When it comes to charging an electric car, you have several options. One of them is charging at a public station. However, if you are new to electric vehicles or just planning to buy one, using a public charging station may look daunting. This article talks about everything you need to know about how to charge an electric car at a public charging station.
Why are EV public charging stations necessary?
While it is true that you may charge your electric car at home, there are several reasons you may have to use a public charger. For example, if you are on a trip longer than your car’s driving range, you may need to find a charger along the way, just like ICE cars stop at gas stations to refill when the fuel gauge goes low. The US federal government is on a drive to build up EV charging infrastructure to increase public confidence in battery-powered mobility.
Many EV drivers rely fully on public charging stations because they don´t have the opportunity to install a private charging station at home. Especially when living in an apartment without a garage, owners can’t fall back on charging at home.
Other times, you are offered free charging as a compliment, perhaps at your favorite restaurant, parking lots, or even banks. Some businesses offer them to attract new customers and retain their loyalty.
Other public charging stations are maintained by a company, just like we have gas stations run as a network. Popular charging station operators in the US include ChargePoint, EVgo, Blink, Electrify America, etc. Tesla maintains a global network of fast Superchargers and will soon allow all EVs to use them.
How to use an EV public charging station?
Public chargers are not complicated to use, thanks to their design. The learning curve is not steep, and neither is it physically tasking. Also, you do not stand the risk of electrocution, even when it rains.
You are expected to serve yourself at most charging stations, which many ICE drivers are familiar with. You ensure you park at the right spot, unwind the charging cable if necessary, and then insert the charger into your car’s charging port. If the charger has no cable, you will need to use your own.
One of the most important aspects of public charging is which charger to use. This is because your car must be compatible with the charger for charging.
Which charger to use at a public charging station?
Public charging operators offer Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 chargers. The most common connector is the SAE J1772 EV plug for the first two types. Every electric car in the US can use this type of charger. Tesla cars come with an adapter that lets owners use Level 1 and Level 2 chargers.
Level 3 chargers use the CHAdeMo or CCS standard. Your car likely uses the CSS standard as it is more adopted. However, the two standards are not interchangeable, and you must find one that works with your car. Think of it as a petrol vehicle unable to use a diesel pump.
Tesla uses a proprietary standard for Level 2 and Level 3.
How long does it take to charge an EV at a public charging station?
This depends on the type of charger offered by the station operator. Level 1 chargers take the longest and may require days to fill up your battery. They connect to standard wall outlets of 120 volts or 240 volts and supply up to 2 kW, which means you may expect to add about 124 miles after 20 hours. These chargers are often offered for free, and they only top up your battery level.
Level 2 chargers are faster and can supply between 3 and 20 kW. Most Level 2 chargers supply about 7-11 kW to your car, meaning you may expect more than 120 miles of range after 5 hours of charging.
Suppose your car’s maximum power is lower than the charger’s maximum output. In that case, you have nothing to worry about, as the charging speed will automatically be matched to the maximum your car can accept.
Level 3, also known as DCFC or DC Fast Charging, is the fastest. Some models supply up to 200 kW, significantly reducing the time required to charge. You may get up to 80 percent in less than 30 minutes. DCFCs are suited to situations where drivers do not have much time to wait, like stopping during a long trip. You may schedule other activities while you wait, like a bathroom break or grab a bite.
Note that DCFCs slow down when the charge level is 80 percent to protect the battery. Also, frequent use of DCFC may cause your battery to degrade faster.
To get an estimation of the time it takes to charge an EV at a public charging station, feel free to use our EV charging time calculator.
How much does it cost to charge an EV at a public charging station?
Generally, except it is free, using a public charger will cost more than charging at home. Public chargers, especially DCFCs, are costly, and the operator will add a significant mark to recoup their investment and make a profit.
On average, you will pay between $0.30 and $0.60 per kWh, which means a smaller EV may cost between $11.50 and $23 to charge fully. If you own an EV with a bigger battery, your charging cost may be between $22.50 and $45. Level 3 chargers are the most expensive. Check our electric car charging cost calculator to get an estimation.
Some networks will let you pay less if you maintain a membership on their platform.
To prevent car owners from overstaying, some networks charge an idling fee.
How to pay for charging an electric car at a public charging station?
Most modern charging stations require an access card or mobile app, and you link your debit or credit card to the app to make payments. Few charging stations offer credit card readers. Please keep in mind that the process of paying for the charger and initiating the charging session differs depending on the operator.
How to locate EV public charging stations?
Public chargers are no good if they can’t be located. Many charging stations use clear and highly visible signage to advertise their presence. However, some apps allow you to find public chargers on a map and even inform you of the charging station status.
Google Maps can also bring up the public chargers near you in some countries.
Sometimes, you may need to use an EV charging station to charge your EV. While it may be new, the process is not complicated.