Range Confidence: Charge Fast, Drive Far, with your Electric Car

By David Herron

As we develop range confidence we'll naturally want to drive our electric car farther from home. Obviously we'll have to use public charging stations to go beyond a certain distance from home, just like gasoline car drivers use public gasoline stations.

In online conversations, I regularly see people saying they never charge away from home. It's hard to judge someone else's choice since we are all adults. But I argue limiting your electric car travels is not the best. It does not demonstrate a good story to our neighbors who see us driving the electric car only for short trips.

With care electric cars are capable of longer trips than a circle surrounding your house. Taking longer trips is simple, learn charging station locations, plan a trip using those stations, then jump in the car and go. The only complication is learning when and how to use public charging stations.

The charging rate (3 kW, 6 kW, 120 kW, etc) determines our effective trip speed.

For example the rule of thumb is that at 6 kW an average electric car gains 20-25 miles range per hour of charging. See Understanding charging rates and effective trip speed

The charging rate we need in any given situation depends on situational needs.

If our electric car is in an airport long-term parking lot during a 2 week trip, it doesn't need a normal charging rate (6 kiloWatt) because it'll be fully charged long before we return to unplug the car. It is bad EV charging etiquette to dominate a charging station for days on end. If the car is parked at the office, we'll have 8 hours (or so) during which the car can recharge, and a 6 kW station is probably not required. During a Road Trip, the charging rate needs to be as high as possible. See What electric car charging rate do we need at home, at the office, on road trips, at airports, or elsewhere?

What if we need to drive to an area with no electric car charging stations?

An electric car is just as dependent on charging stations as a gasoline car is dependent on gas stations. An electric car driver has the advantage of charging at any electrical power outlet, while a gasoline car can only recharge at a gas station. To drive where there's no charging stations, the electric car driver either needs to bite the bullet and drive a gasoline car, or else become proficient in guerrilla charging from any power outlet. See Can you drive an electric car away from charging network coverage areas?

Successfully using public charging stations requires maintaining memberships in multiple charging networks.

See What charging networks exist? ChargePoint? Plugshare? See Known electric car charging networks around the world

While we have common charging standards, there's enough variation that we need pictures of the different equipment we'll be using.

See A Field Guide to electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE's)

Is there a way to tell if EV charging stations are busy before I get there?

It depends - A networked electric car charging station is reporting its status back to the control system. Charging network users can then query via a smart-phone application the status and know whether the station is available. Not all charging stations are networked, and therefore some cannot be queried this way.

See Known electric car charging networks around the world

See Smart-phone apps for finding electric car charging station networks

In either case a charging station can be blocked but not in use. The charging network would think the charging station is not in use, but with a car parked in front of the charging station you'll be blocked from using it.

See Public charging station blocked? What to do, including a J1772 extension cord

Often public charging stations charge usage fee's.

See How do I pay for energy consumed in charging my electric vehicle?

Charging station networks need to make their profit, so that the network stays in operation.

See How do electric car charging station networks make money?

Smart-phone apps are available showing available charging stations.

See Smart-phone apps for finding electric car charging station networks

Not all charging stations are well maintained, and sometimes the charging cord gets stuck.

There's a simple cure. See What to do if the charging cord is stuck, cannot be removed


Range Confidence is Copyright © 2016-17 by David Herron

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.
(disqus.com) comments powered by Disqus