Just as a conventionally powered car won’t run without gas in the tank, neither will an electric vehicle unless its battery is sufficiently charged. However, while most motorists can only get a fill-up at a gas station, EV owners have multiple options for replenishing their rides. Here’s a quick look at what’s available.

Charge At Home

This is the easiest way to keep an EV charged, provided you can access a garage with electrical service. Almost all EVs have basic charging units that allow them to plug into a standard 120-volt wall socket, also called “Level 1” charging. Unfortunately, a full charge can take ten to well over 20 hours or even more using house current.

A better option is to have an electrician install a dedicated 240-volt line in your garage along with a specific “Level 2” charger. It’s not cheap, but the added up-front costs will pay off in terms of much quicker charging times. Depending on the model, using Level 2 charging takes around six to eight hours to fully replenish an EV’s battery. Many states offer programs to help make installing a home charging station more affordable.

Charging at home is also the cheapest way to keep an EV running. Many EVs use a smartphone app to let owners schedule charging during certain hours when electricity is cheaper if the local electric company offers discounted off-peak rates.

Public Charging

Though still not as prevalent as gasoline pumps, the number of public EV charging stations being installed across the U.S. is expanding rapidly. You’ll find them most prevalent in or near areas with a higher concentration of EVs. They’re typically installed in apartment buildings and public parking garages, retail parking lots, new car dealerships, and even on urban street corners.

Some public charging stations still offer free charging, while others carry a fee that varies according to the operator. Some charging networks require a membership to access their units. Tesla Motors has established an extensive Supercharger network of stations.

If you’re taking an EV on any road trip, you must plan your route according to where public charging stations are located. EV owners can find charging stations anywhere in the U.S. via multiple websites, including PlugShare.com.

Public chargers offer either Level 2 or Level 3 charging. Level 2 chargers are worthwhile for “topping off” an EV’s battery while shopping, dining, or running errands.

A better choice is to find a station that offers “Level 3” charging, also called DC fast charging. This is the quickest system, bringing an EV’s battery up to 80% of its capacity in just 30 minutes or less

However, some Level 3 chargers use different connecting port configurations than others. If you can use a given unit at all, you may need to use an adaptor. Check ahead of time via the aforementioned websites or apps to see if your vehicle is compatible before you head to an unfamiliar charging station.

Workplace Charging

Some companies have installed electric car chargers in their garages and parking lots for employees’ use. They’re typically Level 2 chargers, which is not mainly a disadvantage considering a car can be connected over an eight-hour workday. Workplace charging is still not particularly common, though some states now offer an incentive for installing on-site stations.

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