First, congratulate yourself for your forward-thinking car choice! Then, prepare for the switch. A car-owning lifestyle free from the pump is not really that scary, but there are a few simple and easy steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition to electric. 

1. Be Honest About Your Driving Needs

Unlike ICE cars, EV owners need to contend with battery range - and miles are money. It might be a total paradigm shift, but it’s worth the time (and your money) to accurately assess your mileage needs (get our guidance on how to do this). Be honest with yourself about how many miles of battery-range you need, and how often you’ll actually need the entirety of that capacity. If you only need more than 200 miles twice a year, some creativity can save you a lot of money

People who have easy and convenient access to charging solutions (i.e. homeowners in cities with well-developed EV infrastructure) might not need an EV with the longest battery-range, while those who rent or own an apartment - or live somewhere with poorly developed EV infrastructure - might want to consider the extra cost of a longer battery-range EV.

Modern home with a charging set up in the garage

2. Assess Your Charging Situation

When preparing for the switch to EV it makes sense to begin where your car will be spending most of its time: charging. Whether that happens to be a house all to yourself or an apartment, a great first step in preparing for your first EV is to figure out your power situation.

  • Where will you charge?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, roughly 80% of an EV’s charging time happens at home. So it makes sense that the vast majority of EV owners are also homeowners with garage space for keeping and charging their EV - it’s a much easier situation for charging than living in an apartment. A home with a garage means space for your EV and to make charging convenient. It’s not impossible for apartment dwellers to be EV owners, but it can definitely be more complicated. The fact of the matter is that most apartment buildings don’t have dedicated EV charging stations. For the growing number of people who live in cities and rent an apartment, charging at work, at public charging stations, or (if possible) an available wall outlet are popular options if petitioning your building to install a dedicated EV charger isn’t possible or hasn’t worked. 

  • Research: Level 1 or 2 Charging?

There are three levels of EV charging capabilities, each level providing more charge for your EV in less time. As a potential EV owner, you can set up your personal residence with levels 1 and 2 charging capacity. Meanwhile, level 3 charging requires power (and investment) that the vast majority of residences simply can’t meet. Does this seem like a lot to grasp? Read our more detailed breakdown of EV charging. 

The difference between levels 1 and 2 are three-fold: charge time, cost, and set-up. Level 1 provides the slowest rate of charge - at least a day or so to fully charge an EV - but is the least expensive option, the easiest to set up in your house, and turns any of your standard home outlets into a charging point. Plus, it works fine for many people with light daily mileage. 

Level 2 chargers are faster than level 1, recharging your car in 6-10 hours, but can be more expensive and may include a much more involved set-up process. Depending on your home’s electricity setup, there may be an option to set up level 2 charging via a preexisting 240-volt socket (such as the one your dryer is probably plugged into), avoiding the need to install an additional 240V plug. The downside to this option is that the 240V socket is often already being used and you may not want to be constantly unplugging your washer or dryer just to charge your car. The 240V outlet may also not be easily accessible to where you park. Read more about your home charging options. 

  • Homeowners: find your power panel.

The power panel is like the electricity headquarters of your house, it’s where you’ll find the breaker switches that direct your home’s flow of electricity and it’s where you’ll find your home’s total amperage output (in “amperes”). The majority of our relatively newer houses provide 100 - 200 amperes of power - but that output can vary. From there you can look at your electric bills to see how much energy your residence generally consumes and estimate how adding an EV charging solution would affect your monthly electric costs. Use our guide to think it through and check with your utility to see if they offer any home charging incentives

Stock image of electric bill

Once you know your home’s power capacity, you’ll want to move on to the next step - consulting an electrician. Always consult with a professional electrician before installing anything in your home as complicated as an EV charging solution, and then you’ll need them to do the actual installation itself. Depending on what an electrician recommends, the entire process could be as simple as a quick consultation and installation but could involve more like upgrading your power panel.  

  • Renters: think about battery range.

Living in an apartment can make owning an EV trickier, especially if you lack a dedicated parking space or don’t have chargers on the premises. That’s why it’s important to think about which particular EV to buy in addition to how it will be charged. It could be cost-effective to prioritize EV models with longer battery-ranges over other features you might find attractive.

3. Find out Your Local Charging Stations

Even if you plan to charge mostly at home, it's still important to know about public charging. It can often be a convenient and inexpensive way to top off your battery when you're out. And, if you will be relying on public charging, it's critical to scope out the landscape.

Yes, the EV market and infrastructure are rapidly growing, but that doesn’t mean that all cities are equally EV-friendly. Depending on where you live, public charging options could be everywhere - seemingly as prevalent as gas stations - or still far and few between. Some on-board navigation systems can help you find nearby chargers, but it’s always a good idea to find and keep track of where your local charging stations are (and check to see if they are really in service). 

A car street charging in New York City
Image from Empire NYC shows street charging in New York City

Luckily, there are a vast array of apps that help.

4. Explore EV Software

As quickly as EV infrastructure is expanding, the EV software market is expanding even faster. These software solutions aim to solve some of the inconveniences that you might still run into as an EV owner. Most of the most useful apps focus on locating nearby charging stations or even mapping entire journeys around available charging stations. Some of the most popular EV apps include:

  • PlugShare - a mapped, searchable database of charging stations worldwide
  • EVgo and ChargePoint are both similar charging station databases but dedicated to specific EV charging station brands
  • Optiwatt - a home-charging management app that can save you money by tracking how much you spend on home-charging and scheduling charging times based on your electricity provider’s rates and schedule. 

There are always new and exciting EV software solutions being released that aim to solve EV-owning inconveniences, and finding them can be as fun as using them. 

Screenshot showing Electrify America app in New York area
The Electrify America app shows in-network chargers around the NYC metro area

5. Enjoy the ride

Even though switching to an EV might involve a little more prep work than buying the same old gas powered car, most people never plan to buy another combustion engine vehicle. Hopefully, with the help of this guide and other resources, prepping can be a process of getting excited about your brand-new EV. 

Miles Orduña is a New York City-based writer, artist, and life-long technophile.