Charging Your EV Away From Home: Everything You Need to Know

Your ultimate resource for charging on the road

Asian woman charging her car and holding leash for Golden Retriever.

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If you rely on an electric vehicle for transportation, your day-to-day driving will depend on two critical factors: How far you need to go, and how far your EV is capable of going on a charge. Without proper planning, the seemingly simple task of getting from A to B can become more complicated than it needs to be.

EV Planning 101: Prep Starts at Home

Keeping basic elements in mind might seem simple enough, but any number of variables can complicate your planning. Are you hoping to charge your EV during off-hours in order to trim your electricity bill? Will you have the opportunity to charge while on the road, and if so, is it practical to leave the house with anything less than a full charge? What’s your charging strategy while you’re on the road, and how will you plan accordingly?

First, let’s cover the basics. If you have a Level 2 charger at home, congratulations! You’ve already got the single most effective tool for EV convenience at your disposal. 

First and foremost, you’ll want to keep tabs on how long it takes to charge your car, noting that achieving a partial charge (to 60 or 75 percent) can be considerably quicker than a full charge to 100 percent. Don’t rely entirely on manufacturer stats, as a number of factors—the amperage of your charger and the health of your battery, for starters—can affect the actual charge time. Make a note of real-world charging times, and you’ll be better able to plan around them.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that your battery will deliver a longer, healthier life if you avoid draining it entirely and/or fully charging it to 100 percent capacity. Though the extremes are sometimes unavoidable, spend more time running somewhere between 20 and 80 percent of capacity and your battery will reward you with more years of service. 

If you have yet to install a Level 2 charger, bear in mind that topping off your battery using a standard 110-volt receptacle requires the car to plugged in for considerably longer stretches of time, which can make it difficult to make quick turnarounds if you’re driving longer distances.

With either charging setup you’ll want to become acquainted with two apps for charge planning: your vehicle’s onboard charger app, and the charging station’s setup app. Either can be used to schedule charges, which helps avoid peak hours and save you money down the line. 

On the Road: Anticipating the Unexpected

Although the average American drives around 30 miles per day, unplanned detours, last-minute add-ons, and shifting plans make irregularities all but guaranteed. 

The best way to accommodate for the unexpected is to pad your plans and ensure you’ve got more miles of range in your battery than you think you need. After all, you never know when you’ll need to add a destination or accommodate for the inevitable wrinkle in plans when a charger becomes unavailable. 

The easiest way to calm range anxiety is to have backup plans at the ready whenever possible. These can come in many forms. Owning an electric vehicle with DC Fast Charge capability brings considerably more flexibility to your driving patterns, as it can bring your empty battery to a near-full charge in the time it takes to enjoy a quick bite. 

Another way to ensure you’ll get where you need to know is by connecting to charging networks which are likely to be in your driving circle. Create logins and passwords, download apps, and enter all applicable billing information ahead of time so you’re ready find the next charger if and when you need a top-off on the road.

Top charging networks include ChargePoint, Electrify America, and EVGo; Tesla owners have easy access to the Supercharger network, as well as other options when equipped with the appropriate adaptor. 

Getting to know your driving patterns and vehicle’s range is another way to better predict your charging needs. Pay attention to your EV’s estimated range calculations, and take advantage of software planners that offer overlay maps to graphically convey how far you can drive based on the current state of charge.

Bottom Line: Taming Range Anxiety Takes Practice

Electric vehicles have come a long way in a few short years, and relying on EVs for daily use is easier than ever. Battery range now approaches—and in some cases, exceeds—that of internal combustion-powered cars, and the growing network of charging stations which will soon be further bolstered by anticipated federal infrastructure bills, offer a bright future for EV drivers.

Despite these growing advantages, electric vehicles still have a long way to go before they can reach the convenience of gasoline-powered cars, which benefit from more than a century of refinements and built-up gas station infrastructure.

At the end of the day, electric vehicle owners will find that making an EV work for everyday use involves getting into a rhythm of anticipating needs, and using technology to prepare for the inevitable bumps in the road. 

Know your vehicle’s charging and range capacity, connect to your local network of chargers, and make use of apps and software that can help you plan your drives accordingly. Not only will range anxiety fall into the background, you’ll find it becomes easier to enjoy the many benefits of electric vehicle ownership.

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