All About Charging EVs
When you buy an electric vehicle, you probably expect a few things to happen. First, you likely expect to have a more environmentally friendly vehicle that costs less to run over the long term. You’re likely looking for a tech-forward experience with plenty of gadgets. Finally, and this is the biggie, you’re looking to stop making constant trips to the gas station. Electric cars are capable of driving without any fossil fuels, but do require access to a charger, whether that be at home or in a public location.Instead of a fuel tank that holds gas or diesel, electric vehicles have battery packs that must be recharged after a certain number of miles. Miles of range can vary greatly between vehicles, as some EVs can travel hundreds of miles between visits to charging stations, while others are far from suitable for a road trip. Unfortunately, the EV user experience depends heavily on finding charging units, knowing when to charge, and having reasonable expectations on the costs and times associated with EV charging. What can you expect while charging an electric car? What should drivers of gas vehicles know before jumping in with EVs? Let’s dive in and take a look. SolStockGetty Images Home ChargingOwning an electric car is an exciting experience, but for many of us, it can be frustrating if there is no access to proper charging sites or solid charging infrastructure in place. This is where charging at home comes into play. For those of us that live in areas without extensive and well thought-out charging networks, having the ability to charge at home is the only way to make the EV ownership experience a pleasant one. In order to charge your electric vehicle at home with any reasonable level of speed, you’ll need to invest in the installation of a home charger. This means 240V wiring or outlet (like you would use for an electric stove or clothes dryers) and a garage or safe location to install. Of course, it’s possible to charge at Level 1 or slower speeds at home using only a normal power outlet, but recharging can be so slow that it might not be practical for many.It may not be possible to achieve the charging speeds at home that you could at Tesla Superchargers, for instance, but the range recovered per hour is enough to refill your vehicle at home before you need to wake up for work the next day. Costs may also seem daunting, but it’s important to note that in many locations, utility company rebates or state incentives may help wipe away much of the cost. Information is available online for reference, so check with your local authorities for more details. Tesla Public ChargingAccess to charging stations has grown significantly in urban areas across the U.S. in recent years, to the point that people in cities such as Los Angeles and New York only need a smartphone app and a little effort to find several places to charge. These chargers work at a rate that even the best home chargers can’t, and are installed in locations that are generally pretty convenient to access. Fast charging, also called Level 3 charging, is available at many stations, and allows most EVs to access super fast charge speeds. Unlike a home charger, public charging sites have safety features that work to prevent overheating and overuse, and don’t play into an EV drivers’ electricity rates at home. One big downside to public charging is that, as more people get tired of refilling a gas tank and buy EVs, there are more people lining up to charge. This can be a real pain, waiting for a spot at a local charging station, especially for people on a road trip or for those just looking to recover a few miles of range.Charging AccessCharging access is a big deal for many in the U.S., especially as the number of EV owners grows. In order for the charging network to grow, a number of factors will need to fall into place, many of which relate to public policy and support from the government. The cost of installing new stations can be prohibitive for small business owners or for those without significant financial resources, and large companies with chargers across the country have little incentive to install them in areas with few current prospective or actual EV owners. For these reasons, it’s still hard to recommend EVs to drivers that live in extreme rural areas, or in locations where long daily commutes are the norm. Of course, this will change over time as electric vehicles become more affordable and as state and local governments become more serious about driving EV adoption. The expansion may also depend heavily on automakers, as Tesla and others build both their own charging networks and work in partnership with utilities, outside companies, and others to prove chargers to owners across the country. KELLY SERFOSS Charging CostsOne of the biggest questions prospective EV owners ask is about the costs to charge. What you ultimately pay to charge will depend heavily on where you’re accessing a charger. At-home charging can be quite economical in the right circumstances. Using the charging cost estimator from the Alternative Fuels Data Center, we can see that if electricity costs $.13 per kWh and an EV requires 33 kWh to travel 100 miles, the cost per mile is around $.04. Using the same electricity costs, an EV with a 200-mile range would cost around $9 to recharge fully. The Center also offers a charging cost estimator that you can use to estimate your costs to charge at home. You may see varying prices when using a public charging station. Chargers located in high-traffic areas may charge more to fill up, while those in quieter areas may cost less. Tesla states that the costs to use its stations across the U.S. can be viewed in its app, and each location may have different pricing.
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