How exciting! You purchased an EV (or you’re about to) and can’t believe how quiet, smooth, and FAST it is. But, there is more to think about with an EV than there is with a regular ICE car and figuring it all out can seem a little daunting. The good news is there are many resources and apps available to help so getting up to speed (pun intended) with your new EV is a snap. The first thing to figure out is how you will be charging it.
The easy part: home charging
Let’s start with charging at home. If you have a garage, clean it out and make room for your car. That 120V household plug on your wall will give you 40 miles of charge per day/night. If you drive more than 40 miles per day or simply want more charging capability, you should plan to install a 240V outlet. Most new models come with a level 2 connector and have support for installing home chargers. Consult your local electricity provider for credits and rebates (they all have them). Home charging meets 80% of all EV driver needs in the US.
What if you don’t have access to home charging?
If you don’t have access to home charging or plan to take your car on the road a lot, you can still own an EV. You just need to start planning. Step 1 is to get some of the apps that will help you locate, plan, and use public charging. There are a lot of apps out there and many new ones likely to come online soon, but I’m going to tell you about my top 4 here. They were all I needed to get started. Note that some of the charger networks are better for certain regions. I'm in Southern California, but a lot of the screenshots are from my editor in Brooklyn. Definitely check with some local EV drivers to ask what apps and networks they like best.
Public charging comes in two speeds: Level 2 and Level 3. The biggest difference between them is how quickly they refill your car. Level 2 charging is the same speed that you can install at home, but public Level 2 chargers are often even faster because they can be set up to supply higher voltage than your home. Level 3, also known as DC fast charging, is super fast, but can be expensive. Also, relying solely on Level 3 charging is possible, but it can degrade your battery over time. Still, plenty of people do it, especially if they lease their car. Note that most PHEVs do not support DC fast charging.
Electrify America is a national network of DC fast chargers, and it has an app to help you find and pay for charging. If your car is new or you plan on using Level 3, DC fast charging, Electrify America is a good place to start. You’ll probably want to check it out if you plan on doing any road trips with your EV, or trying to recharge while running errands, since DC fast charging will give you the most charge in the shortest time.
Many new models also include some free charging through the Electrify America network: Audi, BMW, Fisker, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Lucid, Mercedes-Benz, Polestar, Porsche, Volkswagen and Volvo all have free charging agreements that range from 1 to 3 years depending on the model.
Electrify America has 3 cost plan options. GUEST, PASS and PASS+. Check ElectrifyAmerica.com for their pricing as it varies from state to state. In California the PASS+ has a monthly charge of $4 that entitles you to DC fast charging for $0.31 cents per KWh. With most EV’s that will get you 30 miles of range for $3.10 (I use that metric to make it easier to compare fuel cost to a smaller sedan like a Civic, or Corolla). If you opt for the PASS or GUEST option you pay $0.43 cents per KWh, but there is no monthly charge. On PASS or GUEST, it works out to about $4.30 ($1.20 more) per 30 miles. Depending on how much you use the Electrify America network, one plan may work better for you.
The Electrify America network does have two drawbacks. First it’s primarily DC fast charge, so it will not fit all use cases. If you’re looking for reliable Level 2 chargers to replace home charging, you will need other options. If you are looking to save on costs, DC fast charging is also an expensive option. Level 2 charging is about 40% less expensive than DC fast charging when compared to the PASS option and about 20% less when compared to the PASS+.
The second drawback is that Electrify America only shows chargers in its network, which may not always be convenient for you.
In Los Angeles, the city with the most EV’s in the entire world, the Electrify America charging stations are not as numerous as I would have hoped. In some cases you may have to drive several miles to a charging station. If your charge is free then it may not matter, but using eight miles of range to get to a charger may not be your best use of time or money. If you’re planning to take advantage of free Electrify America charging, check the map first. You don’t want to find out there are no chargers in your area after you’ve purchased your car.
Another important app to have is PlugShare, which shows you all of the chargers in a given area regardless of network or brand.
The app has ads or you can pay $0.99 cents per month to go ad free. PlugShare accesses multiple charging networks, shows Level 2 and Level 3 chargers, and has a better map and better information than the charging networks themselves. For example, when I used the ChargePoint app (see below) on a recent trip and searched for closest chargers, it continued showing me chargers to the north even though I was driving south. I didn’t have that issue with PlugShare - the map was very accurate and even showed me ChargePoint locations that the ChargePoint app didn’t show. Go figure.
The PlugShare app has a trip planner so you can plan your stops with your route. It also has a bookmark function so you can save your favorite locations. The nice thing about bookmarking locations is that you can check whether or not they are available before you go.
Especially if you rely on public chargers for your everyday needs, this is a big plus. There is no extra charge for using PlugShare. It is just a better way to find chargers.
Another must have is the aforementioned ChargePoint. This is my favorite charging network. ChargePoint combines all of the best practices. They have DC fast and Level 2 chargers.
The network is expansive, and I really like their chargers and their locations. So far every charger I’ve been to has been clean, well lit, functioning, and is in safe locations. The pricing is clear and the Level 2 charging is fast. If you download the app and use it to charge, you simply hold your phone to the charger and it initiates the session. If you get an account, ChargePoint will keep a $5 balance in your account, and will automatically refill with $10 when you fall below $5.
Having an account is helpful. It keeps track of your charging history, locations, time and cost, and knows your vehicle when looking for charging stations. I’ve found the most important feature is that it will only show charging locations compatible with your vehicle.
This is very important. You don’t want to make your way to a charger only to find out you can’t use it. I speak from experience. If you don’t want to use the app to save your information and pay, you can also just tap your credit card and start charging. The price is the same either way, but you don’t have access to the app’s features.
The last app I recommend is EVGo. I really like EVGo, mainly because my first charge was free. EVGo has a number of pricing options that definitely require some mathematical gymnastics. EV Charging Costs: Pricing and Plan for EV Charging (evgo.com).
I’ll run through an example: My car gets 3.0 miles per KWh. I drive on average 40 miles per day. I would have to charge on peak, so I would be paying $0.32 per kWh plus a $12.99 monthly fee. I use about 400 kWh a month (40 miles per day * 30 days = 1,200 miles / 3 Miles per kWh = 400 kWh) That adds up to $140.99 for 1200 miles of driving.
If I compare that to a car that gets 30 MPG I break even on cost when gas is $3.59 per gallon. It’s currently $3.99 so I'm already saving.
One of the advantages of EVGo is that it allows you to reserve a station in advance if you are on the EVGo Plus or EVGo Max plans. This could become handy as more people switch to EV’s but I have not yet had to reserve a spot.
If you’ve already bought your EV or if you’re still planning on it, welcome. You’ll love it, but it does take some adjustment. Some combination of public charging and home charging works best for me and ChargePoint is my go to because of the price and proximity of chargers. Check the apps, check the maps, and pricing and do a little math. You’ll find out you’ll save a lot of money, create less pollution and get a really great car in the bargain. It just takes a little adjustment.