Charging an electric car

Charging is no big deal, with a little planning

You may have heard about "range anxiety." The fact is, if you drive less than 60 miles round trip for your commute, you'll be covered with a single charge with most electric cars offered on the market today.

Average commute: 60 miles round tripAverage commute: 60 miles round trip

You can get the most out of driving electric when you have:

  • A plug available for home or workplace charging
  • Accounts or apps for public charging when you're on the go
  • A clear idea of the time needed to charge

If you live in a single-family home, you can use a standard, grounded 120V plug. You can also install an Level 2 charger, which operates at 240V.

If you live in an apartment, condo or townhome without workplace charging available,, it's more complicated if you don't have a dedicated parking space with an outlet. Before you purchase an electric car, be sure to talk with your building manager or homeowner's association to discuss your charging options.


The difference between chargers

You can charge your car at home, at a public charging station or at work. These are the types of chargers you'll encounter:

Level 1 chargingLevel 1 charging

Level 1 Charging

VOLTS: 120
TIME TO CHARGE: ~ 12 hours*
WHERE: Home, Work, Public

This is the charging cord that comes standard with every electric car. It has a conventional three-prong plug that goes into any properly grounded standard household 120v outlet.

This setup provides between 2 and 5 miles per hour. In most cases, charging your car at home overnight with an L1 charger will be enough to meet the needs of your daily commute if you travel less than 40-60 miles a day and have all night to charge.

Level 2 chargingLevel 2 charging

Level 2 Charging

VOLTS: 240
TIME TO CHARGE: ~ 4-8 hours*
WHERE: Home, Work, Public

Most dedicated home and public charging stations operate at 240 volts. This setup will require the same type of wiring as an electric stove or clothes dryer.

Level 2 charging can add 10-25 miles of range in an hour of charging at home or at a public station. This will be at least twice as fast as Level 1 charging, often quicker, due to the higher amperage of the circuit. L2 charging can be done as a trip to the grocery store or mall.

Level 3 chargingLevel 3 charging

DC Fast Charging

VOLTS: 300-800 Volts DC
TIME TO CHARGE: ~ 1 hour*
WHERE: Work, Public

This type of charging unit uses direct current (DC) rather than household alternating current (AC) and charges through a high-powered 480V plug. DC charging stations hook up to the electricity grid so they can get and convert far more power.

You'll find DC charging at public sites, often along highways or in urban locations and workplaces. They often look like gas pump-sized machines.

There is no single standard for fast-charging yet. Tesla has the Supercharger network. Nissan Leaf and other models get their quickest jolt using CHAdeMO. And BMW i3 by using a combined charging system (CCS), based on open and universal standards for electric cars. All of the above fast chargers deliver about 80% charge in about 30 minutes.


*These are approximate times. Charge times are dependent on the size of your battery and the SOC (state of the charge).


Charging on the goCharging on the go

Charging on the go

In Washington, electric car drivers will find DC fast charging stations along Interstate 5, US Highway 2 and parts of I-90. With the existing charging network, drivers can now travel "border-to- border" along the 276 miles of I-5 between Washington's borders with Oregon and Canada.

Here are some links to help with planning:

When planning a road trip, locate a convenient charging station along the route. Plan ahead because sometimes charging stations are offline.

Here's a map of electric car friendly cities in Washington. And other charging station finders from Plug In America.