Things To Know About Free Public EV Charging

You can plug in for free if you know where to look.


If you possess an electric vehicle (EV) or are thinking about getting one, you might be concerned about how to charge it. Most people (four out of five) recharge their batteries at home because it’s handy and probably the least expensive place to do so. If, however, that isn’t an option for you, you may be able to use your smartphone to charge for free on public equipment. This is how.


Finding Free Public Charging Stations


Indeed, there are other apps available for that purpose. The most well-known is probably PlugShare, which allows you to view any charging station in your area that is both free and requires payment. Moreover, the software uses crowdsourcing to deliver current information about every site, such as whether it’s operational, how much electricity it’s supplying, its exact location inside the lot, and the type of plug(s) it supplies.


Then there are applications for the main networks of charging stations, like EVgo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America. All should provide you with the cost of charging at a certain station.


Users of iPhones may locate nearby charging stations using the Maps app, then narrow down the results to just display those that are free. (Google Maps will offer a wealth of helpful information on charging stations; however, at this time, you are unable to search by price.)


Explained: Public Charging Options

Not every EV can use every station. For example, Tesla has not yet completely allowed non-Tesla drivers to use its extensive network of Superchargers; however, that will change in 2024. Here’s what you should be aware of, though:


There are three different kinds of public charging stations that are available right now: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.


The quantity of electricity provided by level 1 charging is about the same as that of a standard 120-volt household socket. Using this technology, modern EVs charge at an extremely slow pace. Actually, a lot of people refer to Level 1 as trickle charging. Actually, it’s only appropriate for topping off an EV over a few days.


The majority of public stations are classified as Level 2, which means that they operate at 240 volts and can charge faster than Level 1. When an EV’s battery life drops to 10%, it will probably take several hours to recharge it at a Level 2 station; nevertheless, just 60 minutes of plugging in can give it a respectable range boost.


Level 3 stations are the fastest way to charge an EV since they supply DC power straight to the battery instead of using the onboard charger, which changes AC electricity to DC. While many EVs (though not all) allow DC fast charging, their battery management systems cap the maximum rate of charge in order to preserve the battery. Under perfect conditions, models that can run at 800 volts, which is currently the maximum voltage for an EV battery, could add roughly 70 miles of range in five minutes on a Level 3 station. Though a normal fast charger seldom operates at its maximum stated charging speed, keep an eye on the time instead of paying too much attention to it.


Level 3 is the best option if you’re going on a road trip because it will get you back on the highway the quickest. However, you should continue using Level 2 for regular use because slower electron transmission is better for the battery. Free Level 3 stations are likewise hard to come by unless your electric vehicle (EV) comes with a manufacturer’s rebate for free charging.


Plug Types: An Explanation


You should also find out what kind of plug your electric vehicle will accept before looking for charging stations.


Most late-model non-Tesla EVs feature a socket that can accommodate both the seven-pin CCS connector, which expands on the J1172 and allows fast charging, and the five-pin J1772 plug, which is intended for Level 1 and 2 charging. In the United States, CHAdeMo plugs are mostly being phased out, while some EVs still have ports for them.


The North American Charging Standard (NACS), which is used by Tesla automobiles, is a different kind of connector that several automakers intend to implement soon so that their consumers may utilize Tesla’s nationwide Level 3 Supercharger network.


The Public Charging Future


As automakers commit to an electric vehicle future, new stations are opening up all the time. To compete with Tesla’s Supercharging network, for example, seven major automakers have declared that they will install some 30,000 Level 3 charging stations across North America. Beyond the restricted incentive schemes they’ll provide to new EV purchasers, we don’t expect those automakers to give away electrons for free. After all, Elon Musk has become a very wealthy guy thanks in part to his provision of electricity to automobile owners, and others want a piece of that action.


While many establishments and towns may still offer some free charging alternatives to entice customers to visit, this may become less common as more people switch from internal combustion to battery power.


Additionally, non-Tesla owners will have to pay more to use Tesla Superchargers than Tesla drivers do, even though Tesla plans to make them accessible to everyone in the near future.

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