Charging your car if you can’t install a charger at home can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Today we’re going to take a look at how you can charge your EV, Tesla or otherwise, using publicly available resources.
Ideally, you’d have a setup at your house. For example, at my home, I have a NEMA 14-50 outlet. From there I have a Tesla mobile connector plugged in. When I get home at night, I plug in, and in the morning my Tesla is all juiced up and ready to go. I don’t necessarily care how long it takes to charge either since it’ll charge overnight.
But what if you can’t install a charger at your home like this? Maybe you don’t have a garage or live in an apartment complex that won’t install a charger? That’s when you’ll have to go public
First, let’s talk about the different types of chargers available, so you understand those basics. At home, depending on your equipment, you’ll likely get Level 2 charging rates. This will get you between 20mi of charge per hour which is around 31kph. This amount of charge is commonplace for the public charging networks also.
If you don’t want to wait that long, you’ll want to find a DC Fast Charger. Some even call these Level 3 chargers. The most common connector for a DC Fast Charger is the CHAdeMO plug and is popular in both the US and Europe.
Nissan drove this standard with their Leaf program which includes two years of free charging on the EVgo network. The last option regarding charging connectors is for Tesla. The Tesla Supercharger could be called a Level 4 charger with the fastest rates available.
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You can see the Tesla’s get the most range here, but on an average day, these other EVs will get enough juice to handle most daily commutes. A big caveat to these numbers is that your EV battery doesn’t charge at the same rate for the entire time. When your battery is at 1%, it fills up much faster than when at 80%.
So while these numbers for a 30min Fast Charge range between 75 and 170mi, your results will vary depending on how much charge you start with. Now that you know what kind of charging options exist let’s see what we have for public infrastructure.
The first stop on our tour is an EVgo station. This station has a few regular Level 2 charging options and a couple of Level 3 Fast Chargers. With over 1,000 locations across the US EVgo is relatively small but does seem to have decent availability in more urban areas. They even have a route that goes from Monterey California to Tahoe in which they provide free fast charging. They call it the Advanced Recharging Corridor and have an app you can use to get the free charging. Check the description for a link (http://drivethearc.com/how-to-use-the-app/)
As far as costs go EVgo offers several plans depending on your needs. When looking at the plan choices, it seemed confusing, especially since they charge based on the amount of time versus the amount of energy. EVgo also partnered with BMW and Nissan to offer owners some free charging to help grow EV adoption and their network.
Next, we have the most extensive charging network provider, ChargePoint. You may have heard their name recently as the partnered with Chevy for the Bolt EV to help new owners build up their range confidence. I couldn’t find any real details on discounts or free charging, so I’m not sure what this partnership is.
At the station by my house, the rate was $0.35 per kWh which may sound high, but when you consider our peak rates in San Diego are over 0.40, it’s a good deal.
ChargePoint also offers DC Fast Charging at their Express Chargers, of which they have over 600 worldwide. In addition to the per kWh rate, they will limit the amount of time you can charge at a station. This is presumably to prevent people from just using their stations as parking spots for EVs. Not that an EV owner would ever do such a thing ;p
I like how non-intrusive these stations appear as well. At least the ones I saw blended into the street well enough that if you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t know they were there. This is a sharp contrast to some of the others on our list.
Another popular network here in southern California is Blink. Blink reports over 4K chargers and they do offer fast charging. In my experience, this is probably the most convenient option. However, the prices can be significantly more then what you would pay at your home. I’ve even seen rates as high as $1 per kWh for a charger connected to a solar array, so virtually free energy.
A new startup from San Francisco, Volta, is looking to disrupt this market with free charging. The model is based on showing ads on their massive display stations located next to where you plug in to charge. Volta is small but growing with just under 300 chargers mostly in California but much more planned soon. With over $7M in funding, it looks like Volta could be a larger player shortly.
Tesla owners get some additional options with the supercharger and destination charger networks. The supercharger network is currently the fastest way to charge of any EV. In about 30min you can get upwards of 170 miles, just under 275km of charge. That’s an incredible rate, and Elon has even promised a Supercharger v3 which could triple that. Efficiently letting you fill up in about 10min.
The supercharger network has over 7K chargers and is prevalent in the US, Europe, and Asia. Tesla has stated they’re looking to double this in the coming years to support the growth of their fleet. Tesla is even making smaller chargers for urban environments which promise to help build that range confidence among owners who already have it pretty good.
For Model S and X owners who purchased before May of 2017 Supercharging is Free. New Model S and X owners that used a referral code, such as ours which you can get at https://teslanomics.co/td, also get free supercharging.
If you purchased a Model S or X without a referral code, you still get 400kWh of free charging. However, that won’t last you long if this is your only option for charging. Future Model 3 owners won’t get any free charging from Tesla however. Tesla recently announced they’ll have to pay per use. To help you understand what you’ll pay we published a map showing the rates for each location Tesla has announced.
In addition to the superchargers, Tesla partnered with many local grocery stores, hotels, and malls to offer destination chargers similar to what you can install at your home. These chargers are free for all Tesla’s but often are reserved for patrons of the store or hotel hosting them. This is the average Level 2 charging you can find in the other large networks so don’t count on it to charge up in a short period on your trip.
Many Tesla owners look to the destination network to choose which hotel they’ll stay at on a road trip. Just like at home it’s super convenient, you just plug in when you get there, and in the morning you’re all charged up and ready to go.
Some cities are also installing free public charging stations as well. I round one recently at my local YMCA.
When it comes to finding public chargers, there are lots of options. In my experience the best one is plugshare.
On the plugshare website, I love how you can filter by type, including residential stations. These are peoples homes or businesses they’re offering up, to you for free. Once you sign up, you can find one near you and message them to see if they’re available. I haven’t tried this, but I do love the idea. The other stations found here vary from different network providers, many of which we’ve already discussed. When clicking on one of them you’ll see details about the charging station including the network, how many locations, and the types. Plug share also has an app for your phone that will use your current location to find a nearby station. Overall I like Plugshare but to be fair, I should mention there are tons of other sites similar to this.
EV Match is another startup in this space is working to help pair drivers and people with chargers. The idea here is that people can share their home chargers with others in an Airbnb fashion where the host receives a small fee for providing you with a charge port and juice for your journey.
So with all these options hopefully you can rest easy when it comes to finding a place to charge.
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