How to Own an Electric Car Without a Garage (let’s show you how)


Owning an Electric Car Without a Garage

I bought my electric car, a 2017 Nissan Leaf, without a lot of thought about how to charge it at home. I now own an electric car without a garage. 

Here is how you can own an electric car without a garage:

  1. Driveway or carport charging
  2. Charging on your own street
  3. Condo or apartment charging solutions
  4. Public charging stations
  5. Destination charging
  6. Charging at the office

The lack of a garage has made charging at home more difficult but not impossible. What works for my family is to charge in the street in front of our condo at night when it is less of an inconvenience for my condo neighbors. The second part is finding local fast charing charging stations to top-up. We make it part of our routine to charge up, like at the grocery store, Target, and coffee shops. 

My family has no regrets about our decision to buy an electric car.

Everyone’s situation will be different so here is a smorgasbord of solutions to make it possible for you to charge an electric car without a garage. Time to find power.

How to Charge an Electric Car Without a Garage

63-percent of houses have a garage or carport (source: 2015 American Housing Survey). That leaves 47-percent of American households without access to a garage or carport for charging an electric car. That is a lot of people who want to join the EV revolution but will not have the ease of garage charging. 

Garage charging is nice. I find myself fantasizing about it at times. Those lucky 63-percenters can charge day or night or both in a weather-protected enclosure. The security, ease, and comfort of charging are ideal for a garage. 

Owning an Electric Car Without a Garage my charging setup without a garage
We don’t have a garage so I’ve worked with my HOA. They have agreed to let me charge in front of my condo, on the street. Their concern was safety so we agreed on proper safety precautions I will take.

Charging at home is a big selling point by electric car manufacturers. They make it easy to charge at home by providing home-charging cables that plug directly into the wall at no additional expense for the EV owner. That means a garage owner can top-up every night after their commute or a big weekend out. 

Someone without a garage needs to put more thought into their charging strategy. If you can’t charge in your driveway or carport, then you may only be able to charge a couple of times a week at public charging stations. The frequency of charging will depend on the range of your electric car and your commute. For example, the 2020 Chevy Bolt has a 259-mile range, the Tesla Model 3 Long Range has a 310-mile range, and my 2017 Nissan Leaf has a 95-mile range. 

With my 95-mile range, my 30-mile daily commute requires me to charge at least every 2-days. We always like to keep a large reserve in case of an emergency. Therefore, we have gotten in a habit of trickle charging overnight (simply plugging into a regular 110-volt outlet) twice a week and getting a fast charge (2 to 4-hour charge) while we are out running errands as there are local charging stations on Maui, where we live.

My tip is that you will need to find a routine that works for your family to charge your EV without a garage.

You Don’t Need a Home Charger in a Garage

EV companies like Tesla sell home charging stations, the Wall Connector ($500). Wi-Fi connected, app-controlled, smart charging stations can control charging rates to sync with dynamic grid pricing, start/stop charging, and other features that make garage charging a no-brainer. These also require an electrician to install the 240-volt circuit to your garage, typically $1,000 – $2,000 for installation. These provide a full battery in 2 to 4-hours, depending on your car and amperage. 

But all these benefits can also apply to EV owners who don’t have a garage. These devices are advertised as being installed in a garage but they don’t have to be. Most home charging stations are rated for indoor and outdoor use. The power cables are water-resistant and industrially designed to be run over, left in muddy-puddles, and attacked by a neighbors dog.

That is why driveway or carport charging is as good as garage charging. You still have a private area to charge your car safely, even if it rains and snows.

EV makers want to make it easy for anyone to own an EV. They are not going to ignore the 47-percent of American households who don’t have a garage. 

Plus, green cities and green communities want EV ownership to increase. The network of charging stations continues to grow, making it more convenient for apartment dwellers and other garage-less people to own an electric car. 

I don’t have a 240-volt home charging station installed at my condo yet. It is expensive to bring the 240-volt cable to my carport and requires HOA approval. So for now, I can plugin my Nissan Leaf into my condo’s regular wall outlet (110-volt). It just cost me the electricity but it can take 24-hours to go from 20% to 90% charge.

Follow these 6 ways to charge an electric car without a garage. Find what works best for you and your lifestyle. The goal of owning an electric car is to make your life better, not inconvenient. I don’t miss visiting gas stations weekly anymore.  

Home Electric Vehicle Charging Solutions Without a Garage

You may not have a garage but perhaps a carport. The third best solution would be a driveway. But you can also put the parking place in front of your house work for you. Here we go.

1. Driveway or Carport Charging

My condo neighbors were freaked out when we plugged-in our electric car for the first time. They were concerned about getting electrocuted when the sprinklers turned on. It is a fair concern. Is the charging cable water-resistant? What happens if water gets into the charging port on the car?

Your charging system is designed to handle anything mother nature throws at it. EV manufacturers designed the charging system for rugged outdoor use.

Driveway charging in any weather is a safe option.

So is charging in a carport that is open on all four sides to the rain and snow.

Have confidence in the design of the charging system of your electric car. Fail safes, interlocks, circuit breakers, and current control, and two-way communication are built into Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment or EVSE. This is the brick attached to your charging cable or the home charging station’s wall-mounted box. While you shouldn’t put the brick under-water, it is rated to industry standards for ingress protection, typically IP 54 to IP 56. The ratings range from water splashing to strong jets of water.

EVSE home charging adaptor from Nissan for the Nissan Leaf electric car
As an example, here is the home charging brick and cord (EVSE) that comes standard with the Nissan Leaf.

The car connector is also water-resistant. For most electric cars like the Bolt, BMW i3, and Nissan Leaf have a J1772 connector. These also have built-in current control and water-resistance to make charging out in the elements safe.

J1772 charging connector for your electric car. The other end of the cord will fit into a standard, home outlet plug for a Level 1 EVSE charger.

A driveway or a carport is just as good as a garage.

2. Charging on Your Own Street

You may be able to charge in front of your house. Depending on the distance from an electric plug to your street, it is reasonable that a cable can reach your car parked on the street. Finding a parking spot in front of your house may be a challenge in a big city, but charging on the street is safe and doable.

Philadelphia had a program where electric vehicle owners could install a charging station on the curb in front of their residence. The parking spot was reserved for EVs. They were essentially allowed to have their own private curbside parking spot with a charging station. The program has since been phased out but research your local city rules on charging at home. 

3. Condo or Apartment Charging Solutions

Charging at your condo or apartment may be possible. Many new apartment complexes are installing fast-charging stations in their garages to attract tenants. California requires new apartments to install charging stations.

If a charging station isn’t installed, ask your landlord to install one. They may realize a charging station will have a good return on investment.

There are companies that will help your landlord install the chargers by doing the leg work of design, permitting, and installing. Tesla, EverCharge, and ChargePoint are a few companies that offer this service.

If you don’t have a private garage at your condo or apartment, talk to your landlord or HOA about installing one. You may get an enthusiastic response. 

Having the conversation is key with your landlord about options for charging your car without a garage.

My HOA President didn’t agree to install a community charging station in our complex because I had the only electric car. But she wanted to make it easy for me to charge within the rules of the HOA. It worked out better for me as there was no rule about charging in the street in front of my condo. As long as we put cones up around our car, my neighbors can’t stop me from charging every night. 

EV Charging Out in The Wilds

Time to go outside. Even garage owners may need the benefit of charging in public, far from home. Don’t rule out charging away from home as the sole solution. It may be the cheapest option.

4. Public Electric Car Charging

Step one is to download the app or go to PlugShare.com or go to Google Maps. Then, find your local charging stations. You may be surprised how many fast chargers are near your home. 

Find a routine or strategy to get your EV charged while out and about. Most of these chargers are 240-volt or Level 2 charging stations meaning you can get a full charge in 2 to 4-hours. Some will be DC fast-charging stations (Level 3 chargers) that can charge your EV from 20% to 80% in 30-minutes. 

Free! Many communities, like mine on Maui, have free charging stations. 5-minutes from my house is a free Level 3 charger. That means I rarely need to or want to charge at my garage-free house. 

5. Destination Charging is the New Thing

Companies are realizing they can bring in business by installing charging stations. Tesla even has a program to encourage businesses to install charging stations – Destination Charging.

Get a reserved EV-only parking spot at Target or in front of your favorite coffee shop. It feels great to get your shopping done while your car is getting a full charge.

We coordinate our errands around charging stations. At first, it took some planning but now that we know our favorite chargers, it is a no-brainer to get a charge while out. 

6. Charging at the Office

You may never need to charge at home or at a public charging station. Your office or worksite may have a charging station in the employee parking lot or will install one for you. Since the daily commute is the biggest use of a car, charging at work enables seamless daily charging. 

If you don’t have a garage, the next best solution may be charging at work. 

Final Thoughts on Owning an Electric Car Without a Garage

Don’t let the lack of a garage stop you from buying an electric car. I’m glad we jumped into owning our Nissan Leaf without realizing we couldn’t charge from our carport (we thought an extension cord would work but it didn’t make the distance).

Explore the methods above to own an electric car without a garage. One or a combination of all of them may make EV ownership possible for you. 

Finding a system to get your car charged may be a headache at first but within a few days, you will know your favorite chargers and a new routine to charge without changing your lifestyle. 

Having a garage for your EV is nice, but it is not required.

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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