GreenCars 101

Using Public Charging Stations

Laurance Yap
Jun 2023
Most electric car driving involves a daily routine, and charging at home or at work. But if you're on a longer trip, you may need to use a public charging station. What should you expect? Read on to find out.
Charging Station

Charging Your Electric Car

If you purchase an electric car, for most of your driving, you’ll usually take the vehicle to work and back, run some errands, and return home to charge your car up to full while parked overnight. But what if you are on a road trip and need to top off your Tesla, Leaf, Bolt or Kona? We’re here to help.

public charging in a parking space

Types of Public EV Charging

How long will it take to recharge and what can you do while you’re waiting?

Most charging stations use Level 2 connections that put out 240 volts and 40 amps. These are fine for adding a bit of range to an electric car during a short stop – a Level 2 charger can deliver 12 to 80 miles of charge per hour. If you’re making a longer stop at a shopping mall or tourist attraction, a few hours on a Level 2 charger can give you a full tank.

If you’re in more of a rush, you’ll want to plug your electric car into a DC fast charger, also known as a Level 3 charger. In less than an hour, you can completely charge up your EV’s battery. Level 3 chargers are often found at malls and in downtown urban areas near shopping centers and restaurants. 

One thing to note about Level 3 chargers: if your battery’s state of charge is over 80 percent, a Level 3’s charging rate slows down to limit the risk of overcharging. This is why car manufacturers often quote fast-charging times to 80 percent; that last 20 percent may double the time you’re hooked up to a charger.

Woman putting EV Charger back into station

EV Charging Time at Public Stations

During holidays, we’re used to seeing lines for gas at freeway rest stops – and we’ve seen the stories about long waits at Tesla superchargers on Thanksgiving weekend. Public charging speed is still an issue.

One significant development that can help improve charging time is the introduction of 800-volt electrical systems, which will supplant and may eventually replace the more common 400- and 450-volt systems used in most electric cars. 800-volt systems bring a wide variety of benefits including lower weight, higher thermal efficiency, and greater range – but their biggest benefit is arguably faster public charging.

First introduced in racing, 800-volt systems allow electricity to move from the battery to the wheels with lower current, reducing power lost to heat.

Faster charging is enabled with an 800-volt system because lower current reduces heat in the cables and associated hardware. If you’re lucky enough to drive an electric car like a Porsche Taycan, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, or Genesis GV60, you can enjoy super-fast charging: the Taycan charges its battery from 5 to 80 percent in 22.5 minutes on a 270-kW 800-volt Level 3 charger. Electrify America is one network that has a significant number of 800-volt chargers across the U.S., with more to come.

EV navigation looking for a public charger

Finding a Public Electric Car Charger

Probably the easiest way for you to find a charging station is to use the navigation system built into your electric car. The vast majority of EVs have a live connection that provides real-time information including traffic, road construction, and more. Your car’s navigation system will also let you find the nearest charging station.

Some of the more sophisticated navigation systems will even be able to show you which charging stations are Level 2 (AC) chargers and which ones are Level 3 (DC) fast chargers.

You can also use resources like the GreenCars Charging Network map or apps like PlugShare and ChargeHub to locate public chargers.

A young couple admiring the forest and trees next to their RAV4 Hybrid

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