so you'll mostly need public charging stations for long-distance trips or if you live in a building where you cannot charge.

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