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Saturday, June 25, 2016

How to Charge an Electric Car (EV)

Welcome to EV Charging 101: A Public EV Charging How To 

Electric vehicle ownership is continuing to grow. 1 Million plug-in cars were on the world's roads as of 2015. Plug In America estimates that there are currently nearly half a million plug-in cars on US roadways. The upcoming Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt will continue this trend and we are likely to see 1 million PEVs on US roads during 2018. With all of these EV sales, there will be many new owners that have never used public charging infrastructure.

When you are charging at home it is as easy as: open the charging port, plug in, and smile. Dealing with public infrastructure can be a little more difficult. This article is intended to educate plug-in vehicle owners, newbies and veterans alike, about plugging in when you are out and about.

If you want to charge at a charging stations in the wild, there are a few things that you'll need to know: the type of charging station, where to find it, what (if any) membership card you'll need to access it.

Know Your Car's Charging Port(s)

This all starts by knowing what kind of connector(s) your car has. The types of ports, will determine what types of charging stations you can use. Unfortunately, there is not one unified connector for all EVs. There are connectors for AC, there are connector for DC fast charging, and some that can do both.

For AC charging, modern EVs use the J1772 (jay-seventeen-seventy-two) plug. This port is standard on most EVs. The big exception is Tesla, they have a proprietary inlet port, but they have a J1772 adapter. Many of the public charging stations are J1772.

SAE J1772 Plug and socket/inlet

Depending on the power source and your vehicle, these give you from 5 miles to 30 miles of range per hour that you are plugged into them. These types of charging stations are good for overnight charging and workplace charging where the vehicle will be parked for several hours, but they are not generally useful for a cross country trek.

For long distance drives, you need DC Fast Charging (DCFC). Depending on the station and your car, these can get you from 80 miles of range per hour up to 170 miles of range per hour. There are three primary types of DCFC: CHAdeMO, SAE Combined Charging Standard (CCS), and Tesla Superchargers.

CHAdeMO (left) and CCS (right)

CHAdeMO is generally supported by Japanese manufacturers such as Nissan, Kia, and Mitsubishi.
CCS is generally supported by German and US manufactures such as BMW, VW, GM, and Ford.
Tesla Model S/X vehicles, of course, use the Tesla Superchargers. You can also buy an adapter to allow a Tesla to charge at CHAdeMO stations and Tesla has promised a CCS adapter soon.

You need to know which type (if any) of DC fast charging your vehicle supports. For some make/models, the base package does not include DC fast charging and plug-in hybrids usually don't have a DCFC option.

There are some charging stations that support both CHAdeMO and CCS. It is important that you know which DCFC your vehicle supports. If you coast up to the wrong one with a flat battery, it will not be able to charge your car.

Know Your Networks

There are multiple EV charging networks. You need to know which one(s) are in your travel realms and which one(s) work with your car.

Here are a some of the more common networks: Aerovironment, Blink, ChargePoint, nrg, and Tesla.

Charging Station Membership Cards

Tesla charging is a special case; we'll come back to them. Let's look at the others first. These networks require membership to access them. Find out which ones are in your area (more on this in the next section) and join those networks.

Tesla has two charging networks. The first is the Supercharger network, these are fast charge stations that can supply up to 170 miles of range in 30 minutes. No membership is required, other than owning a Tesla. These stations only work with post-Roadster Tesla vehicles (i.e., Model S, Model X, and soon Model 3). The second Tesla network is the Destination Charging network. These are generally at hotels, restaurants and shopping centers. They often include both Tesla wall chargers and Level 2 J1772 from other vendors. These may or may not be free. Hotel sites, for example, may only allow guests to use these stations.

Where Are The Charging Stations?

Here we are in step three. In step one you figured out what types of charging stations your car supports. In step two, you joined your local (or planned travel route) charging networks. Now, to find the stations.

Some EVs have charging station locations in their nav system. This is handy but it may not include real-time availability information. Unless you have an internet connected car (like a Tesla), then you'll need to use a smartphone app like PlugShare for realtime info.

When you are planning a trip and you know you'll need to make a charging stop, it is very helpful to look these stations up on PlugShare see if they have been used recently and what, if any, notes others have left. These checks and notes are very useful. They will let you know if a station has been used recently and if it is operational. If it is down, you can make other plans.

Tip: when possible, go to a "charging cluster" such as Electric Avenue. Clusters have multiple charging stations. If one of the stations is non-operational or occupied, you can just pull in to another stall.

Guerrilla Charging 

Occasionally, you may be traveling to regions that apparently have never heard of electric vehicles. Even in these areas, you may be able to charge with little or no problems. With the right adapter, nearly any electric outlet will do.

Guerrilla EV charging kit
Nearly any US campground with RV hook-up spots will have NEMA 14-50 outlets. These are 240V outlets and will get you 25 to 30 miles of range for each hour that you're plugged in there. In is not the 150 MPH of a DCFC, but if you only need another 50 miles to get to your destination, it can be a nice stop to explore a part of the world you would have previously just driven through.

Depending on how long you are planning on plugging in, many of these locations will allow you to charge for a small fee, whereas others may require you to pay the full overnight space fee. Be charming (not entitled) and you might be surprised that people can be very friendly. An EV is still a novelty and conversation starter in many places.

If you plan on stopping at a BNB on your EV trek, call ahead and ask about plugging in. A simple 120V outlet can provide you with 50 miles of range when plugged in for a 10 hour overnight stay. If you are lucky, they may even have a 240V dryer outlet that you could use to charge even faster.  

Wrap Up

There you have the basics and a couple advanced tips. Find the follow up with EV charging tips and tricks here. I'll even explain what that green card below is all about. If you have any related questions, leave a comment below and I'll try to help.

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