Electric vehicles (EVs), also known as battery electric vehicles (BEVs), use batteries to power their electric motors. Unlike their internal combustion engine counterparts that fill up at the gas station, electric cars are powered by electricity and are “refueled” by recharging the battery.

For most EV owners, electric vehicle charging is a daily component to owning an electric car. So what are your charging options and how do you recharge an electric car? We have the important answers.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

An electric car is charged by plugging the vehicle into a charger connected to the electric grid. This can be accomplished either in the home or at a public charging station. There are three types of electric vehicle charging stations:

Level 1:

The simplest and most convenient way to charge an electric vehicle is with home charging equipment. All plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles come standard with a 120-volt, or Level 1, home charging kit that allows your vehicle to plug into a standard household outlet with an adapter. While this method doesn’t require the installation of special equipment, it only provides three to five miles of range per hour of charging. That means it can take 20-to-60 hours or more to reach a full charge, depending on a vehicle battery capacity. Level 1 charging can work for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that don’t have a long electric driving range, but if you want to quickly maximize your vehicle’s all-electric range, even a Level 1 charger isn’t very efficient.

Level 2:

Next is the Level 2, 240-volt charger, which can provide between 12 and 60 miles of range per hour. Level 2 charging units can be installed in the home by an electrician using either a 40 or 50 amp circuit. Level 2 chargers are also what’s found in most public charging stations like Chargepoint. Charging time for Level 2 chargers generally takes 8-10 hours for most electric vehicles. Home installation can cost between $500 and $2,000, but local incentives can help defray this cost.

Level 3: DC Fast Charging

Level 3 chargers, also known as DC fast charging chargers, offer the fastest electric vehicle charging speed. For Tesla drivers, these are known as Tesla superchargers. These fast chargers use direct current (DC) energy and require special plugs to connect. Because DC fast chargers are too powerful and expensive to install in most homes, they are mainly available as public charging stations. To use DC fast chargers, you must have a CHAdeMO adapter for older EVs or the Combined Charging System (Combo or CCS) found on newer EVs. Teslas come standard with an adapter that enables DC fast charging. 

 A level 3 DC fast charging station can get an electric vehicle’s battery to 80 percent of capacity in as little as 20 minutes, which makes them ideal for charging during road trips. They aren’t recommended for regular charging as frequent use can harm the life of the battery.

How To Charge an Electric Car At Home: Step-by-Step Instructions

Similar to using a nozzle to fill your car up at a gas station, EVs are charged by inserting a connector into the charging equipment. Here is how you charge your electric car:

Step 1: Open 

Open the vehicle’s charge port cover via the touchscreen or by pushing on the cover.

Step 2:  Insert

Remove the charging station connector from the dock of the charging unit and insert into the car’s charge port. If you’re using a Level 1 Charger, simply plug the home connector kit into a wall outlet.

Step 3: Set a Charging Limit

Set a charging limit for your vehicle if you want to. Most EV manufacturers recommend not charging beyond 80 percent to maximize battery life, but for road trips you may want your car’s full range. You can set the charging limit on most EV touchscreens. The touchscreen will also inform you of charge percentage and estimated time remaining. 

Step 4: Stop Charging

When you’re done charging, push the connector button to stop charging, then remove the cable and return to the charging station.

How to Use Public Charging Stations

While home charging stations are the most common way to charge your electric vehicle, public charging stations provide a convenient alternative for EV owners who need a charger away from home or don’t have a home charging station. And due to the increased popularity of EVs, public charging networks are growing. Public charging stations can be found in convenient locations like airports, hotels, parking garages, parking lots, libraries, and on downtown streets. Many large companies, particularly in the tech industry, are installing EV chargers at their worksite.

Step 1: Find a Charging Location

Public chargers can be found on Google Maps, on websites, and in charging-specific apps for networks like Chargepoint, PlugShare, and EVgo. Tesla charging stations and superchargers can be found on Tesla’s navigation screen. Teslas are compatible across all EV charging stations, but require an adapter for non-Tesla charging stations. Most new EVs also incorporate one or more EV charging networks into their navigation system, making them easy to find with just a few taps and swipes.

Step 2: Get the Charging Cable

The first step is to look for the charging cable, which is typically connected to the charging unit. In some instances where the chargers are mounted to a pole, the cable will drop down after the customer scans a QR code or connects to a mobile app.

Step 3: Connect to the charging station

The next step is to connect the cable to your car’s charging port. 

Step 4: Authenticate and begin the session

To start charging, you will usually first need to authenticate yourself and your method of payment. The most common way is through a smartphone app or by touching your credit card to the device. As soon as the charger has authenticated you and your vehicle, you can begin your charging session. 

Step 5: End the electric car charging session

When your EV has reached your desired level of charge, you can end the session by swiping your card or by ending it on the mobile app.Simply unplug the charging cable and return it to the charging unit. Mobile apps for the charging network and/or your car let you monitor your state of charge in real time with your smartphone. 

Electric Vehicle Cost of Charging 

To calculate how much it costs to charge an electric car, divide the electric vehicle’s range in miles by its range per kilowatt hour (kWh). Next multiply it by electricity cost per kWh to determine how much it costs to charge an electric vehicle. Check out our guide that breaks down the cost of charging an electric car. 

Bottom Line

Whether you’re using an EV charger in your home or in public, EV chargers are easy and convenient to use. And with more EVs hitting the road and the proliferation of the EV charging infrastructure, it is going to become increasingly convenient for EV drivers to charge their vehicles away from home.

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