(BPT) - Electric vehicles (EVs) are the future of transportation, offering a fun to drive alternative to traditional gas-fueled cars as well as lower maintenance costs. Almost every major automaker is introducing new electric models - from SUVs and trucks to sports cars and motorcycles - providing drivers with a variety of desirable options now, and even more in the near future.
EVs are becoming so widely available that more than 500 different EV models will be available globally by 2022, according to estimates from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That means potentially millions of new EV drivers will soon be saying goodbye to gas and hello to electric recharging.
To support this growing need for EV recharging, significant investments are being made concerning charging stations, making it easier than ever to own an EV. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that more than 42,000 total EV charging station locations exist in the United States as of June 2021 - and the president has set a goal to reach 500,000 charging stations nationwide by 2030.
As the auto industry becomes more electrified, learning about the basics of EV charging like how and where to charge, is the first step in helping drivers feel more comfortable - and even excited - about the idea of switching to an EV that fits their lifestyle.
Types of EV chargers
Charging at home, work and other public locations all require different types of chargers - and it's important to understand the differences.
Public Fast DC-chargers
Currently, the fastest way to charge an EV is with direct current (DC)-fast chargers, which are usually found in public and commercial settings like grocery store and shopping center parking lots. These stations provide charging speeds faster than what drivers would find in home chargers, allowing them to get back on the road more quickly. Fast charging is a good option for when drivers need to charge quickly while further away from home, especially on longer-distance trips.
Electrify America, for example - the largest public ultra-fast DC charging network in the U.S., with more than 640 charging stations and more than 2,860 individual chargers - offers the fastest available charging speeds today, allowing capable EVs to add up to 20 miles of range per minute. Most EV models on the road today can use Electrify America's ultra-fast DC-charging stations, but owners should consult their vehicle's manufacturer to learn more about charging capabilities.
One perk of an EV is the ability to power up without even leaving the house. At home, drivers use either a Level 1 or Level 2 charger, with the difference being how long it takes to get the car's battery fully recharged.
Charging at Level 1 is most often used overnight, as these chargers usually add, on average, only 2-5 miles of range per 1 hour of charging to a depleted battery - meaning it will take about 8 hours to add 40 miles of range. Because Level 1 chargers expend less energy, they typically use a standard household outlet - like the one used to charge a smartphone or plug in a blender - and there's no special charging equipment installation required. Level 1 chargers are a good option if most daily EV driving is done close to home, where drivers can easily recharge each day.
Level 2 charging is the faster charging option, which is commonly found in multi-unit dwellings. Examples include work offices, apartment complexes and hotels. This option also allows for drivers charging to fill up on more battery range in less time.
Level 2 charging requires the purchase of special charging equipment and uses the kind of outlet needed to run larger, more powerful household appliances like a washer or dryer. Depending on the vehicle's battery size, Level 2 charging will add, on average, about 10-20 miles of range per one hour of charging from a depleted battery. Home chargers offer convenience and flexibility, such as Electrify America's new HomeStation.
Paying for public charging
When plugging into a public EV charger, drivers will pay one of two ways, depending on the state where they're charging - either by the number of minutes a car is plugged into the charger, or by the amount of energy the charger uses in one hour, known as kilowatt hour or kWh pricing.
Kilowatt hour pricing is similar to paying for gas by the gallon - the price is based on the amount of energy that's going into the battery, regardless of how many minutes it takes to charge. An EV's battery size is measured in kWh, so think of this like the size of a traditional vehicle's gas tank: it's different for every model and will determine how much energy a car can handle while charging.
New technologies make paying for a charge even more efficient than filling up at a gas pump.
For example, Electrify America became the first public charging network to offer 'Plug&Charge' payment technology, allowing users with capable cars to pay for a charge by activating an Electrify America account and inputting a payment method, and then simply plugging in their EV. Plug&Charge charging sessions will then be billed automatically to that account.
Quality charging experience
Connected services are making the charging experience easier than ever. Electrify America's easy-to-use mobile app, for example, means customers can manage aspects of the charging session - such as payment and remote monitoring of the session status - directly from their smart phones. The company is also introducing solar-powered canopies at select station locations, providing customers with weather protection while potentially storing energy.
EVs are an exciting part of the future of transportation, and understanding the charging process is key as more drivers consider an EV lifestyle. As charging companies build more stations and apply new technologies to enhance the overall charging experience, the world moves even closer to making public EV charging as simple as filling up at a gas station - perhaps even easier.