Electric cars are taking the automotive market by storm, but they do still come with considerations of their own. “Fueling” an electric car can be an interesting challenge, especially if you don’t have a charger at home.
The best way to charge your electric car if you don’t have a home charger is to use public charging stations. These are located in various locations around big cities and allow you an affordable way to charge your electric car without having to purchase a home charging station for yourself.
The biggest challenge to using a public charging station is finding one on your regular route. Below we will discuss where to find a public charging station, how long to charge your electric car, and how much it will cost for each charge.
Charging Your Electric Car Without a Home Charger
There are several reasons you may not have a charger at home, whether it be cost, HOA restrictions, or anything else. Whatever the reason, we’ll discuss several ways to charge your electric car away from home.
Using a Public Station
Public charging stations are available in most big cities and other locations throughout the country. Most will cost a little to use, but they are an affordable option to help keep your electric car charged and ready to go. Try to plan out your route ahead of time as charging may take a few hours depending on how depleted the battery is.
Here’s how to get the most out of using a public charging station:
- Plan ahead: If you go right away in the morning or after work, public charging stations are more likely to be full and busy. Know the best times to charge so you can get a station and not have to wait.
- Know the different charging speeds: There are three speeds of charging based on how much you want to spend and how long you can charge your vehicle before needing to drive away.
- Know which hookup works for your car: There is more than one company that invests in charging stations and they offer different hookups. Know which companies are compatible with your electric car to save time.
Planning your trips around where these charging stations are located can make it more convenient to get the battery recharged without having your charging station. In some cases, you may need to walk a few extra blocks, but this can save you time and makes charging the car easier.
There May Be a Charger at or Near Your Work
This is one of the best and most convenient places to charge your electric car if your company provides a charging station. You can just park your car at the charging station, plug it in, and get to work. When you are done for the day, you can take your car home with a fully charged battery.
If the charging station is popular, remember to charge the battery for a few hours and then move the car out of the way during your break so you aren’t keeping others from doing the same.
Look for “Top-Up” Chargers
There are several companies, including Pop Point, who are working to build a public network for these charging stations. These will make it easy to stop for a few minutes and recharge the battery in your car. The more popular electric cars become, the easier it becomes to find a charging station that is convenient and nearby.
A top-up charging station will work similar to using a gas station, though they may take a little bit longer than traditionally refueling.
Rapid Chargers Are a Luxury, When You Can Find Them
These public chargers will make it faster to get a good top-off for your battery, so it is fully charged before you run off on your next trip. They do cost a little more than other charging stations, but they can charge the battery in half the time or less.
Rapid chargers can often be found near car dealerships, major highway offramps, and possibly even downtown areas. If you don’t live in a large city then you may not be able to find one, but rest assured that the rising popularity of electric vehicles will lead to more of these becoming available.
Long-Term Parking Charging Stations
Some long-term parking spots provide public charging stations you can use. For example, you may find chargers in areas like:
- Parking garages
- Train stations
They make it convenient to charge your car wherever you go, but you should look at the rules put in place for long-term parking charging stations. Before running off into the store, make sure you can leave your vehicle there and see if they will move the car once it has been charged.
Get everything set up with the charging station ahead of time to avoid hassle later.
While you Run Errands
Each company will decide where to place one of these public charging stations. They often choose locations where they think drivers will frequent and need to charge their car at the same time. This helps them make more money and may provide you with a convenient place to charge your car while you run errands.
Chances are, you may have actually passed one or two of these charging stations while running errands and didn’t even notice!
Look for these charging stations at:
- The grocery store, especially if it is a popular location
- Parking garages, in busy locations they may provide a few charging stations to help you with a quick “fuel up”
- Near malls, in some bigger cities, you may find a public charging station near a major mall so you can charge while doing some shopping
Until electric cars become more widespread and more people use them, finding a charging station will take some planning. You may need to adjust your route a little so you can park near, or at least drive by, a charging station when your battery gets low.
Topping off your battery whenever you can, even if only for a few minutes, is a great way to extend the range of your car if you don’t have a charger at home.
Tips to Make Charging Easier
Charging your electric car without a battery at home can be difficult and requires some planning. Here’s some tips to keep in mind in your day to day.
Have a Backup Station
You may have your regular public charging station all set up to go. But if your battery runs out too fast or that station is busy, you need to have a backup station ready to go.
Some ways to find a good backup charging station include:
- Use an app: This helps you find a public charging station in your vicinity. You can download an app for all of the big charging station companies including EVgo, Blink, and ChargePoint.
- Do recon and know your area: The more you know about your area, the easier it is to know where the charging stations are so you can head right there when some of your favorites are all full or too far away.
While the app is a great choice, there is a chance that it will be full of other vehicles when you get there and you may need to wait. Since electric cars are still relatively new, there are not as many of these charging stations yet, which can cause them to get congested and backed-up.
Because of this, having a backup charger (or three!) ensures you’ll never be stuck without a charge—especially important when you don’t have a charger of your own.
Keep the Battery Topped Off
The best thing you can do for charging your electric car if you don’t have a charger is to make sure the battery is always topped off. Topping it off can take about half an hour while recharging the whole thing can take up to nine hours (depending on your make, model, and charger).
Not topping off the battery when you have a chance not only means a later charge will take longer, but it can also leave you stuck in an emergency. The battery can deplete itself at the worst time and if it is empty, you could find yourself stuck.
Be Aware of Different Charging Costs
There will be different costs you will encounter based on where you plan to charge your vehicle. Just like with traditional gas stations, charging stations can choose their prices. Knowing how much you may pay will help you plan for all expenses while recharging your car.
This is also a great companion tip to #1, having a backup station. Doing a little research to find a handful of cheaper charging stations you trust means you’ll never be stuck paying out the nose at an expensive station due to an emergency.
Know Your Range, and Don’t Push It
This should come at no surprise, but driving an electric car without a charger at home requires a bit more thought, planning, and understanding of your vehicle.
At a minimum, you should work out:
- Approximately how long your car can go between each charge
- How many miles you plan to drive each day, or how far you plan to go on a trip
- If and how different weather conditions might affect your battery life throughout the day
Knowing these factors makes it easier to make plans so you never run out of battery or have to scramble around for a good public charging station.
Use a Faster Charging Station
In some situations, you may need to choose your charging station based on how quickly it can charge your battery. If you have all day to keep your car in place while charging, you can do this at work or in a parking garage.
However, if you need to get moving and have somewhere to be quickly, then finding a charging station that can recharge your car quickly is important.
Faster charging stations are miles more convenient for drivers without a charger at home—if your wallet can take the hit. Prepare to pay more for a quick charge, and first make sure your car is rated for those faster charging speeds.
Should I Just Get a Home Charger?
While there are plenty of locations where you can charge your electric car if you do not have your home charger, it may be something to consider if you are tired of searching for a public charging station or you live somewhere that does not provide many of these charging stations. In fact, most electric car owners will do at least 80% of their charging at home.
Let’s talk about some of the primary benefits of having your own charger at home.
Home Charging Saves Money
Public charging stations are nice, but the companies that put them in need to make a profit to make it worth their time. This means they will charge you more for the convenience of using these charging stations. If you drive your electric car often, the cost of using a public station can be significantly higher than having your charging station at home.
Having a charger at home saves money by:
- Reducing the amount of time you need to drive around to find a charging station
- Charging at home costs less per hour than using a public charging station
- Allowing you to charge during “off-peak” electric hours when electricity is even cheaper (such as the middle of the night)
Everyone wants to save money, especially when it comes to using an electric car. While charging your vehicle using a public charging station may not cost much more than a traditional tank of gas, it can add up quickly. A home charging station will save you a little bit on each charge while bringing convenience at the same time.
Home Chargers Are Much More Convenient
You’ll often hear that home charges typically charge slower than charging stations. While there is a wide variety in charging stations, this rule generally does hold true. However, that’s not the whole story.
Home chargers may not usually be able to match the blazing charge speeds of super-high-capacity public stations, such as the Tesla supercharger, but they make up for it in convenience.
Having a charging station at home allows you to charge passively whenever you aren’t using the car—a feature that public charging stations rarely get to provide. Can they charge your car in half an hour? Probably not. Does that matter when you can charge for 10 hours while you sleep anyway? No!
Home chargers provide a level of convenience that no other charging solution can match.
Don’t Need to Change Your Route
When you do not have your electric car charger at home, you have to plan all of your routes around where a public charging station is located. This is a little inconvenient, and these little daily trips add up.
With a home charging station, you can charge the car when it is most convenient for you and then head out on the road. You no longer need to worry about:
- Getting up early to charge your car at a public charging station before you go to work
- Having to hang out after work to get to a charging station before your battery runs out
- Planning our routes, hoping that you can find a charging station with an open spot
- Rushing to get to one of the few charging stations no matter where you go
It can be difficult to always plan your route based on how long your battery will last and where the charging stations are located. Having your own charging station gives you the freedom to travel where you want without worrying about all that fuss!
The Cost of Home Charging Stations
After reviewing the benefits we just detailed, you might be ready to run out and grab a home charger just for convenience. But how much is it going to hit you in the wallet?
Well, a typical home charger will cost from $200 to $500. There are a wide variety of available chargers, so do some research on which type is best suited for your make and model of electric car as well as any extra features you might like to have.
However, it’s also likely that you will need to have some electric work done as well. Home charging systems can’t just plug into an outlet—they need access to a much higher current than standard home sockets. We can’t give you a cost here, since it will depend on factors like:
- The age of your house
- The layout of your house and its wiring
- Whether you live in a shared or single-family unit
- If your charger supports fast charging, and if you plan to use it
Cost aside, adding an additional circuit into the garage for your new charger is fairly simple. You just let the electrician know the general area you want to install the charger, and they’ll wire up a new socket as nearby as they can.
Charging Your Electric Car without a Charger
Owning an electric car can be both fun and rewarding, but it does come with extra considerations. If you don’t have a charger at home, then keep these tips in mind to ensure you never run out of charge in a bad spot:
- Use public stations where you can find them
- Check your workplace and local shopping centers for top-up chargers
- If your vehicle supports it, and you can afford to, use rapid chargers when possible
- Keep several backup charging stations in mind