(BPT) - Have you been wondering if an electric vehicle is right for you, especially as more models are rolling out from automakers? Living the electric vehicle lifestyle is fun and exciting, good for the environment, and even your wallet — but there are some key things to know, like understanding how and where to charge. While charging at home is always an option, the prevalence of electric vehicle charging options is widespread and growing, so there are a few things to know about maximizing an electric car’s battery power when charging while out and about.
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about electric vehicle charging:
What’s the easiest way to locate a public charger?
There are various resources to help drivers identify where they can easily stop for a charge. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center offers a station locator map, and various apps such as Open Charge Map and ChargeHub can help locate chargers on the road. Additionally, many automakers’ new electric vehicles include in-vehicle tech features — like connected infotainment systems — to make planning routes based on charging stations even more simple for your journey.
Individual charging companies also offer their apps for locating stations. For example, Electrify America — the largest open ultra-fast-charging network in the U.S. — recently redesigned its mobile app so drivers can more easily navigate station information. Users can download the app via the App Store and Google Play — and now, drivers can locate a charger, start and stop a charging session, and view charging plan details via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
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What does fast-charging mean?
Not all electric vehicle charging is the same, and charging time depends on how much electricity your EV’s battery can handle and how much energy the charger can dispense. Charger power is measured in kilowatts and charging time is measured in kilowatt-hours, a unit of which is the amount of energy a charger can deliver in one hour.
For example, some public chargers only dispense 6kW — such as Level 2 chargers, an option most commonly found in settings like work offices, apartment complexes and hotels. But other chargers, like direct current (DC) fast-charging, uses technology that can dispense 150kW or even 350kW to capable vehicles — allowing for quicker charge times. DC fast-charging is especially great for drivers taking road trips or who don’t have access to overnight charging, who will need chargers that can deliver the maximum amount of energy in the shortest amount of time.
Companies like Electrify America offer the fastest charging rates available — with speeds up to 350 kilowatts (kW) — that can charge a capable vehicle in as little as 20 minutes. Visit ElectrifyAmerica.com or check out their social media pages to learn more about fast charging and find nearby locations.
How do you know which charging connector to use?
You can check your vehicle’s specific settings, but most electric vehicles use a connector called the Combined Charging System (CCS). CCS got its “combined” name by incorporating two types of plugs within the same larger plug: the connector for DC fast-charging, and the connector for Level 2 charging. Level 2 is a form of electric vehicle charging with slower charging speeds than DC fast.
CCS is now the most common connector used by electric vehicle manufacturers.
How can hot or cold weather affect charging?
While you can charge during very cold or hot weather, you will probably need to allow more charging time. Electric vehicle batteries are designed to deliver maximum charging power at temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below 40 degrees or above 115 degrees Fahrenheit dramatically reduce the battery’s charging power. The chemical process inside the battery slows down outside of these temperatures — often to less than half of its peak charging power.
Should an electric vehicle battery be charged to a 100% state of charge (SOC)?
Different electric vehicles have different battery sizes, affecting both the charging speed and how much total energy the battery can accept. Check the vehicle manual for the maximum charging power provided by your electric vehicle.
On a public fast charger, the speed at which energy enters the car battery slows after the battery reaches an 80% SOC. This may help prevent wearing out the battery too quickly, therefore extending the battery life. The battery can still charge to a 100% SOC, although getting from an 80 to 100% SOC may take a little longer. So while it’s counterintuitive, it’s best to minimize the time spent charging to 100% battery SOC to reduce wear and tear.
While embracing electric vehicle technology has many benefits and is quickly becoming more mainstream, adopting this lifestyle requires some basic education. By understanding how charging works, new electric vehicle drivers can make the transition to electric much smoother — and perhaps convince others to make the switch as well.