4. Joining Charging Networks
However, note that neither PlugShare nor EV Charge Hub provide any physical charging hardware or access.
Some charging stations are free to use and require no special membership — you just have to make sure you have a charging cord that can connect the car and the station (sometimes such cords come with the car, sometimes they are attached to the station, sometimes your car can’t use that cord at all, and sometimes you just have to find one on Amazon).
Most charging stations, however, require special membership and an RFID card or app. The most common such network in the United States and Canada is ChargePoint, but there are several others as well — Greenlots, Blink, eVgo, Aerovironment, Azra, SemaConnect, Circuit Électrique, RéseauVer, and Sun Country Highway, for example.
In Europe, common networks are Fastned (primarily in the Netherlands, but expanding), Pod Point’s Open Charge network (UK), Ecotricity (UK), GreenWay (Slovakia and Poland), PlugSurfing’s integrated network offering (Germany).
How you get a charging card varies, but you can typically register and order one via a network’s website or app.
5. But Wait, Which Plug?
Different electric cars use different plugs. Well, there are several different charging systems/plugs and most electric cars can use several of them. If you go to PlugShare or EV Charge Hub you can see the vast variety of options (screenshot via PlugShare on the right).
Typically, depending on the continent you live on, there are 3–5 core options for your car:
- A normal electricity outlet and cord (different in North America and Europe, of course).
- A normal “Level 2” outlet and cord (in Europe, I mostly use the Mennekes/Type 2 cord).
- A CCS or CHAdeMO “fast charging” outlet and cord (certain models are compatible with CCS, others with CHAdeMO, and some with neither).
→ Many auto companies give you the option to get an electric car without the fast charging port or with it for an extra fee.
→ If you have a Tesla, you can buy a CHAdeMO adapter, but there’s not yet a CCS adapter.
- A semi-fast outlet and cord, depending on location and model (explore the options in the list in the screenshot for more details).
- Supercharging — Tesla only.
At some stations, the cord is connected to the station and you just need to take it and plug it into your car (and maybe follow some instructions to start charging — depends on the network/station). At other stations, you need to have the cord in your car, take it out, and connect it to both your car’s charging port and the charging station.
6. Check that Your Car is Charging
Sometimes, you may think you’re charging and you’re not. Sure, once you get used to your car, you’ll get used to all the bells and whistles. Until then, it’s just a nice cautious thing to do — check whatever signals your car is supposed to give when it’s charging, check the charging station too if it has an indicator, and if you have an app that tells you when your car is charging, certainly check that.
Also be aware that it’s not common but there are times when you will start charging for a moment or even a little while and then a fault will occur and the charging will stop — this can happen at boring Level 2 stations as well as Tesla Superchargers. Again, the handiest thing is to have an app that notifies you if charging stops or that you can at least check remotely. Most electric cars and some charging networks offer this.
7. And the Cost of Charging?
Hmm, good question. There’s dramatic variation in cost. There’s a lot of free charging — of all speeds. There’s charging that has an hourly charging. There’s charging that has a per kWh charge. And there’s charging that just comes with a flat fee per session.
Again, PlugShare or EV Charge Hub provide information on this topic for many charging stations. Explore virtually before you actually need to charge. The thing to realize, though, is that the information is often provided by users, and policies on various stations/networks can change, so the information you find there can be incorrect or incomplete.
8. Help the Community!
Speaking of that user-provided information, it’s definitely a nice help if you participate and provide useful information on those apps/websites. If a charging station isn’t working, is working, has incorrect or incomplete information, chime in and help your fellow EV drivers!
9. Yes, You Can
Yes, you can charge an electric car in the rain — but if you are using a very basic electricity outlet or extension cord, you should of course try to protect the socket from the water.
Yes, your kid can plug in the car and unplug it. (Though, for legal purposes, I am not recommending this!)
10. Charging Etiquette
Last but certainly not least, if you are using a public charging station, try to follow perfect charging etiquette:
(1) If you don’t need a charge, then leave the space for someone else. (Or leave a phone number on the dash so someone needing a charge can quickly get a hold of you and ask you to move. EVANNEX offers some great signs for this as well.)
(2) When you’re full, move on ASAP.
(3) If you arrive next to a charging station in use, feel free to leave a note on the other car requesting that they plug you in when they’re done.
Some people say you shouldn’t unplug another car no matter what. Some say it’s fine to do if the car is no longer charging. Some say you can do it if you absolutely need to charge. Use your best judgement. (Note: Some electric cars can’t be unplugged until unlocked, so it may not even be possible for you to unplug them.)