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Can You Own an Electric Car if You Can't Charge at Home? – U.S. News & World Report


In an ideal situation, an electric car owner has a 240-volt outlet installed at their home – typically inside the garage, but a carport or even the driveway will suffice – as well as the necessary Level 2 charging equipment to support it. This way, you can plug in your car at the end of the day and wake to a full charge the next morning. It’s much easier and more convenient than gassing up, not to mention cheaper. However, this arrangement is not always possible. 

In some cases, new electric vehicle (EV) owners don’t plan ahead. When it’s time to install the 240-volt outlet, perhaps they learn that their electrical box and/or service need to be upgraded, or the distance from the box to the charging location is excessive. Both of these situations can prove pricey and time-consuming to rectify. Fortunately, in the meantime, they should be able to charge using a standard wall outlet (more on that below), though we suggest having your home charging situation all squared away before you take delivery of an EV.

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Some people aren’t so fortunate since they don’t live in a single-family home. Instead, they live in a condo or apartment, with no dedicated parking spot, and no place to charge their car. Others rent a home, and the landlord doesn’t allow electrical upgrades or EV charging. 

However, none of these situations mean you’re out of luck. There are many options for people in these situations. Read on to learn more.

For People With the Option, Level 1 Charging May Suffice

Electric car owners choose 240-volt (Level 2 charging) since it adds about 25 miles of range every hour. However, EVs can be charged on a standard 120-volt wall outlet. It only adds about four miles every hour, but you don’t need any special equipment aside from the charging cord that typically comes with the car. 

Even if you live in an apartment or condo, you may be able to find a place to plug your car into a standard outlet. Just be careful not to run your cord across the sidewalk or parking lot, where someone may trip on it. If you have to use an extension cord, be sure it’s specifically designed for EV charging applications.

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With Level 1 charging, you should be able to add 30 to 60 miles of range between the evening and the time you wake. You can also plug your car in whenever there’s an opportunity during the day to add a few more miles. This may suffice if you don’t have a long commute or you drive a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with a range-extending gas-powered engine. 

Keep in mind, if you’re driving a long-range EV like the Chevrolet Bolt, with its 259-mile range, it’s going to take days to charge to full capacity using a standard wall outlet. This is also the case with the Tesla Model 3 – however, Tesla’s Supercharger network should solve the problem.

In the end, Level 1 charging is a decent solution for some people, but it’s really only a viable option for most EV owners if you can pair it with some of the other solutions below.

Charging at Work Is Arguably As Good as Charging at Home

Some EV owners have access to charging at or near their workplace. If your workplace doesn’t offer a dedicated place to charge, talk to your employer and ask if there’s somewhere you can plug in. Even better, work to create a plan with your employer to add on-site fast-charging stations. 

There are some companies and organizations that may be willing to work with your employer to install chargers for free. Tesla will install destination chargers at restaurants, hotels, and other places of business for free. In other cases, this can be costly, though your employer may be able to take advantage of various incentives and work with a company to come up with a plan that benefits both sides.

If you work an eight-hour shift, you could add about 30 miles of range every day with Level 1 charging. If you can access Level 2 at work, or near work, you could charge your car to full while you’re working. The best part here is you may be able to do it for free, rather than having the charging costs tacked onto your home electric bill.

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Public Fast-Charging Is a Solid Option

Public charging infrastructure is expanding exponentially. While many public chargers are simply Level 2 units, others offer DC fast-charging – often called Level 3 charging – which can add 50 to 150 miles in about 30 minutes. 

While some public charging options are free, most require a membership – as well as your credit card. If you don’t own a Tesla, you’ll have to set up an account with a charging network, such as ChargePoint, Blink, or EVgo.

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Public charging speed depends on several factors, including which EV you own, your car’s state of charge, the temperature outside, etc. In addition, fast-charging stations tend to be inconsistent when it comes to charging speed, unless you’re using the Tesla Supercharger network. All of Tesla’s standard Superchargers should offer the same experience, and its new V3 Superchargers can add as many as 75 miles in five minutes, or nearly 200 miles in 15 minutes. 

It’s important to note that some EVs don’t come equipped with the ability to DC fast-charge, or they only offer it as an available feature that costs extra. Make sure you do your homework if you plan to rely on public charging. The vehicle you choose, its range, and charging speed will all have a major impact.

Use an App Like PlugShare to Create a Charging Plan

Every EV owner should download the PlugShare app or visit PlugShare.com. While it’s not the only resource of its kind, it’s highly celebrated in the electric car community. You may find that another option works better for you, but PlugShare is a solid starting point.

With PlugShare, you can enter your home address to find charging locations nearby. It also lets you filter out stations that aren’t compatible with your EV. This is a great way to find free or cheap public charging. If there isn’t a compatible station close by, plan out periodic trips to stations that are further from home.

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Perhaps there’s a station near your workplace or near a place you would normally shop, eat, work out, or watch a movie. Planning your charging around other errands and activities just makes sense. You can leave your car to charge while you take care of business.

PlugShare also allows you to find other EV owners nearby who are willing to share their home charging stations. Of course, you have to pay them for the electricity use, but this could come in really handy for people who don’t have the means to charge at home and don’t have public charging stations nearby.

Pool Your Resources, Plan Ahead, and Stay Flexible

If you can combine some Level 1 charging with workplace charging and public charging, you should have no problem owning an EV without home charging. Even if you can only combine two of the three options, it shouldn’t be an issue. Once you get used to your car’s range, charging times, and planning ahead, it should become second nature.

If you drive many miles per day, and/or take frequent long road trips, you may want to consider a plug-in hybrid, unless you have another gas-powered car you can use when necessary. In addition, choosing the right car with plenty of range, DC fast-charging capability, and access to public charging is important. 

Most Tesla owners don’t have any issues with range or charging due to the cars’ impressive range, widespread Supercharger network, and super-quick charging capability. In fact, many Tesla owners get by just fine without home charging. Owning an EV without access to home charging should become a non-issue as more long-range EVs come to market and charging networks continue to expand into more regions while charging speeds simultaneously increase.





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