What You Need to Know about Electric Vehicle Charging

EV Charging StationsHave you been wondering if an electric vehicle is right for you, especially as more models are rolling out from automakers? Living the EV lifestyle is fun and exciting, good for the environment and even good for your wallet — but there are some key things to know, like understanding how and where to charge.

While charging at home is always an option, the prevalence of EV charging stations is widespread and growing, so there are a few things to know about maximizing an electric car’s battery power when charging while out and about.

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about electric vehicle charging:

What’s the easiest way to locate a public charger?

There are various resources to help drivers identify where they can easily stop for a charge. Some ideas include the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center, which offers a station locator map; and various apps such as Open Charge Map and ChargeHub. Additionally, many automakers’ new EVs include in-vehicle tech features— like connected infotainment systems — to make planning routes based on charging stations even more simple for your journey.

Individual charging companies also offer their apps for locating stations. For example, Electrify America, the largest open ultra-fast-charging network in the United States, recently redesigned its mobile app so drivers can more easily navigate station information. You can download the app via the App Store and Google Play — and now, you can locate a charger, start and stop a charging session and view charging plan details via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

What does fast-charging mean?

Not all EV charging is the same, and charging time depends on how much electricity your EV’s battery can handle and how much energy the charger can dispense. Charger power is measured in kilowatts and charging time is measured in kilowatt-hours, a unit of which is the amount of energy a charger can deliver in one hour.

For example, some public chargers only dispense 6kW — such as Level 2 chargers, an option most commonly found in settings like work offices, apartment complexes and hotels. But other chargers, like direct current (DC) fast-charging, uses technology that can dispense 150kW or even 350kW to capable vehicles, allowing for quicker charge times. DC fast-charging is especially great for drivers taking road trips or who don’t have access to overnight charging and will need chargers that can deliver the maximum amount of energy in the shortest amount of time.

Various companies offer the fastest charging rates available, with speeds up to 350 kilowatts (kW) that can charge a capable vehicle in as little as 20 minutes. Visit ElectrifyAmerica.com to learn more about fast charging and find nearby locations.

How do you know which charging connector to use?

You can check your vehicle’s specific settings, but most EVs use a connector called the Combined Charging System (CCS). CCS got its “combined” name by incorporating two types of plugs within the same larger plug: the connector for DC fast-charging and the connector for Level 2 charging. Level 2 is a form of electric vehicle charging with slower charging speeds than DC fast.

CCS is now the most common connector used by EV manufacturers.

How can hot or cold weather affect charging?

While you can charge during very cold or hot weather, you will probably need to allow more charging time. EV batteries are designed to deliver maximum charging power at temperatures of 60-80 degrees F. Temperatures below 40 degrees or above 115 F dramatically reduce the battery’s charging power. The chemical process inside the battery slows down outside of these temperatures — often to less than half of its peak charging power.

Should an electric vehicle battery be charged to a 100 percent state of charge (SOC)?

Different EVs have different battery sizes, affecting both the charging speed and the amount of total energy the battery can accept. Check the owner’s manual for the maximum charging power provided by your EV.

On a public fast charger, the speed at which energy enters the car battery slows after the battery reaches an 80 percent SOC. This may help prevent wearing out the battery too quickly, therefore extending the battery life. The battery can still charge to a 100 percent SOC, although getting from an 80 to 100 percent SOC may take a little longer. So while it’s counterintuitive, it’s best to minimize the time spent charging to 100 percent battery SOC to reduce wear and tear.

While embracing electric vehicle technology has many benefits and is quickly becoming more mainstream, adopting this lifestyle requires some basic education. By understanding how charging works, new EV drivers can make the transition to electric much smoother — and perhaps convince others to make the switch as well.