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A Guide to Charging Stations and Networks


For drivers of gasoline or diesel vehicles, finding a place to refuel is very easy. There are well over 100,000 gas stations in the United States and most people have one within a few miles of their home. For drivers of electric vehicles, finding a public recharging station isn’t quite as easy. The majority of electrical vehicle (EV) owners charge their vehicles at home.

EV drivers have a number of public charging networks to choose from and each one works differently. It’s important for EV owners to have some general knowledge of how a station works before using it.

Cost

Charging networks can be either pay-as-you-go, monthly subscriptions or free. The free stations would be the obvious choice for most people, even for a limited or promotional period. The paid stations will take some time of monitoring your use and cost to determine if it’s the best option for you. The power of your vehicle’s onboard charger will determine the amount of range added per hour. So basically, the smaller charger takes longer to charge and will cost you slightly more than a larger charger. Other issues to look out for is charges to your credit card with your vehicle plugged in, even if the car has fully charged. Some stations have corrected this problem by offering unlimited charging plans.

Recommendations

Before considering a charging network, think about your normal routes and destinations. Then use a charging station finding tool to see what networks are convenient for you. It is a good idea to try all of the networks to determine the best one for you. Tesla Charging Stations typically offer Tesla owners 400kWh of free charging credits per year.

Types of Charging Stations

Charging your vehicle is typically a straight forward process. You simply plug it in like you would to charge any other electrical device. Like a mobile phone, the speed at which your car charges will depend on the type of charger. Some chargers can plug into standard wall sockets and others will require a more complex installation. There are three types of charging stations: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3(also known as DC Fast Chargers).

Level 1 chargers can plug into standard wall outlets and are ideal for home use. Typically, these chargers are used for overnight charging. The average charge rate for this charger is two to five miles of travel per hour. This type of charger is usually the least expensive and takes the longest to charge of all the charger types.

Level 2 chargers are designed to be home or commercial stations. This charger is not suitable for standard wall sockets because they require a much higher input voltage. In most cases, they have to be professionally installed and can be connected to a solar system. Level 2 chargers have a charge rate of 10 to 60 miles per hour and can charge most vehicles in under two hours.

Level 3 fast chargers provide the fastest charge of all the charger types. They have a charge rate of 60 to 100 miles per hour and can charge a vehicle is less than 20 minutes. These chargers are not available for residential use and require expensive equipment to install. Also, not all electric vehicles compatible with these chargers.