One question we often hear is, “how do I charge an electric vehicle (EV) when taking a long trip?” The first thing to understand before answering that question is that there are actually three different power levels of EV charging.  When it comes down to it, Level 3 EV charging is the fastest of the three currently available levels, and it’s the only one you’ll want to use in the middle of a road trip. Depending upon the power output, a Level 3 charging station can charge an EV in just minutes compared to the hours may take with either Level 1 or 2 charging.

While most EV charging is done at home overnight or at work during the day, Level 3 charging (also known as direct current fast charging, commonly referred to as DC fast charging or DCFC) can currently charge an EV up to 80% in as little as under 20 minutes.  Once a vehicle’s battery is recharged to 80%, the charging speed slows down to prevent stress to the battery. A helpful analogy is that it’s like filling a glass of water, where you must slow down as you get closer to the top to prevent spilling it. Because of this slow down, it is recommended to only use DC fast charging until you reach 80% and then continue on your trip to optimize your travel and charging time. Upon arriving at your destination, finding a Level 2 charging station for overnight charging can still be a good complement to a having positive EV road trip experience, as unlike a gas car, you can then start the next day on Full with out even needing to stop again to “refuel” in the morning.

Fast charging is a general term, and not all DCFC stations can charge at the same speed. The charging speed depends on a car’s specific battery capacity and the power output of the charging station. A great way to plan a road trip and have a positive charging experience is to use one of several free mobile apps. Plugshare is the most popular, with both a website and app version. It displays fast charging stations as orange icons and other stations as green. You’ll need to dig in to the details to see which stations work with your brand and model of EV and how fast each is. An even more user friendly app is Chargeway, because it uses simple color coding to identify which station work with which vehicles, and has a simple 1 to 7 numbering system to identify each station’s maximum charging speed. And if you are looking to optimize your routes and where and when is best to stop and charge “A Better Route Planner” is a popular choice.

It’s worth noting that EV charging speeds, station availability and overall driver experience today are already much better than they were just a few years ago. Future improvements in lithium-ion battery materials and chemistry will allow for better cooling and even faster charging. Better batteries are also in the works and will continue to improve the charging experience. Ready now to go on a road trip with a EV? 😊

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