Where to Charge an Electric Car Anywhere You are Driving

can you charge electric cars anywhere_

What sold me on purchasing an electric car is that I can charge it anywhere. If you can find an electrical outlet, you are in luck to get back on the road.

You can charge an electric car anywhere because car manufacturers provide a charging cable that plugs into a standard 120-volt home electrical outlet. Stored in the car, the charging cable can plug enables charging at home or anywhere you drive a simple process. 

An electric car comes standard with a 120-volt plug (NEMA 5-15) like the picture below. This plug means you can plug in at home, into any outlet.

Electric vehicles are designed to be charged anywhere they can be driven. By plugging directly into a standard wall outlet, the anxiety of running out of power is minimized. Range anxiety never goes away but I am comforted knowing that when getting near 0% battery that I can find a friendly gas station or neighbor to give me a quick charge.

Read on to learn how you can charge an electric car anywhere.

How to Charge an Electric Car Anywhere

Here are you options when it comes to charging an electric car from anywhere. I like having options as options reduce my range anxiety. With any new technology, early adaptors take a risk when using the new tech.

The simplest way to charge an electric car is to plug it into your home’s standard electrical plug. This standard 120-volt plug makes charging possible from anywhere. This is called a Level 1 charging outlet but that is a fancy term for a wall plug.

Since all buildings in America have 120-volt plugs and electric cars come standard with a Level 1 cord set, this makes charging from anywhere possible.

Charging is also possible on the go with 120-volt charging or 240-volt charging stations. Businesses, apartments, and communities are installing 240-volt charging stations across the country. These charging stations provide more power to charge an electric car faster. So one can grab a coffee or go shopping while their electric car re-chargers. 

Before I purchased my 2017 Nissan Leaf, I was concerned about charging my car on Maui, where I live. The state is friendly to advancing electric car ownership but how many public chargers are there on the island and do they work? 

Since I don’t have a garage, charging from home isn’t always the easiest solution for me. Plus, a drive up our local volcano would drain my battery so I would need a charge to get home.

Maui is much like the rest of the country. There is an ever-growing quantity of charging stations available to the public, and most are fast-charging stations. You don’t need to own a Tesla to get a fast charge (but it can help depending where you live). 80% of public charging stations can charge in two to four-hours. I consider that fast but some charging stations are faster. Like, 30-minutes to charge.

The amount of public charging stations is increasing daily. With 86,855 charging outlets as of September 2020 in the US, you can have confidence that a charging station will be in your neighborhood or along your journey. 

It is comforting to know you can charge your car anywhere but what does charging anywhere mean?

How to Find a Place to Charge

Charging an electric car anywhere means finding a public charging station. Luckily, these are popping up everywhere. No longer just in metropolitan areas, charging stations are along America’s highways, high-traffic corridors, and being installed in suburban and rural communities. 

A road trip in an electric car is not a historic event like 20 years ago. With longer ranges and more charging stations, one can drive thousands of miles without worrying about not finding a public charging station.

We use PlugShare to find charging stations. Within a week of owning our car, we knew every charging station within 50-miles but for road trips, these charging station location apps are a must.  Apps also provide route planning for when you want to take your electric car on a road trip.

Popular Charging Station Location Apps:

Destination charging is all the rage these days. Businesses are realizing they can attract customers by installing charging stations. This makes it even easier to charge anywhere. 

Restaurants, malls, parking lots, apartments, hotels, coffee shops, etc. have charging stations. Sometimes they are in VIP spots like the front row while other times they are hidden in the back of the building. The app will tell you where to find the charging station in the parking lot.

The charging station location apps are social sharing platforms for us EV enthusiasts. 

All these tools make charging an electric vehicle easy to do from anywhere.

Types of Electric Car Charging Outlets

When I say you have options, you have three ways to charge your electric car when at home or anywhere you can drive.

Level 1 Charging (120V Power Supply)

Level 1 charging is the slowest method to charge an EV but the most common. Level 1 uses alternating current (AC) at an American standard 110-120 volts. This voltage is the standard voltage in your home. Your computer is connected or charges from a 110-volt outlet in your house.

Things to know about Level 1 charging:

  • All-electric cars come with a Level 1 cord set
  • At one end is a standard three-prong household plug (NEMA 5-15) 
  • The other end has an SAE J1772 standard connector to connect to your electric car’s charging port
  • Typically used for charging at home but can be used for all the driver’s charging needs

Time to charge with a Level 1 charger: 2 to 5 miles of range per 1 hour of charging. 

For example, eight-hours of charging at 120V will replenish about 40-miles of electric-range.

Level 2 Charging (240V Power Supply)

Level 2 Charging uses alternating current at 208 volts to 240 volts. 208 volts are used in commercial chargers while 240-volts is common in residential installations. A Level 2 charger is the common home charger installed for overnight charging.

A Level 2 charger requires a standalone 240 volt and typically a 40 amp circuit in one’s home. A licensed electrician can install one if there is available capacity in the home’s power distribution panel. 

These are the fancy Wi-Fi, app connected charging stations sold by Tesla and other manufacturers. They range in price from $250 to $700 depending on the smart features, cord length, amps, and other options. 

80% of public charging outlets are Level 2 chargers. These make charging in public or at your place of work faster and potentially cheaper than charging at home. Cheaper because you won’t need to install a Level 2 charger at home and sometimes public charging stations are free.

Things to know about Level 2 charging:

  • All-electric cars come with a Level 2 cord set (same as the Level 1) 
  • At one end is a standard three-prong household plug (NEMA 5-15) 
  • The other end has an SAE J1772 standard connector to connect to your electric car’s charging port
  • Typically used for charging at home or at a public charging station

Time to charge with a Level 2 charger: 10 to 20 miles of range per 1 hour of charging. 

For example, eight-hours of charging at 240V will replenish about 120-miles of electric-range

Note: Tesla’s do not come with a J1772 connector but they do sell an adaptor.

DC Fast Charging

Direct current (DC) fast chargers are Level 3 chargers. These are rapid charging stations. A Tesla can be charged from 20% to 80% in 30-minutes on a DC fast charger – aka, a Tesla Supercharger.

About 15% of charging outlets in the USA are DC fast chargers. You can find these along interstates and other heavy-traffic corridors. Tesla Superchargers use DC fast charging outlets.

DC fast chargers are not found in homes due to the equipment required to install them. 

DC fast chargers also have a different connection port on the car. All new electric cars have a DC fast charging port but older EV models may not, so always check.

Things to know about Level 3 charging:

  • Electric cars, except Teslas, do not come with a Level 3 cord set
  • There are three types of DC fast charging systems, depending on the type of charge port on the vehicle: SAE Combined Charging System (CCS), CHAdeMO, or Tesla.
  • The CCS (also known as J1772 combo) connector is unique because a driver can use the same charge port when charging with Level 1, 2, or DC fast equipment. The CCS connector is used by Chevrolet and BMW electric cars, for example
  • The CHAdeMO connector is the most common of the three connector types and is used by Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota electric cars, for example.
  • Tesla vehicles have a unique charge port and connector that works for all their charging options including Superchargers.

Time to charge with a Level 3 charger: 60 to 80 miles of range per 20-minutes of charging. 

What to Do If You Can’t Get a Charge Anywhere

Our biggest fear is running out of power on a backroad. Far from a friendly neighbor or business where we can plugin, this could happen. Just like people still run out of gas due to poor planning or unforeseen circumstances. 

Running out of power in an electric car means that we got lost or did a poor job mapping out our journey. These types of stories are rare as most drivers can find a place to get electricity.

But if this does happen, call a tow truck or your car insurance company. They can come pick you and your car up to get you to power. Unfortunately, the tow truck drive can’t bring you a can of gasoline like a conventional car. 

We pay for emergency roadside assistance with our car insurance provider. This mitigates the cost of running out of power on the backside of Haleakala on Maui. You may want to consider AAA or another emergency service if running out of battery is a concern of yours.

Final Thoughts on Charging Your Electric Car Anywhere

To summarize, you have three types of charging outlets for an electric vehicle. The slowest but most common method is Level 1 charging or the type of electrical outlet in your home. Your electric car will include a cord set so you can charge anywhere.

Level 1 charging makes charging possible from anywhere because all you need is a wall socket. Most people charge from home but when you are out on the road and you run out of charge, find a friendly person to get some power. 

When you are away from home, the most common charging station will be a Level 2 charger. You can use the same charging cord set as for Level 1 charging but a Level 2 charger is faster. At a higher power supply, an electric car will take two to four-hours to get charged. These Level 2 chargers can be found at restaurants, shopping centers, workplaces, and other public parking lots.

A Level 3 charger is another public charging option. Not as common as a Level 2 charger but they provide the fastest method to charge your EV. 

Download PlugShare or another app for finding public charging stations. With the app in hand, you will be able to find a charging station anywhere you are driving.

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

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