Waking up with a full battery

A popular mantra among EV owners goes something like this: “I wake up to a full ‘tank’ every morning!” For the 80% of EV owners who charge at home – usually overnight while they’re sleeping – it’s a fantastic perk: plug in when your day ends, have a full battery at sunrise. It surely beats hanging out at gas stations.

The situation can be less rosy for apartment renters, condo dwellers with inflexible homeowner’s associations, and other denizens of the multi-family-housing universe. Those types of buildings are less likely to have EV-charging provisions for their tenants, and landlords and HOAs may be reluctant to foot the bill for needed upgrades. 

However, it is still possible to have a wonderful EV experience without home charging - just expect to be more creative and devote more thought to where you’ll charge. You may be able to charge at work, or at nearby public chargers at big-box retailers, grocery stores and parking garages. In terms of public chargers, it’s worth looking into where they are and how fast they will charge your car before committing since the locations can be a bit scattered and not always convenient. Some drivers find it worth compromising on charging convenience for the many benefits of electric cars, while others need to prioritize ease of use. 

Finally, consider this: if you do have reliable access to a public charger, will it fill your battery quickly enough to meet your daily driving needs? If you’re hoping to get a car with a very large battery but you only have Level 2 charging nearby, you’ll need to figure out how to leave your car for 6-8 hours in order to recharge. Again, this may come down to personal preferences and needs. 

All these points should be considered by newbie EV shoppers. To that end, Recurrent has created this detailed flow chart to help inform your decision and, we hope, make things easier.

Decision tree to buy an electric car
click to see a larger version

The first question is the big one, “Do you own a home?” If the answer is yes, you face few, if any, barriers to EV ownership. Even if your garage, carport or driveway does not have access to an electrical outlet, an electrician can install one, usually for a few hundred dollars. As most EVs come with portable charging cords, simply plugging your car into the wall is typically all that’s required. You may also be able to find local incentives to help you offset the cost of setting up a home charging station

Things can get a bit more complicated for renters. As the chart suggests, you should be good to go for EV ownership if your car is accessible to a plug, if you’re able to charge where you work or if you have reliable access to a public charger. If none of those scenarios describes your situation, play your last card by asking your landlord to install one or more electrical outlets in the parking area. Still no luck? Consider reminding them that EVs are quickly going mainstream, and that charging facilities will be a strong selling point for luring future tenants. There are also many state and federal incentives that can help offset installation costs. 

Electrician looking at n electric meter

Charging Considerations

For those who need to add a line and are able to do so, the main decision will be whether to install a Level 2 (240V) circuit – delivering up to 30 miles of range each hour – or to stick with the standard Level 1 (120V) that gives between four to six miles every hour. Dedicated home EV charging systems can deliver faster home-charging speeds along with useful phone-connected features; but prices range from $200 to $800, and they may not be necessary for your daily driving routine.

Level 1 charging is slow, but it will do if you drive fewer than 40 miles on average per day since plugging in overnight should replenish your battery by morning. Level 2 charging is strongly recommended for those who log more than 40 daily miles, since you need the extra speed to recharge overnight. 

Person leaning against a car looking at a phone while chargng on the street

Level 3 DC fast-charging along public roadways can add 100 miles in 30 minutes and is the go-to option for the rare road warrior who piles on more than 200 - 250 miles every day. Note that you can’t get a DC charger at home just yet - you will be relying on public chargers. And, if you really drive that much a day, take an extra second to plot out frequent routes to make sure that current infrastructure will meet your needs. 

See the bottom of the chart to determine which charging setup best meets your needs. 

Your driving habits influence where you will charge

If, in the end, you’re still bereft of a convenient way to charge, this may not be your time to buy an EV. Look into joining a local EV group that advocates for expanded charging infrastructure, and petition your government representatives to support legislation to that effect. In the interim, consider an efficient hybrid like the Toyota Prius or Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, either of which delivers close to 60 miles per gallon. And don’t give up on the idea of an EV – the infrastructure is building out fast!