How Friends Help Friends Charge Their EVs

The etiquette of sharing and asking to share electricity

We recently had a level 2 charging station installed at our house. While charging from a 120-volt outlet was actually working fine for us, the ability to shove the same amount of electricity into our EV in less time made it worth the cost of installing a 240-volt outlet and mounting a charging box to our fence. 

Then I thought about all the recent emails, texts, DMs, and phone calls about buying an EV. A surge in queries based on the absurd gas prices we’ve been encountering. Those people will eventually want to visit us. Summer is coming, and that means BBQs, dinner parties, karaoke jams, movie nights, and just regular visits. You know, how we used to do before 2020?

So, what’s the protocol when a friend shows up in an EV with less than 20 percent state of charge? This isn’t plugging a phone into the wall socket—charging an EV costs real money. What’s the protocol for this new and potentially costly social interaction? 

Man charging electric car in domestic garden, woman looking at man and smiling.

simonkr / Getty Images

I think I have an idea how to make this less awkward for everyone involved. I think. I don't know you and your friends, though. Maybe you're all super-rich, and $20 worth of electricity is nothing to you. In fact, maybe you invited the entire neighborhood over to suckle at your electric teat just for kicks. But for the rest of us who are checking our bank accounts on a daily basis and maybe paying a bill a few days late so a check will clear, here's a pretty good system. 

I think. 

The Host

You’re throwing a party, small get-together, or just having a friend over to rewatch Scandal for the 27th time. You also happen to have a charging box mounted in your driveway or garage. Someone arrives with a low charge and needs a little juice to get home later; just plugged in for an hour or two. Here’s the nice thing to do:

Just say yes, but with a friendly reminder that it’s only for a short time. “Sure, no problem. Let’s plug it in for an hour or so. Here, I’ll set a timer, so we don’t forget.” You’re a giving person, but you also don’t want your electric bill to spike because a friend bought a Hummer EV with a 200 kWh capacity battery pack. 

Side view of woman charging electric car with open trunk while standing outside house

Maskot / Getty Images

When the person offers cash, do the proper thing and decline. It’s your party, you brought them over here. If they persist, instead of cash, maybe ask them to tip the delivery driver or say, at the next event, they can buy you a drink or plate of nachos. 

That’s it. Even if your charging box is pumping out 11 kW per hour, over two hours, it might cost you about $12, and that’s if you live somewhere with expensive electricity. You’re a hero, and they can get home or at least to a charging station on the way home without fear of a dead battery. You did that. You’re a hero. Sort of.  

The Guest

Oh man, this is awkward, right? You spent the entire day running errands, and you never had time to charge, or the charging station you found was broken. Now you're on your way to a friend's house, and you really need some juice.

Be direct. A host is a busy person and pulling them aside to make 10 minutes of small talk just to ask to plug in is sort of weird. Also, you can make small talk while plugging in your car. Mostly you'll talk about your EV because EV owners love talking about EVs. Ask for an hour, two hours tops of charging time, and set the timer on your phone to make sure to unplug. 

Man using smart phone while charging electric car in front yard

Maskot / Getty Images

You have to offer to pay for the electricity. The host will say no. You should offer again and when they say you can buy them a drink later or a plate of nachos, agree. Then, later that night, send them like $15 and a very nice note via Venmo, PayPal, or whatever money-sending app you both use. At the very least, send a heartfelt text. Something with a lot of praying hands and hearts and maybe a unicorn. Unicorns make everything awesome. 

As a society, we've sort of forgotten how to send thank you notes after a party. If there was ever a time when a thank you note was needed, it's when you're sapping electricity from a friend's house so you can drive home. 

So that's my plan going forward. I'll happily let friends charge up and refuse to take their money because I love their company. If they Venmo me cash later, I suppose that's fine. But a nice text filled with unicorns and a promise to hang out later and get some nachos? That's really what friendship is all about. 

Unicorns, nachos, and electricity.

Want to know more about EVs? We have a whole section dedicated to electric vehicles!

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